The Truth About Bullying and Learning Disabilities
Whether you read countless stories about teens targeted on the Internet, or watch your little boy struggle to fit in at elementary school, it’s clear that these days, the prevalence of bullying is staggering. While it’s hard to assign a number to describe the incidence of bullying—data from different sources report different findings—research suggests that kids from every social group are potential targets.
In fact, 10 percent of children report having been the victims of severe bullying at least once during the school year, 75 percent reveal they’ve been bullied at least once during the past 10 months, and 25-50 percent report being bullied at some point during their school years. Feeling out of options, more than 160,000 students skip school every day because they’re afraid of being bullied. Despite the fact that adults monitoring school grounds are in a position to intervene, 40-75 percent of bullying incidents in school take place during class breaks, in the lunchroom, bathroom, or hallways.
Students at Risk
While every child has qualities that could land them on the radar of a bullying peer, children in niche groups—including those diagnosed with a learning disability—are more at risk for being harassed, bullied or intimidated. These victimized students include the second grader with dyslexia, whose difficulties with decoding unfamiliar words results in giggling and name calling whenever he’s called upon to read aloud or write on the board in class, and the ninth grader with LD and ADHD who is told not to climb on the new gym equipment but is egged on by his peers until he succumbs and breaks the rules, resulting in punishment and further victimization by his peers.
Some might agree that these are examples of bullying behavior, and others might say that they describe how individuals with LD often suffer from the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” The reality is that all students are vulnerable to the negative impact of bullying, and students with dyslexia and specific learning disabilities, ADHD and other disorders that impact learning and behavior, are indeed at special risk. They’re often vulnerable due to having low self-esteem triggered by low achievement. They might see themselves as outsiders in their peer groups, and often have trouble making and keeping friends because their need for special types of intervention, accommodations and support are misunderstood.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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