With school back in full swing, it’s a good time to be aware of potential bullying. Unfortunately, no child is immune from bullying. Children with disabilities …such as physical, developmental, emotional, intellectual and sensory disabilities—are at an increased risk of being bullied.
There are a number of factors such as physical vulnerability, social skill challenges, or intolerant environments which could increase the risk. Some children with disabilities may bully others.
If your child has food allergies or other health conditions such as epilepsy or juvenile diabetes, they may be at higher risk of being bullied. Often kids will make fun of their peers who have food allergies or special health conditions due to the exposure of these conditions. This type of bullying could cause your child not to take necessary medications and put them at risk.
Parents can help their children by:
• Be on the lookout for bullying
• Listen to what your child is telling you
• Watch for “vanishing” friends
• Pay attention to your child’s moods
• Never ignore self-destructive behaviors like running away from home, cutting or talking about suicide Watch your child’s sleeping habits
• Look deeper if your child’s grades begin to fall
• Make sure you know your child’s schedule
• Watch for reports of lost possessions
Know your rights. Become familiar with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. These two Acts protect children with disabilities and make it illegal to be harassed due to a disability.
Talk to your child about bullying. Be sure your child knows what constitutes bullying and encourage him or her to communicate with you about anything that happens. Understand though that kids often don’t report bullying to parents. So you need to ask regularly about school and their interactions with others.
Help your child build a strong support system. Having friends and supportive people around is essential to bullying prevention. Bullies often leave children alone who have a solid group of friends and supportive people. Help your child make friends at school by inviting children to your home. Also provide opportunities to develop friendships by exposing your child to activities he or she enjoys.
Report all bullying and harassment. Contact school officials immediately if you find out your child is being bullied. Ask to meet face-to-face and provide written details of the incidents including the dates, times, places and people involved.
Be sure your child is safe. If your child is being physically harassed or has been threatened, request that the school intervene immediately. Your child’s safety should be your number one priority, so take steps to ensure it is safe for your child to be at school. Contact local police if there has been an assault or if the school does not respond.