How to deal with bullying and special needs kids

Children who are different are often faced with bullying at school. For kids with special needs and disabilities, bullying can become part of everyday life.

As a parent, learn how to talk to your kid about dealing with bullies and avoiding becoming one.

Bullying at school is a serious problem that can affect any child. It can take the form of verbal and emotional abuse, threats, cyber-bullying or even violence. In fact, over just one school year, the Institute of Education Sciences recorded more than 300,000 incidents of violence. Kids with disabilities are at greater risk of being bullied. Teachers and parents have the ability to reach out to school-aged kids to prevent and deal with bullying. Learn what you can do to help.

Talk about bullying before it becomes a problem

Dr. Jeffrey Deutsch, a speaker and life coach who founded A SPLINT — ASPies LInking with NTs, grew up facing bullying. Drawing from his own experiences with Asperger’s Syndrome, he advocates teaching kids tolerance and compassion, but also believes that it’s important to acknowledge that not everyone will like everyone else. “There are limits to what they may do even to those they don’t like,” Dr. Deutsch says, explaining that kids need to understand that not liking someone isn’t permission to bully. Parent Shelly Whitfield says, “I’ve always told my kids that the kids with challenges need friends like everyone else. I expect them to be an advocate and protect those kids.” Talk to your children about bullying whether they have disabilities or not, and begin at an early age.

Learn how to talk to kids about bullying >>

Address and foster good social skills

“Like it or lump it, kids with good social skills tend not to be targeted by bullies,” Dr. Deutsch says. “Bullies tend to avoid attacking those with solid circles of friends.” No child should ever be blamed in any way for being bullied, but it helps to foster good social skills and friendships between peers to help kids with disabilities develop support systems at school. Give your child the opportunity to expand her social skills. Ask your school’s guidance counselor if the school offers social skills programs or if she can recommend any in the community. Help your child learn to talk about her disability and educate her peers. Check in with your child’s teacher regularly to get a feel for your child’s behavior and engagement with other students.

Lean on school resources and federal regulations

Kids with disabilities and special needs are protected by certain federal civil rights laws. If a child with disabilities is being bullied and harassed at school, the school must address the problem. If your child is being bullied because of her disability and you don’t feel like the school is responding appropriately, consider seeking an advocate for kids with special needs. Calmly and politely let the school know that you won’t back down until your child is safe in the school environment. Hopefully your child’s situation will never have to come to that, but it’s important to know your child’s rights.

Learn more about bullying in school >>

More on bullying

7 Bullying resources for parents
Is your kid being bullied at school?
3 New warning signs your child is being bullied


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