In recent years there has been an increase in bullying in many schools. Fortunately, there has also been an increase in the awareness of various forms of bullying. Cyber bullying and racist bullying has received attention as serious subcategories of bullying that needs to be addressed. We are now focusing on and becoming more aware of disablist bullying. Disablism is bullying or discrimination against those with disabilities. Children who are bullied because of their special education needs or disabilities can experience devastating consequences that can negatively affect them for their entire lives. According to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center disabled children are more than twice as likely to be bullied as nondisabled children. The following information discusses bullying against disabled children and adults, how to prevent it, the consequences of this type of bullying, and how schools and parents should be involved.
Children with physical and mental disabilities are usually more vulnerable than other children. They often become easy targets for bullies. While most people think of children living with disabilities as those with obvious mental or physical impairments, it can encompass a much broader range of issues. Kids with conditions such as ADHD, diabetes, and even food allergies suffer from bullying at a higher rate than those without any special needs at all. Children with emotional disabilities are often bullied as well. Emotionally disabled children may cry easily or lash out in anger over situations that usually don’t upset other children. This makes them an easy target for a bully attempting to get a strong reaction out of the child.
Children with disabilities sometimes have difficulty communicating and relating to others in ways that other kids are accustomed to. Having difficulty forming meaningful friendships makes an individual more vulnerable to bullying. Anyone who is different or perceived to be different is sometimes a target for bullying.
Disablist bullying is not limited to children. Adults with disabilities are also the victims of bullying. The bullying can occur in a work environment, at a center or group home, or online. The disabled are also more likely to be bullied by strangers. Adults with special needs expose themselves to the cruelty of bullying by simply going out in public.
There are often signs that an individual is being bullied. The following are behaviors that parents and caregivers need to watch for that may indicate bullying is taking place.
2. An adult may not want to go to their workplace or daycare. Suddenly not wanting to go anyplace that has been part of a regular routine is sometimes a sign of being bullied.
3. Symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches that don’t have any obvious correlation to a physical illness can be signs that bullying is occurring.
4. Unexplained irritability, anxiousness, and trouble sleeping are problems to watch for.
5. A child harming himself or herself in any way is obviously an issue that needs immediate attention and may be an indication that an individual is being bullied.
When the Bully is Disabled
Sometimes the child with the disabilities does the bullying. He or she may engage in bullying because of insecurity. Children with disabilities may feel helpless and powerless in many areas of their lives. Exerting control over another individual can give them a false sense of importance or power in their lives. Parents should be just as concerned about their child being the bully as they would be about the child being bullied. Bullies not only hurt other children, but ultimately hurt themselves as well. Those who bully others may have a higher incidence of engaging in dangerous behaviors such as shoplifting, vandalism, or drug use.
Disablist Bullying Prevention
The goal of every parent, teacher, or adult who is responsible for a child with disabilities should be to prevent bullying whenever possible. Since these children are so vulnerable, education should begin as early as possible. Children with disabilities should be taught as young as preschool what types of behaviors are acceptable and which are not.
Sometimes there is a hierarchy of bullying that occurs among disabled students. Those who can walk may bully those in a wheelchair. While there might be a pecking order in every classroom, it may be worse in a special needs classroom because there are more distinct differences among the children. Teachers and caregivers must become attuned to each child’s behavior and their mode of interacting with one another. Being able to recognize patterns of behavior and stepping in to stop bullying in the very early stages is crucial.
Disablist Bullying Consequences
The consequences of any type of bullying can be severe and long lasting. Children who are bullied can suffer from depression and anxiety. Those suffering from bullying sometimes do poorly in school. It is difficult to concentrate on school work when a child is worrying about when and where the bully might show up.
There are unique concerns regarding the bullying of children with disabilities. Children with special needs often have great difficulty defending themselves against the bullies. While this is obvious in the case of those who have physical disabilities there are others who might not seem as vulnerable. A bully who taunts a child suffering from a food allergy may expose that child to the food he or she is allergic to. This may not only cause emotional distress but can be life threatening as well.
Even those who are just bystanders often suffer negative consequences of bullying. According to stopbullying.gov kids who see others being bullied are more likely to use drugs and alcohol as well as suffer from mental health problems. Finally, there can be legal consequences to bullying. According to federal laws bullying because of a disability is a civil rights issue. Those who are bullying face the possibility of criminal charges or a lawsuit.
Role of Schools with Disablist Bullying
Since so much bullying takes place while children are at school, teachers and administrators must take an active role in preventing bullying. Educational programs featuring quality curriculum should be available in schools. Some schools are more proactive in these areas than others. Providing educators with the training and tools to recognize and quickly intervene in bullying situations should be a primary goal of every school. Schools must work with parents on all levels to prevent and stop bullying. Sometimes school officials and parents find themselves in adversarial roles. This only hinders communication and the efforts to stop bullying.
Role of Parents with Disablist Bullying
Schools and community groups should provide as many opportunities as possible for parents to learn about bullying and how to correctly respond in situations that involve bullying. Many parents may unfortunately think that bullying is not an issue that concerns them if they are not the parent of a child with a disability. Every parent, however, should speak to their children about bullying. Whether a child is bullied, being bullied, is disabled, or has been a bystander to bullying; this is an issue that affects nearly every child at some point.
Calmly talk to your child if you suspect or know for sure that he or she is being bullied. After finding out that a child is being bullied it is easy for parents to become agitated and upset. While this is obviously a serious issue that must be dealt with in a timely manner, it will only make the situation worse if parents do not control their own emotions. Children need the reassurance of their parents. If a parent doesn’t appear to be calm and in control it will only add to the anxiety of the child.
Parents of children who do not communicate verbally must have other means of effectively communicating. Using symbols or drawings is one way to develop communication with a child who has difficulty communicating verbally. Make sure the child knows he or she has done the right thing by telling an adult about the bullying. A parent needs to immediately inform all adults who are involved in the child’s life about the bullying. When discussing the situation with school administrators or the officials of the center where the adult child has been going make sure to ask about their anti-bullying policy. It is a good idea to keep records of all meetings, phone calls, and emails regarding the bullying.
Disablist Bullying Organizations
There are many groups and organizations that have been formed to prevent and respond to bullying. The following are five groups and organizations that promote prevention, education, and support of those who have been bullied.
1. Stopbullying.gov – This is a government website that provides an abundance of information regarding bullying. This website also lists the laws and policies regarding bullying in each state.
2. Stomp Out Bullying – This is a national organization aimed toward children and teenagers. It focuses on stopping bullying and cyber bullying.
3. International Bullying Prevention Association – IBPA focuses on research based prevention of bullying. They promote ethical training practices concerning bullying in schools and the workplace. They provide resources for teachers, students, and parents. They also hold a variety of conferences throughout the year.
4. Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center – This group focuses on addressing bullying through a variety of resources. They also focus specifically on bullying against children with disabilities.
5. Bullying Prevention Alliance – Their goal is to promote a safe learning atmosphere for all students. They also assist families who need financial assistance for legal fees or psychological counseling.
Spread the word about Disablist Bullying Now!