Bullying is nothing more than aggressive behavior toward another child that takes place repeatedly for some time, or it may only happen to some children occasionally. The attempts to cause injury or hurt someone with name-calling, shoving, tripping, or choking are done intentionally. They are subtle about ostracising a child from groups and social activity and most victims are unable or unwilling to fight back. Bullying a child because of a physical or emotional difference is disablist bullying.
The facts about Disablist Bullying speak for themselves:
- Almost one-third of all school aged children are bullied yearly: that is almost thirteen million students
- The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System shows that twenty percent of the nation’s students in grades 9-12 experience bullying
- The 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement shows that nationwide, 28 percent of students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying
The sad fact is that the United States only ten studies have been done concerning the effects of bullying on children with developmental disabilities, however the studies that were done show that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers with no disabilities.
Researchers also found that children with disabilities worried more about the 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying.
Bullying is not a new trend, however now professionals have more understanding of the problems surrounding it. The bullying behavior is learned at home and prevention is the key to bullying. Progressive schools across the country are using effective bullying prevention programs and parents, teachers, students and school administrators have to understand the behaviors that drive bullying and learn to deal with it at school and everywhere else.
Disablist Bullying: Profile of a Bully
It was once believed that children who are bullies had a low self-esteem but they actually are more often-average students and even leaders in sports or in the classroom. A bully will taunt their victims repeatedly, intimidate, and ridicule them. They will destroy the victim’s belongings, push, shove, and kick them.
A bully often will intimidate other kids to do the bullying while they watch in the background. In cases like this, it is often difficult to know who the real bully is.
A bully will usually pick a kid that is weaker as a target because they have a strong need to subdue, dominate, and assert themselves by threatening others to get their own way. Bragging to others about their real or imagined dominance over others is common and they may be easily angered, mean tempered, and their frustration level can be low. They are often seen as hardened and tough with little empathy towards other children that have been victimized. They see nothing wrong with their behavior and think the others “deserved what they got”.
Disablist Bullying: Victim Profile
Normally victims are those children who can be subjugated emotionally, physically or mentally by a bully. These types are usually nervous, and are not sure of themselves in a social setting. They espouse violence and do not use it, and often have a low self-esteem. They see their self in a negative light and feel stupid, ugly, and a failure. Many times, they are lonely and feel they deserve to be picked on.
In his pioneering research on bullying behaviors, Dr. Dan Olweus has described two types of victims:
Disablist Bullying: The Passive or Submissive Victim
- Is nonassertive
- May unconsciously indicate to others that he is self-doubting
- Is wary, subdued, or apprehensive
- Weeps easily and breaks down quickly when bullied
- Has very little friends
- No social network
- Lacks humor and has low social expertise
- May be physically weak
The Provocative Victim of Disablist Bullying
- Is both aggressive and anxious
- May cause annoyance and interference around him
- Is easily roused
- Prolongs the encounter even when losing
Victims of Disablist Bullying
If your child has a learning or attention problem, he may easily become the victim of bullying.
Children with ADHD can sometimes be thought of as bullies because of their impulsive, assertive behavior. A national survey on school discipline done by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), found that about thirty-two percent of children with ADHD are pushed into acting out to get punished. The study showed that many children with ADHD were targets of disablist bullies, however when they stood up to the bully they were disciplined for their behavior and not the bully. Adults can further victimize the child because of a lack of understanding of the subtleties of bullying. Many kids with LD or ADHD are physically weaker, have deficient social skills, and low confidence, making ideal victims for the bully. Many kids with learning disabilities are called “provocative” because they often annoy and overreact to a bully. The study also finds that the victims often learn to become bullies themselves to get what they want. Sixteen percent of kids will at one time or another be a victim and a bully.
How Do We Stop Disablist Bullying in Schools?
The most obvious way to stop bullying in schools is for parents to change their parenting habits in the home. However, parents raise their child differently so this is not an easy fix. Homes that use physical punishment are where bullies learn that physical violence solves problems. Children who witness violence in the home between parents also learn violence, and the lack of parental warmth and involvement in their children’s live contribute to bullying.
Unfortunately, parents of the victims cannot change the bully’s home life. There are things that can be done through the school.
Most school programs that address bullying use several approaches to the problem. Counseling by teachers, peers, or school counselors is the first step. Questionnaires can be given to the students and teachers to see how prevalent bullying is and define what bullying means to the entire school. This is a start to address the problem.
The key to a successful ant-bullying program is parental involvement. Without the support of the parents, the whole program will not be successful. There must be teamwork with parents, teachers, school administrators and the kids, and the issue should be discussed at every PTA meeting and parent- teacher conferences.
In the classroom, teachers can work with kids on bullying. Children enjoy role-playing and by acting out bullying situations, they can begin to see how it hurts others.
Rules against bullying should be posted throughout the school. Local health professionals can be invited to tell the children what the long-term effects of bullying are.
How to Deal with Disablist Bullying?
Stop bullying before it starts.
Tell everyone you know, your children, their friends their teachers, the bus driver, and school administrators that you will not tolerate bullying and you will look for signs of it and you expect them to do the same. This cannot be a voluntary action but one that is a responsibility of everyone at all times.
Ask your child’s school about their no bullying policy and if they do not have one in place then demand one. Make sure the policy is shared with everyone with clear consequences for breaking the rules.
When discussing the issue with your child use the word bullying and discuss what it means with them. They may not understand that the hurtful behavior they experience is wrong: it is not acceptance from “friends” but bullying.
If your child is the bully, help them understand that this behavior has a negative impact on their status. If they are bystanders that witness bullying, by not telling an adult, they are just as guilty as the bully. Reassure them telling is the right thing to do and they will not get in trouble by doing so. They should know the difference between tattling on someone and reporting a bullying incident. This also must happen if they are the one being bullied.
Disablist Bullying: Know your rights and be afraid to exercise them
Under both education and civil rights laws, the U.S. government identifies bullying and harassment as forms of discrimination. You should ask the teacher about bullying at every parent teacher conference. If there are issues with bullying that are not being addressed properly then you should file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights. The action is appropriate to the well-being and safety of your child.