There was a time when my son relied on me for everything. I was everywhere he was. But now he spends much of the day at school, where I must have faith that he’s being treated well (which he is, of course). As he grows, he’s going to spend more time away from my ability to influence his surroundings, and that scares me.
Bullying is a harsh reality that we, as parents of children with disabilities, must face.
Statistics show that individuals with disabilities are 2.5 times more likely to experience some sort of bullying than people without disabilities. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and as much as we want to trust the world to treat our kids well, there’s a likelihood that something bad could happen.
I wish I had a magic fix to make this all go away. I wish there was a way that I could guarantee his safety always, but I can’t, and that frustrates me. Shouldn’t I be able to, given that he relies on me for most things?
That’s all just wishful thinking, but it’s not a hopeless situation. I do believe that there are certain things that we can do to help our kids protect themselves and to help others protect our kids.
A few things come to mind:
1. Get to know the people your kids interact with. Whether it’s teachers, students, parents, or therapists, you need to be in position to have tough conversations with those folks your kids interact with daily. Get to know them, and express concerns whenever you have them.
2. Be strategic about where you “let” your child exercise their need for freedom. Make sure they are putting themselves in situations where someone can advocate for them if they can’t advocate for themselves.
3. Ease your own mind. Deep inside I knew that my son would have no issue riding the bus to school. But it still made me nervous to not be the one who drove him there and brought him back home. The way I eased my own mind about that was to drop an iPhone in his bag that I could track. I saw on the map his arrival and departure at school and getting home. When he gets older, I won’t have to do such things, but right now I need to know where my son is at all times.
Those are just a few things off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are others that are much more effective. The fear of bullying is my own, and it’s something I’ll work on creating structures to protect him for as long as I possibly can.
Learn more about bullying, what it is, and how you can help protect your child.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.