8 Bully-Proofing Strategies to Help Children with Special Needs

Bullying is in the news all the time lately, and as a former special education teacher I know that children with special needs are targeted all too frequently. And they are so for a number of reasons.So what can a parent of a special needs child do to prevent bullying? Here are ten tips.

1 | Check your child’s school anti-bullying policy

All 50 states have passed anti-bullying policies and your child’s school must have one. Ask for a copy of the school’s policy.

2 | Find where to report bullying

Check your school’s website and handbook for where parents and students should report bullying. If there isn’t a policy, share your concerns with the principal.

3 | Explain bullies’ behavior

You might explain that bullies often pick on those who are smaller or weaker to feel powerful or better about themselves. Stress that bullies usually love reactions: “So try to be calm and don’t react, so the bully recognizes that his antics won’t work.”

4 | React calmly

Targeted children worry that parents may make things worse by insisting the bully is disciplined (which could mean retaliation). Reassure your child that you will help, but don’t promise to not tell adults in authority. You may need to advocate for his safety.

5 | Develop a bully-proofing strategy

A plan might be to say: “Stop that!” or “Cut it out!” in a firm voice to the tormentor (and loud enough to get the attention of a nearby adult). Walk towards an adult or supportive group of peers.

6 | Create a safety plan

Bullying is almost always a repeated pattern and usually happens at the same place and time. Identifying “when and where” the bullying happens will help you create a safety plan for your child. For instance, if it’s bullying is: In the back of the bus, “Sit in the front.” On the playground: “Stand closer to the supervisor.” At the locker: “Carrying your books in your backpack.”

7 |  Don’t try to go alone

Get the help of other adults in the child’s life – be it a teacher, grandparent, school counselor or coach. Success is always more likely when all adults are onboard together to support a child and use the same behavior intervention.

8 | Track evidence

Keep an ongoing record of times, dates, witnesses and locations of any bullying incidents. Share those with your child’s teacher. Reinforcing the same bullying prevention plan with school personnel is crucial for success.

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