So, what about the Bullying of Special Needs Children? Parents are aware that bullying is an issue at some point in every child’s life. However, parents of special needs children have a very different situation on their hands when their children come in contact with Bullying of Special Needs Children. Because of the vulnerable nature of special needs children, they are often at higher risk to become the victims of bullying. More disturbing, is that because special needs children are more vulnerable and less likely to tattle on a bully, the child bullying special needs kids may go to extremes before adults are even aware that it is taking place. It is extremely important for the parents of special needs children to understand how to spot bullying in their child’s life and how to handle the situation of Bullying of Special Needs Children.
Combatting the Bullying of Special Needs Children: Empowering Your Special Needs Child
Many special needs children are often not aware that they are being bullied when it is taking place. You must take time with your child to educate them on what to look for in a bully or in a bullying situation. Situations such as another person taking their money or belongings are a sign of bullying. Special needs children are often very giving and may allow themselves to be taken advantage of thinking that they are being friendly to a bully. Explain to your child that it is not right for others to ask for or demand that they give up their money or belongings. This is bullying. You should also be on the lookout for bruises, scratches or other signs of physical injury on your child. If your child explains the marks by saying that their “friend” was playing with them, you should further investigate the situation. Explain to your child that a friend would never touch them in a way that would hurt them. It might also be helpful to empower your child with knowledge of derogatory names that they should never allow themselves to be called. Sometimes a special needs child may not even know the meaning of a word that a bully is using against them. Give your child a plan of action that they can act upon if they become aware that bullying is taking place such as reporting to their teacher.
Combatting the Bullying of Special Needs Children: What To Do When Others are Bullying Special Needs Kids?
As the parent of a special needs child you may think that bullying will just be part of the package of having a child that is different. You may think it will toughen your child up to face the real world someday. Both of these positions are passive, and may not actually serve the purpose you are intending. When any child is left to defend themselves and always solve their own problems it can begin to develop a sense of helplessness that can actually create more clinginess and dependence on you. According to the Walk a Mile in Their Shoes anti-bullying collaborative, empowering your child and your child’s school system and teachers with information is far more effective than any other method of dealing with bullying. Children must be educated on how to compassionately interact with the special needs populations. For some people this does not come naturally. It is therefore the responsibility of parents of special needs children to help other children understand the sensitive nature of living peacefully with individuals that are different from ourselves.
Here are some specific tips that can help you react appropriately to kids bullying special needs children.
Watch for the Signs
Not all children will just come out and tell you they are being bullied. Changes in behaviour such as unusual acting out, sleep pattern disturbances, bed wetting, unwarranted crying, unusual “clinginess” or fear of returning to places they normal enjoy going can all be signs of unwanted activity. You should ask lots of questions and investigate further.
Help Your Child Make Friends
Take the time to get to know some of the parents and children at your child’s school that you are certain are sensitive to special needs. Help your child establish a relationship with these children. When kids have a network of friends around them they are less likely to get bullied and harassed. Invite kids and parents over for play dates and ask parents of other kids to assist you in building strong, healthy relationships for your child.
Don’t Let It Slide
Sometimes a report of mild bullying may seem like not that big of a deal. You may think, “Kids will be kids.” When you are dealing with a special needs child, bullying can escalate very quickly. What is simply a shove on the playground one day, could be a serious physical injury the next week. When a bully feels they can get away with their behavior they will push the limits as far as they can. You should report all counts of bullying to your child’s teacher or caregiver. This sets up a precedent for the caregivers, teachers and bullies that you are not a parent to be pushed. You will appropriately deal with bullying every time it happens.
Keep Your Child’s Safety Top Priority
If your child has been physically injured or threatened you must take immediate action. Make sure that your school knows that you will not tolerate any amount of physical harm coming to your child. Even if this seems like “over kill” or inconvenient at the moment, remember that bullying usually escalates.
If your child has already been a victim of bullying, you should consider the benefits of counselling. Even if your child does not show it outwardly, bullying can take a deeply emotional toll on a special needs child. Having a knowledgeable, understanding person to discuss their confusing emotions with can help your child not suffer long term emotional consequences of their bad experience. Counselling can also benefit parents, especially if you are dealing with extreme amounts of guilt or anger over the bullying incidents.
Often simply reporting a bullying incident is not enough. You may need to follow up your reports to make sure that appropriate action is being taken to ensure this never happens again. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed to make multiple phone calls to involved individuals. If phone calls fail, personal visits are much more effective.
Go To the Top
If you feel you are consistently being ignored by teachers or immediate caregivers, then do not hesitate to move up the chain of command. A phone call from you may have landed on deaf ears, but perhaps a meeting with the principal will prove more effective.
Extreme Times Call for Extreme Measures
If you have exhausted all appropriate measures to deal with your child’s bullying problem at the school level, it may be necessary to contact an attorney. Professionals who deal with children day after day are often tempted to chalk all bullying up to “kids will be kids.” This is not an acceptable philosophy. Children should not have to be victimized because of apathetic teachers and caregivers. If your child’s school refuses to deal appropriately with the bullying problem, contact a lawyer. Special needs children are protected under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and schools are required by law to make sure these children are protected. Remember if you do nothing then you are being bullied as well. You are your child’s protector, and the best way to teach your special needs child how to deal with the real world is to empower them with an understanding of their rights as a human being. We all have a right to live each day free of harassment and humiliation. You can learn more about anti bullying education and the anti-bullying initiative nationwide at Walk a Mile in the Their Shoes www.abilitypath.org.