Is Your Special Needs Child Being Bullied?

Written by on November 25, 2012 in Family - No comments | Print this page


Changes in your child’s behaviour such as refusing to attend school, feigning sickness or becoming withdrawn could signal that they are being bullied at school.

Bullying in the UK

According to Bullying UK’s 2006 National Bullying Survey 69% of children report being bullied, and special needs children are 10 times more likely to be victims/targets as they are perceived as different or easy targets.

The bullying can be physical, emotional or verbal, due to their disabilities some special needs children simply refuse to talk about what is wrong for fear of aggravating the situation further or they may even be unable to recognise that they are being bullied.

For parents it’s vitally important to be aware of the signs of bullying, these can include;

–          Truanting

–          Feigning sickness

–          Changing their route or travel options from bus to car

–          Unwillingness to attend school

–          Personal possessions including clothes go missing or are returning home damaged

–          A change in eating habits

–          Crying themselves to sleep

–          Becoming withdrawn

–          Threat or even attempt at  suicide

–          Asking for more, losing or stealing money

–          Having unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches

–          Bullying other children, like youngsters or siblings

–          Becoming aggressive and unreasonable.

Identifying that your child is being bullied is extremely upsetting and you may feel confused, angry and protective of your child; this is to be expected. Bullying is not acceptable by any child or adult, and it must be stopped. However you should not feel you have to tackle this alone, engaging with the teachers, SENCOs, parents and support agencies will help you reach a resolution.

There is also abundance of anti-bullying resources available, useful for both parents and teachers to help children understand that bullying is wrong and to help those that are being bullied. There are also resources available to specifically support parents of special needs children.

How to overcome bullying

If you believe your child is being bullied you have to take action, the cycle has to be broken. It is important to always be supportive of your child and listen to your child’s experiences. Be sure to tell your child that it isn’t their fault and encourage them not to fight back.  This can be a difficult conversation, particularly as you try to persuade a special needs child to speak and share their feelings. Encouraging them to share and listening to them is the first step; whilst taking a written record of what your child says will help you focus and make sharing details with their teachers easier.

To formally tackle bullying you need to ensure that your child’s school has an anti-bullying policy, this has been a legal requirement (for state schools) since 1999, it is not simply a written document to be admired, it must be enforced, the school should be creating an environment whereby children understand from the moment they start school that bullying, aggression and violence are not acceptable and should be supporting them in learning better ways of behaving.

You should not be trying to deal with the situation alone, you need to liaise closely with the school to raise your concerns, organising formal meetings with teachers and if required the head teacher; using this time to review their measures to prevent all forms of bullying and how they intend to deal with this situation to meet the needs of your child.

You are fully within your right to also ask to see your child’s records to see if there are any other incidents recorded, that perhaps you have not been made aware of, which further support your views. Understanding first of all whether this is an isolated incident or whether the bully has a history of bullying behaviour will clarify how quickly you should be able to resolve this.

Creating a Plan

Whether the bullying is in school or takes the form of cyber bullying, the school must play a major role in dealing with this and provide you with a clear action plan to uncover the route of the bullying and how to overcome the problem.

You may have to talk to the bully’s parents; and where possible enlist their help to address the issue. Research has shown that an effective and organised approach involving key people from both school and home can dramatically reduce both the frequency and impact of bullying.

Sadly some schools fall short and do not provide the appropriate action despite the fact it has a legal duty of care to protect its students, in this situation you must request for a copy of the school’s complaints procedure, or you can also complain directly to the local authority’s education director, or MP. If the situation is severe and involves a crime, the bullying must be reported to the police.

Ultimately, bullying is behaviour and behaviour is a choice. Bullying therefore is a choice. Whilst a lack of confidence, a poor school or home environment, poor parenting, peer pressure etc may be influencing factors in bullying, they are not a cause and  cannot be accepted as a an excuse for bullying. It is the bully’s choice to bully and it must be made clear to them that it is not an acceptable choice and will not be tolerated.

For parents and the child being bullied it is vital to remember that a support structure exists to tackle such abusive behaviour, you are not alone and it is not your fault.

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This is a guest post.  LDA education is a leading provider of teaching resources for special needs and primary educational support, offering innovative and creative products.


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