In the first part of this series the focus was on an exploration of bullying and how it impacts the lives of kids and teens with disabilities. Here we focus on practical strategies for coping and confronting the bullies. First, no one need be silent about bullying; this only empowers them to keep on hurting people. The people to speak to are:
- Older siblings
Sometimes even adults don’t take reports of bullying seriously. The best way to deal with this is to keep a list or journal of incidents. Be as detailed as possible so that when you do talk to someone you can be clear about what took place.
Don’t wait too long before you do speak to someone. Chances are the bullying will escalate.
Try not to spend time around the person who has been bullying you. Seek out other friends and kids/teens to be around.
Kids and Teens with Disabilities to Confront Bullying
The following strategies could prove to be helpful:
- Explain the concept of bullying – what can happen, what it sounds/looks like, and make sure your kids fully understand
- Teach them not to react – bullies feed on the reactions of others – they tend to prey on people who are vulnerable
- Try to establish a mentoring situation – another student who will partner with your kid – bullies tend not to be effective when peers intervene
- Spend time with your kids and explain the in’s and out’s of cyber-bullying – they need to understand the different ways in which the Internet can be both a fun, entertaining place, but also unsafe
- Work with teachers and other educators to provide anti-bullying awareness training, prevention and intervention strategies at schools and community centres
- Make sure you understand everything that is already being done at your kid’s school and support those efforts – don’t assume efforts or measures are not in place
- Review your county’s Code of Conduct to familiarize yourself with all of its measures
- Do not under any circumstances allow a school to ignore specific complaints about bullying – sometimes a teacher or other school staff member may not wish to get involved, or they don’t believe the allegations for some reason. Be persistent. Write everything down. Get legal help when necessary.
- Make sure your kid gets all the support they need – counselling, peer support, understanding, compassion, and talk it out with them and handle all problems as quickly as possible
- Teach your kids how to use the Internet safely – it is crucial they understand that some websites, forums, and chat sites can be dangerous
- Speak with your kids about their experiences with others – try not to let them get away with saying “everything is fine” if your instincts tell you otherwise
Recognize the signs their kids are being bullied
The U.K. has published a wonderful guide on this topic. In this excellent workbook, parents are encouraged to recognize the signs their kids are being bullied:
- Becoming withdrawn
- Coming home with cuts and bruises
- Refusing to go to school or a youth club –anywhere where the bullies are
- Doing less well at their schoolwork
- Changes in their mood – becoming depressed, angry, unhappy
- Changes in their behaviour, for example wetting the bed
The topic of cyber-bullying has earned a reputation for being one of the more pernicious and difficult forms of bullying to cope with. It is not possible to simply walk away from the Internet as it serves an important role in communications on multiple levels. Kids and teens regularly use the Internet for school, entertainment, and their social lives. The ramifications of cyber-bullying can and have been devastating. There have even been suicides as a result of this horrific form of hate. Six specific cases are worth reading about if only to be fully informed on the subject.
One of the more common problems related to cyber-bullying is the desire and tendency for young people to retaliate. This is a mistake and will only cause the bullying to intensify. An overview of the literature on the research into cyber-bullying and disability provides this important insight into the nature of the problem:
cyberbullying differs in several ways that make it a serious problem. First, it can be anonymous and need not involve the power imbalance of other forms of bullying. Second, cyberbullying potentially has many more observers. Hostile or insulting comments and embarrassing photos posted on a social networking site or sent in messages can spread quickly and widely. Third, cyberbullying is harder to regulate and supervise because it occurs outside the presence of adults at schools. Cyberbullies have access to electronic media at almost any time and any place .
The challenge of coping with cyber-bullying is a terrible knowledge of how widespread the comments and/or photos can go. Kids and teens can suffer a terrible sense of shame, humiliation and embarrassment mixed with anger, confusion and frustration. Parents feel compelled to do ‘something’ that can comfort their child and save them from any further harm. Sadly, the Internet empowers bullies even with new laws in place which prosecute them when they’re found. The lines between someone’s real identity and their virtual identity become blurred, and it’s often difficult to track down someone who knows how to use the technology to hide in cyberspace.
“By definition, bullying involves an imbalance of power in which the victim lacks the resources to respond in a way that stops the hurtful behavior.” Read More. The persistence of bullying in our society suggests the need for immediate and ongoing changes to adopt best practices which can address this problem. Schools and agencies must have anti-bullying programs and policies plus the structure to support them. Teachers, counsellors and staff should be trained to understand and recognize the problem. But, there is a need to transform our social environments so that bullying is not just illegal or ‘wrong’ but strongly discouraged. Society has a responsibility to create an environment on a large-scale in which bullying will not be tolerated. There needs to be an improved process for tracking and reporting incidents not only in schools but other environments such as cyberspace. Only then will kids and teens with disabilities find it easier to cope.