October is National Bullying Prevention Month. This campaign is meant to unite communities nationwide, educate, and raise awareness of the need for bullying prevention.
Make it Orange to Make it End! One way communities take part is by wearing orange on National Unity Day – this year it’s October 25. Area schools and other organizations including The Arc of Schuyler will be sporting orange on that Wednesday. If you care about students who are bullied and want bullying to end, make your color ORANGE on Unity Day. Let's send a united ORANGE message of supports to students who are or have experienced bullying.
One of the reasons The Arc of Schuyler strongly supports this annual campaign is because bullying of kids with disabilities is so significant. One study reported that 25% of all students report being bullied regularly, but 60% of students with disabilities are being bullied.
Clearly, a child with a disability is more likely a target for bullying. Why?
- Students with disabilities are seen as “different”. They look different, they talk differently. Kids on the autism spectrum disorder may exhibit social behaviors that their peers don’t understand.
- Bullies are seeking power and control over a situation. People with disabilities who have difficulty controlling their emotions give bullies the emotional reaction – either fear or anger, that bullies want.
- Students with disabilities are more likely to be isolated. Bullies look for kids who do not have a social circle surrounding them for support. The NY Times reported about a study completed by a Berkeley professor focusing on kids on the autism spectrum. The study found that kids who have the greatest potential to lead lives of independence are at even greater risk of being bullied because they are in mainstream classes and not in a special education setting. That’s not to say that kids who don’t need to be should be in a special education program, it just reinforces that everyone needs to be diligent about supporting kids who are bullying targets.
So, what can we do about it?
- The most important thing is to have a dialogue about it in our schools, with our kids, and in our communities. For generations, bullying has been accepted as a “normal part of growing up”. We’ve told kids, “Just ignore it.” So what happens? The bully feels validated because no one stops him or her, the person being bullied doesn’t feel supported to stand up for himself, and their peers have no idea how to respond even when they know what they’re seeing is wrong and want to do something. We have to talk about it and the earlier the age the better. We have to educate people that it is an issue.
- Teaching kids self-advocacy skills is important for kids with or without disabilities. Kids who feel empowered to address the situation have greater self-esteem and become less of a target for bullying. There’s a lot of different safe techniques that kids can respond with: explaining their disability, asking the bully to stop, staying with a peer, or seeking the help of an adult that can help.
- Probably the most effective method is turning the bystanders in a bullying situation into peer advocates or underground advocates. We’ve come up with these solutions that are so focused on an authority figure handling a bullying situation. But it doesn’t really take care of systemic issue, and bullying usually happens when teachers and parents aren’t around. More than half of bullying situations end when a peer intervenes. The students themselves need to be part of the solution.
- We need to create a culture in our schools and in our community of respect for people with disabilities and support for kids to be peer advocates for those who are bullied. Peer advocates identify bullying, have been taught how to intervene, and are confident enough to stop or report a situation.
We’ve seen the devastating effects that bullying can have not just on the kids who are bullied and the schools, but on our whole community. The key really is to engage our youth, kids who have disabilities and kids who don’t and teach them that they’re in control of putting an end to bullying.
- PACER - National Bullying Prevention Center Publications and Resources
- Bullying and Harassment of Students with Disabilities
- Peer Advocacy - A Unique Bullying Prevention Model for Students with Disabilities
- What is Cyber Bullying?
- Who Is At Risk of Bullying?
- How to Talk About Bullying
- Respond to Bullying
National Institutes of Health report that 71% of students report bullying as an ongoing problem. Troubling statistics support that verbal, physical, and now cyberbullying is a serious issue among students. Furthermore, bullying can have devastating effects on victims, their families, and schools.
As a provider of choice for people with developmental disabilities, The Arc understands that bullying of youth with disabilities is a significant national concern. Ten studies have been conducted in the United States on bullying and developmental disabilities and all studies have found that children with disabilities were 2 to 3 times more likely to be victims of bullying than their peers without disabilities. Why?
Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders usually standout from their peers in ways that make them targets for bullying. Children with disabilities that may struggle with self-esteem issues are often seen by bullies as easy victims who won’t stand up for themselves. Of course, bullying only worsens a person’s self-esteem.
Fortunately, youth with disabilities and their families, teachers, peers, and community can take a stand against bullying.
Youth should feel empowered to prevent bullying. Student peers can have a strong impact on bullies. Actually, more than 50% of bullying situations end when a student peer intervenes. Self-advocacy is also important. Victims of bullying who advocate for themselves by knowing their rights and seeking help feel empowered to resolve their problems.
For parents and families, knowing your rights and how to talk to your children about bullying and their disability to others can help you feel prepared to help your child if he or she is bullied. Educators are often on the forefront of preventing bullying. In addition to knowing the school bullying policy, practicing strategies for talking to bullying and bullied children, especially those with disabilities can be a valuable asset.
Below is a list of links to compelling resources that share stories about the harmful effects of bullying, raise awareness about bullying prevention, and offer tools to combat bullying.
Resources for Youth
- Who Am I? There are many different roles involved in bullying - not just the bully and the victim. Click the link to learn more and figure out what role you play.
- Kids Against Bullying A creative, innovative, and educational site designed by and for elementary school students to learn about bullying prevention, engage in activities, and be inspired to take action.
- Teens Against Bullying Created by and for teens, it's a place for middle and high school students to find ways to address bullying, to take action, to be heard, and to join an important social cause. Read stories, check out videos, and get involved by taking a survey about bullying or signing a petition.
- StopBullying.gov The 5 W's of bullying and more. How to safely prevent and how to respond to bullying.
- Bullying and Disability Harassment in the Workplace This Info Brief is designed to help youth, including youth with disabilities, recognize signs of bullying in the workplace, and to recognize how bullying differs from disability harassment. The brief offers examples of bullying situations at work and offers strategies to help address the issue. Much is understood about the negative consequences of bullying at school, but youth should also be made aware that bullying does not end at school. It is often encountered at work as well.
Resouces for Parents and Educators
- Walk a Mile in Their Shoes In recognizing the need for the critical issue of bullying of children with disabilities to be addressed, AbilityPath.org created this report to educate parents on the issue of bullying, empower parents and educators to take action and apply meaningful change, and assist policymakers, and school professionals to ensure that this particular issue is at the forefront in the public arena of bullying discussions.
- Bully Free World This toolkit is a set of resources for people to confront bullying of children with special needs from all angles - from talking to your children to knowing your rights to teaching tolerance in schools.
- StopBullying.gov The 5 W’s of bullying and more. How to safely prevent and how to respond to bullying.
- Workplace Bullying Set an example for our youth. Learn how to identify and stop bullying in the workplace.
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities This is a collection of resources including fact sheets and training aids.