Is My Special Needs Child Being Bullied?
Studies, although limited, have shown the many predictors of bullying involving children with special needs, including autism spectrum disorders. Individuals with disabilities, particularly children are at an increased risk of becoming victims of bullying. “Disability harassment,” is prohibited under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and schools are required to investigate and respond to reports of potential harassment. A recent study indicates that the general education population or public school attendees had a higher risk of mistreating children diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder. Individuals with elevated levels of autistic traits were the most likely to be either victims, bullies, or bully-victims. The study also concluded that full inclusion classrooms victimized children more compared to the ones spending most of their time in special education environments.
Experts recommend conducting additional research studies to uncover suitable and supportive efforts for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Nearly 30% of school-aged children are involved in bullying, either as bullies, victims, or bully-victims. According to a 2016 report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 30% of students who reported being bullied at school, indicated that they were bullied at least once or twice a month during the school year. The study indicates that students most often report bullying for reasons such as physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, and sexual orientation.
Students with disabilities have faced quite a bit of bullying in recent years, which include: More than 35% of students with behavioral and emotional disorders; over 33% of students with autism, nearly 25% of students with intellectual disabilities; just over 20% of students with health impairments, and close to 20% of students with specific learning disabilities.
So, what are some of the successful strategies that parents, caregivers, friends, family, and school administrators can provide to prevent bullying among special needs children?
- Teachers and peers should engage in meaningful and appropriate conversations that provoke fun, productive and healthy social interactions.
- Parents should make efforts to create opportunities that will strengthen and encourage social competence and positive interactions.
- Encourage schools and other public or private organizations to promote social awareness and provide individualized interventions for those who are targeted by adopting proper intervention programs.
Some critics argue that it is not about obtaining “special” treatment for those with special needs, but it is about being treated fairly, and with respect. According to the British Journal of Special Education, children with special educational needs are generally less accepted, more rejected and more likely to be victims of bullying than their stereo-typically developing classmates. The journal argues that schools are occasionally reluctant to discuss the special needs of these students because of concerns of labeling. Yet, labels can sometimes serve as a protective function, allowing the opportunity for positive interactions.
How do you determine if your child is being bullied?
One of the most effective ways to detect bullying in its early stage is to make a habit of starting daily conversations with your child. Encourage him or her to talk to you about his or her day. In fact, some kids with special needs may not realize they are being bullied.
- Ask questions about their friends – and get names.
- Find out if friends are playing rough with them or asking them for their lunch or personal belongings.
- Create an environment where your child is comfortable talking to you by making the conversation pleasant and natural. (If you come across as though you are badgering them with a million questions, he or she may shut down and become afraid to open up to you.)
- Look for unusual changes in your child’s behavior or physical appearance, and never be afraid to report suspicions to the appropriate authorities.
Children with special needs may face unique challenges when it comes to social interactions, making them more susceptible to bullying. As parents, caregivers, and educators, it is crucial to implement strategies that foster a supportive and inclusive environment for these children. By taking proactive steps, we can empower our children with special needs and reduce the risk of bullying. In order to achieve that, here are some effective ways to consider:
Build a Strong Support Network
Encourage the development of strong connections between your child and their peers. Foster friendships by organizing playdates, joining clubs, or participating in inclusive activities where children can learn about and appreciate each other’s differences.
Teach and Promote Inclusion
Educate your child’s classmates about diversity, inclusion, and acceptance. Work with teachers to implement inclusive curriculum and activities that promote empathy and understanding. Furthermore, this can help create a culture of acceptance within the school community.
Communication is Key
Establish open lines of communication with your child. Encourage them to share their experiences, feelings, and concerns. By maintaining a supportive dialogue, you can identify potential issues early on and address them collaboratively.
Educate School Staff
Work closely with teachers, school staff, and administrators to ensure they are well-informed about your child’s needs. Provide information on their unique challenges and strengths, and collaborate on strategies to create an inclusive and supportive learning environment.
Teach your child to express their needs and preferences assertively. Developing self-advocacy skills empowers them to communicate effectively, reducing the likelihood of becoming a target for bullying. Role-play scenarios to help them practice responding to challenging situations.
Monitor Online Activity
With the prevalence of online interactions, it’s essential to monitor your child’s online presence. Educate them about internet safety, encourage responsible online behavior, and address any cyberbullying incidents promptly.
Establish a Bullying Prevention Plan
Work collaboratively with the school to develop a comprehensive bullying prevention plan. This plan should include specific strategies tailored to your child’s needs, such as additional supervision during recess or the implementation of a buddy system.
Encourage Empathy in Siblings
Foster a sense of empathy in siblings towards their brother or sister with special needs. Siblings can play a vital role in promoting understanding and support among peers. They contribute to creating a more inclusive environment both at home and in social settings.
Collaborate with Support Groups
Join local or online support groups for parents of children with special needs. Sharing experiences and insights with other parents can provide valuable advice, emotional support, and a sense of community.
Stay Informed and Proactive
Keep yourself informed about your child’s school environment and any changes in their social dynamics. Stay proactive in addressing potential issues. Be ready to collaborate with educators and other parents to maintain a safe and inclusive atmosphere for all children.
By implementing these proactive measures, parents can significantly reduce the risk of bullying for their children with special needs. Fostering a culture of acceptance, communication, and understanding benefits not only the child. It also contributes to a more inclusive and compassionate community for everyone involved. Moreover, we can empower our children to thrive and build lasting connections with their peers.