Facing Bullies as the Parent of a Special Needs Child

Disclosure :: This post is sponsored by Touchstone

Facing Bullies as the Parent of a Special Needs Child

As summer comes to a close, and we wave goodbye to sleeping past 7 a.m., the upcoming school year shifts to the top of our minds. If you are a parent with a child who faces developmental, communication, or behavioral challenges, you may have additional concerns as your little one begins a new chapter.

One issue that has grown more and more prominent in schools across America is bullying. Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

A student’s setting and capabilities are two important contributing factors as to whether that child will have an increased potential to either be the victim of bullying or perpetrate bullying. There is consistency in the analysis that the rates of bullying as it relates to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are higher than that of the general education population, with some studies saying that as many as 94% of children with ASD are victims of bullying.  Regardless of the number, bullying among any population is a concern.

If you think your child is the victim of bullying, it is important to take steps to address the situation with him or her. A child with ASD may not understand an abstract concept such as bullying, but if you teach your child to respond in certain ways (vocally or by going to an appropriate person) to certain behaviors (being pushed, being yelled at, etc.) you may be able to help your child navigate these difficult waters.   

When approaching the school and other parties involved, it is important to have a well-thought-out strategy. Make sure that your child’s school and teachers are on board and able to reinforce strategies you are using to address bullying. Certain structures are already in place for parents to work with teachers regarding bullying. For example, parents can schedule parent-teacher meetings and there can always be discussions in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting where specific goals related to responding to bullying can be written. In addition, requesting specific data from a teacher may prove very helpful in determining how much bullying is going on, what the cause may be, and how your child is responding to bullying. Data can also help to determine if whatever strategy you are using is helping your child deal with or avoid bullying.

Parents with children who aren’t on the spectrum can take measures to teach their children not to bully children who may be different from them. For example, there are many age appropriate children’s books that talk about the different ways that ASD presents itself in different children. These books normalize behaviors that may be looked at as different or “weird” and may start the dialogue about how your child can help or be a friend to those with ASD. Many teachers or schools may have systems in place to create a buddy system or social group for children with special needs. Encouraging your child to be involved in those systems can help him or her relate to children with ASD and special needs.

In addition, it’s important to do your research on the federal and state laws in place to protect special needs children. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a wide-ranging law that requires schools to specifically address bullying for students with special needs.

As an applied behavior analysis provider, Touchstone specializes in teaching children how to respond to specific events in the environment — including bullying behaviors — in ways that are both socially appropriate and socially significant. Touchstone provides services in Thibodaux, Houma, New Orleans, Hammond, Baton Rouge and Lafayette.  Many of the Touchstone sites provide an after-school program where social skills can be addressed. If you’re seeking assistance, additional resources, or have a child with autism who has been bullied at school, give us a call at 985-446-6833 or visit www.touchstoneaba.com.

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Danica Reaves Savoie, BCBA, LBA

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

Danica, a recent Lafayette resident and newlywed to Ramey, is enjoying her new life in Lafayette. From a babysitter to a teacher, Danica has enjoyed working with children since she was 12 years old. With a passion for working in the field of child development, Danica pursued her certificate as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst after graduating with her master’s degree from Nicholls State University. She is now a Licensed Behavior Analyst in Louisiana and provides services in settings that include center-based facilities, homes and consultation in schools. She has a passion for helping children and families and aspires to extend her experience in the Lafayette area.  


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