I was reading an article recently about bullying and was surprised and saddened by the statistics – one out of four teens has experienced some form of bullying. In fact, 40% of children have been bullied while online. Certainly, bullying is a problem that affects students of all economic levels, intellectual levels, and races. However, emerging research indicates that a child with a disability is more likely to be physically or verbally bullied than his or her typical developing peers. Unfortunately, a child with special needs may also become the bully as a result of low self esteem or from being bullied by others.
In a study presented this past April at the Pediatric Academic Society in Boston, youth 8-17 years of age with special healthcare needs completed a screening tool that assessed whether they had been bullied or excluded by their peers. The main categories of the youth’s diagnoses included ADHD (39%), diabetes (19%), obesity (11%), learning disability (11%) and autism spectrum disorder (10%). Several of the youth had a combination of these diagnoses. Results of the answers on the questionnaires showed that being bullied and/or ostracized were the strongest predicators of increased depression and anxiety. I think that everyone would agree that if children feel emotionally unsafe at school, then they will not be able to learn.
How do you determine if your child is being bullied? These are some suggested by other parents that might indicate a child is being bullied.
- Becoming withdrawn
- Loss of belongings
- Reluctance to go to school
- Coming home with bruises, scratches or other injuries
- Has lost interest in school work or suddenly begins to do poorly in school
- Changes in mood, such as becoming depressed, angry, or unhappy
- Difficulties with sleeping
- Feeling anxious
If you think your child is being bullied, try talking about it. Since it may be difficult for your child to admit, you may not want to ask out right. Instead, be subtle – ask questions about his or her day or about relationships with classmates. This will give your child an opportunity to talk about his or her feelings. The questions you ask will of course depend on the age of your child and level of understanding.
Alternatives to questions would be:
- Drawing pictures of his or her day
- Using toys and puppets to act out the day
- Using pictures of faces showing different expressions to explain feelings during the day
- Reading books about bullying
In my next blog, I will discuss tips for building up your child’s self confidence and self esteem, as well as what you should do if you believe your child has been bullied at school.
Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday to all the mothers out there. Below is a poem written by Meshell Baylor that shares the sentiment of love a child with autism feels from his or her mother.
Thanks for sharing this info Maureen. This is one of my family’s big worries. I know his school is very pro-active about stopping bullying and teaching the children to be mentors and have empathy towards each other but as a parent you still worry. My son if 4 but kids can be kids and when your child is only beginning to talk and learn the social nuances its good to have a list of tips to fall back.
Cyn, I am pleased that you found my tips helpful. I think all parents of children with disabilities are sensitive about the bullying issue. Often, our children are a bit “different” than their typical peer and adolescents are not accepting of being different. For parents of children who are not verbal this is an especially challenging issue because they can not tell you what occurred at school. This is a constant worry. I am glad to hear that your school has established prevention programs.
Another great article, Maureen. It is also important to notify someone at the school if your child is being bullied. We have ways to deal with it without letting anyone know where the information came from. It also alerts the teachers to watch more carefully. Bus rides, the gym, the cafeteria, and in the halls seem to be the places where it occurs most often. Teachers just being in the halls in between classes helps tremendously.
Agree wholeheartedly, Sallie. Even if a parent only suspects bullying the teacher needs to brought into the loop so she can further investigate.
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