As parents, we always want our kids to be safe, healthy, and happy. So, naturally, news that your special needs child is dealing with a bully at school can evoke a range of strong emotions.
Although it goes against our instinct of protecting our young, it’s important to remember to stay calm if your kid is facing a bully, and take the correct steps to ensure the situation ends efficiently and appropriately.
Looking for Signs of Bullying
Your child might not go to you right away if he or she is dealing with a bully at school. However, there are certain signs that hint at the problem. According to an article by Stomp Out Bullying, parents should do the following:
- Listen to what your child is telling you
- Pay attention to changes in your child’s moods
- Never ignore self-destructive behaviors
- Look out for changes in your child’s sleeping habits
- Take note if your child’s grades begin to fall
- Inquire about any reports of lost possessions
Parents of kids with special needs may have to pay closer attention or do some extra sleuthing to get to the bottom of what’s happening at school.
What to Do if Your Child is Being Bullied
First and foremost, make sure your child is safe. Keep your child home and/or contact local police if your child was assaulted or threatened with assault.
You and your child have rights set by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, both of which protect children with disabilities. Before taking any action, ensure you have a good understanding of both Acts.
Next, gather as much information as possible. According to an article by Friendship Circle, “Get as much information as possible about the incident(s), names of those involved, what happened, was there adult supervision, and if so, who was there and what did they do? Getting this information will help you be organized when you approach the school for a solution.”
Once you have some information to work with, report the bullying to school officials immediately. Share every detail you have about the situation, such as dates and times, locations and people involved in the bullying. Friendship Circle also notes that most schools have a code of conduct policy that “prohibit unwelcome verbal, written, or physical conduct, directed at the characteristics of specific enumerated groups.” While students with special needs are not always included as a group particularly protected from bullying and harassment under these policies, it’s critical to know the rules your school has in place and to ensure they’re adequately enforcing them for your child.
Chances are, your child is stressed out by the bullying situation at school. At home, make sure he or she has a strong support system. Friends and other supportive people are essential to building confidence and preventing future bullying issues.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
If you’re a parent with a special needs child, you likely have questions about his or her well-being. John Bair can help. He is an experienced settlement planner and financial consultant. He helps families develop strategies to provide lifelong financial support for children with disabilities, catastrophic injuries, special needs, and congenital abnormalities. Read more about John’s work and his firm, Milestone Consulting, at http://milestoneseventh.com/.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).