January 2019 Rose Akinsehinwa
Bullying is a pressing issue for many school children. While this damaging behavior affects both typical children and children with special needs, children with special needs are at more risk for being targets of a bully. Children with ASD have trouble with language and social cues, therefore might lack the ability to predict the behaviour and thinking of others and respond accordingly which is vital for self-protection, thereby become easy targets for bullies. Being bullied can cause kids to experience fear and anxiety and interfere with school work and self-esteem.
As care givers, we need to take time to teach our children what bullying is and how to handle each form as best as they can.
Physical Bullying – this comes as hitting, kicking, pushing, snatching of belongings forcefully etc. Teach your child to avoid the people and places where this happens, report to an adult when they notice any of such behaviours targeted at them. Also teach them not to retaliate as this could aggravate the situation.
Verbal Bullying– name calling, teasing, mocking are forms of verbal bullying done by other children to peers. Teach your child that there is good and bad (hurtful) words. Children should ignore verbal bullying, walk away from the scene, don’t talk back but instead, reaffirm themselves with positive words (self-talk like: I am beautiful, I am smart, I am important etc.).
Emotional Bullying – mean spirited people practice rejection, excluding and ignoring others as bullying. Your child might not have the power to handle this by him/herself, therefore, you will need to involve adults like teachers and family members. Ensure that your child has a buddy in school, at home, on the playground etc. who can make them feel loved and wanted at times.
Sexual Bullying – when done by an adult is abuse but by other children might be bullying to make the child feel bad. This can be touching, teasing, coercing etc. Teach your child the difference between personal (private) and general (public) body parts and why others should not touch or see their personal places. Your child must learn to shout out loud, call for help and run away in such situations. Also encourage them to talk about it with adults and know they can report every incident that they perceive to be sexual bullying.
Cyber Bullying – sending threatening emails, text messages, harassing cell phone calls, etc. This requires adult guidance, monitoring and supervision of the use of technology at all times. They should be taught private and public information and what should and should not be said or written for public hearing, viewing or reading.
In conclusion, we need to be vigilant to notice changes in our kids which might stem from bullying and equip our children with special needs with confidence against self-blame or feeling of guilt. They need to know that when bullying or abuses occur, they are not in any way to blame but that the bully is the one with the problem.