When we talk about bullying we immediately think of children.
Statistics show that bullying happens more often to children with disabilities and there are many reasons why. Children with disabilities may “look” different to a typical child because they may use special equipment. The equipment might be a wheelchair, hearing aids, or assistive technology.
A typical child may not understand the need for the equipment. When they do not understand what the equipment or the assistive technology is, they may be inclined to make fun of or exclude those kids.
Other children with behavioral issues or an invisible disability do not use any type of equipment. They “look” like any other child, but they may have challenging behaviors or may be non-verbal. This type of behavior is especially hard for the typical child to grasp, because visually there is nothing different. It is when the typical child wants to interact or play that they notice the difference.
Many children with disabilities struggle socially. They want to make friends and play, but they may not have the necessary skills to do so. If they are too aggressive, do not respond appropriately, or stand too close to other children, they may appear a little odd or different.
All these issues are real. They can be properly addressed by parents, teachers, and school support staff. Education is key. We can teach some children with disabilities socially appropriate behaviors, but that alone is not enough. We need to educate the children without special health care needs, too. If you prepare children by giving them information, they too are more likely to respond appropriately.
Parents can ask school staff what training has been done to address children with disabilities. This is especially important on campuses that have special education classrooms. If a child with disabilities participates in regular education classes, it is very helpful when the school staff or even the parent talk with the other students about the child with the disability.
There are many websites and articles about bullying that are helpful, including www.StopBullying.gov, which is a great resource that offers articles and videos explaining how to handle and address bullying.
Additional information on bullying is available on this website.