Bullying and Special Needs Children
There is a good chance that each of you remembers at least one school bully while growing up. You’ve also probably heard one or more horrendous stories in the news about children who have been bullied. Bullying is a problem that occurs not only in the U.S. Just recently, Chilean newspapers reported a shocking story about a nine-year-old boy who died following cerebral hemorrhage which resulted from a gruesome act of bullying. This entry is for him and for all who suffer from bullying.
In our profession, bullying needs to be on our radar. I think back to when I worked as an SLP in the schools and wonder how many children on my caseload might have been affected by bullying without my knowledge. It’s an issue that I’ve always discussed with students in my fluency classes, but having learned more about the relationship between bullying and other disabilities, I will definitely be integrating the topic into other courses as well.
According to a review of research by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, children with disabilities are at significantly higher risk of being bullied than children without disabilities. According to the Massachusetts Advocacy for Children (2009), for example, 88% of children with autism sampled were reported to have been victims of bullying. Even in typically developing children, bullying has a negative impact not only on social-emotional development, but also on academic achievement. Therefore, it is a serious problem that further compounds the difficulties which children with disabilities already experience. Because bullying can interfere with children’s access to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE), the PACER Center has put together a document on The Individualized Education Program (IEP) and Bullying which provides valuable strategies that can be included in a child’s IEP to help stop the bullying that he/she experiences. For example, strategies may include allowing the child to leave class early to avoid the bully in the hallway between classes, holding in-services for staff and students about policies regarding bullying, and shadowing of the child in the lunchroom or playground where the bullying typically happens.
Again, bullying is a common problem for which SLPs should be on the lookout. Hopefully, we will see more research conducted to better understand what drives people to bully and how professionals can help them while enhancing prevention.
Additional helpful websites
Policies and Laws by State
Helping Kids Deal with Bullying