Perpetrator to Playmate: How to Stop Bullying of Disabled Children
The saying children can be so cruel rings true for many parents of children with disabilities, who are often anxious about their child being bullied at school—and wonder how they can encourage his young classmates to befriend him.
Unfortunately, some of this worry seems warranted—children with disabilities are more likely to be victims of bullying than their typically developing classmates. They’re more likely to be rejected—and less likely to be accepted—as workmates and playmates, and frequently have few, if any, friends in their class. This is found across the board, in different countries, in various types of schools and within a range of age groups (1). However, there’s no need to wring your hands about how your little one is treated in school—this situation isn’t necessarily inevitable. A lot depends on your child’s classmates’ understanding of his disability.
Fostering Sympathy and Support
Like adults, kids have expectations about how others should behave in particular situations—and seek to explain differences in ways that make sense to them. Often children with disabilities act in some ways that puzzle their classmates, such as struggling with speech, or lashing out at peers. If children think child is to blame for their behavior, then this will make them feel, and possibly behave, negatively toward their disabled classmate. On the other hand, if these kids understand that a child with a disability isn’t at fault for acting out, they’ll feel sympathetic and often offer help and support (2). When a child’s classmates understand that his disability affects his ability to meet classroom and social expectations, they’ll tend to be more accepting, while attempting to show them what to do, as they might with a younger kid (1).
Isn’t ‘Labeling’ a Bad Thing?
Schools are sometimes reluctant to point out the needs of a child with disabilities to his classmates, due to concerns about ‘labeling’—the risk that kids will only see and respond to the disability, not the person, with negative associations about the disability being translated into negative interactions with the child suffering from it. For example, administrators worry that telling a class of children that one of their peers has an Autism Spectrum Disorder may lead to name-calling.
In actuality, concerns about negative labeling have been exaggerated. Negative behavior is what is important in producing negative responses from others, not special education labels (3). Don’t simply provide a label, since with younger children, any special term may take focus away from the issue at hand, Instead, explain the child’s needs, how they link with behavior, and how classmates are expected to show positive support (4).
- Coats and Car Seats: A Lethal Combination?
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Why is Play Important? Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Creative Development
- The Homework Debate
- First Grade Sight Words List
- Social Cognitive Theory
- GED Math Practice Test 1