Is your child at risk of bullying and abuse?

Yes. Studies of children with disabilities--of every type of disability-- have shown that they are high risk of being bullied. And, recent reports show that kids with disabilities are prone to abuse, treatment that is illegal any where else. Kids with disabilities are common targets. In many cases, children with disabilities are already feel different, have limited resiliency, deficits of social skills and inappropriate responses to conflict that bullies sense and use.

In other words, they are unlikely to be able to 'shake it off', 'get over it', or 'just ignore it'. They are unlikely to report it because they have a greater fear of retaliation. They are likely to do exactly the same things that will cause the bullying to continue. They may take actions into their own hands and are very likely to get in trouble for doing so.

Kids with disabilities are targeted in areas with 'low adult supervision'. This means bathrooms, locker rooms, hallways, on the bus and at bus stops.

Bullying reduces learning. Some call it 'engagement'. If your child is distracted by fear of future bullying, they will be less available for instruction. They will be less likely to benefit from class, less able to fully pay attention to the teacher. According to expert Mel Levine, worrying takes up liimited but valuable working memory and processing energy needed for participating in class. "Active working memory craves peace of mind. Anxiety infects it like a computer virus." (p103) Bullying is not a rite of passage or something that builds character. Bullying can have a more intensely negative impact on kids with disabilities, and it takes longer for them to 'bounce back'. Children with disabilities already have needs that take more time.

If your child is bullied, you should report it in writing to the Principal and the Assistant Superintendent. The law says it not enough to tell a teacher or aide or bus driver, it must be a person with the 'authority' , to stop the unacceptable acts. Describe what you understand happened, remind them your child has a disability and ask them to take action to make it stop. Then follow up with a letter or email to 'memorialize' what you said, and what they said. If your child was injured, take them to your doctor or the Emergency Room and get a physician's report on the injury. Take pictures of the injury. Keep records and notes of any incidents, even if you think they are isolated. If your child continues to be bullied over time, your records will help prove the bullying is 'pervasive', should you have to retain a lawyer to enforce your child's right to a safe school environment.

More:

Related:

Charol Shakescraft, Ph.D. report on School Sexual Abuse (2004) (pdf)

1. (p103) A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine. 2002. Simon & Schuster, NY

 
 

 

 


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    © 2011 Amber Mintz, Non-Attorney Advocate, 610-927-9904- business hours; 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday