Bullying and kids with special needs: Got any good tips to share?

October may be National Bullying Prevention Month, although there’s been a whole lot of talk about the topic in the past couple of years. It’s always troublesome to hear the stories, even more so when it involves a kid with special needs. Today, I read about Abby, a kid with Asperger syndrome whose parents had to start home-schooling her when she was 9 because of bullies at school. As her mom, Patricia, revealed, “Her fellow students constantly mocked her autism-related outburts. To help her cope, the teachers would set aside a safe place for Abby to go every week. Even then, the children would deface the space with derogatory signs.”

This mom shared her experiences with the Interactive Autism Network, the country’s largest online autism research database. Today it launched a nationwide survey to determine how bullying affects children with autism spectrum disorder. IAN is asking parents to share their kids’ experiences with bullying, and how they dealt, in the hopes of raising awareness and getting policymakers and educators to understand the extent of the problem.

Of course, it’s not just children with autism and Asperger’s who deal with bullying; kids with other special needs are also victims, and hopefully the results of this study will generally raise awareness about the matter. We’re lucky in our house: Max, who is 8 and has cerebral palsy, has never faced this. It’s mostly because he leads such a protected life: He’s in a school for kids with special needs, he goes to programs for kids with special needs, during summer he’s in a camp for kids with special needs, and so on.

I’ve been trying to do more inclusionary activities with Max. This week, he and his dad are going to their first Cub Scouts meeting. His dad will be there with him the entire time, as will the den leader, so I’m not concerned. And yet, I ache for Max to be more independent. There will come a time when he will be off doing activities on his own, hopefully integrated activities. He will still need a careful pair of eyes on him. But with all the awareness being raised on the topic, I’d like to think that kids will have a higher level of conscientiousness about treating all kids, including ones with special needs, with respect. It would help for schools like my son’s to offer programs on ways parents can teach kids about bullying; even though kids like Max are in a protected environment, some won’t always be. At least that’s what I pray for with Max, although it’s clearly a double-edged sword.

Has your child ever been a victim of bullying? Did you learn anything from that experience that could help other parents and their kids? Please share here.


Related posts from my other blog:

How other kids treat kids with special needs: It starts with the parents

Siblings with disabilities: Her brother’s keeper

Are we too sucked into special needs world?




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  1. by Laurie Q

    On October 18, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    Something cool we’ve started here in London Ontario is a peer-mediated social skill program called TRACKS. It teaches children skills they can use to effectively interact with kids who have special needs (persistence, modelling, etc.). There’s lots more to it than that, but what we’ve found is that when kids have these skills, they’re more comfortable interacting with kids who have special needs and bullying really decreases. The program also encourages adults to step back a bit and allow for more peer-to-peer interaction. Lots of cool friendships developed this past summer as a result of running TRACKS in our summer day camps, and we’ll certainly be expanding the program because of its great success.

  2. by Michaela Searfoorce

    On October 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    After a terribly embarrassing event at recess last year, I kept my special needs son home and went in to talk to his classmates on my own. I wrote about what happened on my blog, thefoorce.com. The story is also posted on Child Mind Institute and nymetroparents.com. This was the single most effective thing I have done to combat bullying in his short little life – wondering now why I hadn’t thought of it sooner…

  3. by MargAngel

    On October 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Pay them a compliment or just ignore it. Most kids on the spectrum don’t realize it’s bullying at all and remain unaware until much later in life. People pick on people. It’s on tv and everywhere in this culture or death where by we teach our kids it’s okay to kill and to be killed. What do we expect? With social media now it’s ever easier to abuse and neglect other people’s emotions and their states in life. Regardless teach your child to be kind and patient and if everyone is responsible then everyone will respond.

  4. by Molly

    On October 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    My brother had a tic disorder and was bullied almost to death. I can’t think about it without feeling nauseous. Now that the disorder is gone, he is an amazing advocate for kids with special needs.