Over 45% of parents of LD children report that their child has been bullied. Studies show that children struggling with LDs may be more likely to be bullied or ostracized. It’s important to have a zero tolerance for bullying and traumatizing of your child. And your children, like all children, should be taught to not tolerate bullying.
Bullying can come from other children, and it can also come from teachers and schools.
Actions You can Take
If you suspect bullying, you should bring it up immediately with your child, and with the teacher and school. There are laws and resources designed to protect children with learning disabilities against bullying, and many schools have anti-bullying programs. If your child reports that he has been bullied:
- Listen to what your child says and believe them if they tell you about a bullying situation. Let your child know that you support them, that bullying is not their fault, and that it is unacceptable. Ask for details.
- If your child has trouble in social situations, make sure that they are really experiencing targeted bullying, and that they aren’t misunderstanding and confusing rudeness, meanness, and bullying.
- Don’t let your emotions guide you. Be effective. Don’t retaliate. You are modeling behavior for your child. Show them how to handle this.
- If your child is experiencing physical danger or harm, remove them from the situation.
- Talk with the teacher and ask about her observations. Then ask for suggestions. You can also talk with the counselor. If the bullying is extreme, go right to the principal.
- Write down everything that happens, the dates, and who is involved. Send follow-up emails with goals. Save your notes in your records. If the school has a written policy on bullying, get a copy and include it in your records.
- Coach your child on how to react, if possible. Help them name what’s going on by calling it “bullying,” and encourage them to speak out and loudly say “Stop it!”
- Give it a week. If the bullying continues, visit the principal, give him a written summary from your notes, ask what the school can do to keep your child safe. Get support for yourself, and keep pushing.
Reach for Positive Experiences and People
As you deal with the situation, make sure that you go out of the way to expose your child to something positive — an after-school sport or friendship that will let them experience positive feelings at this time.
At the same time as you deal with administration, look around to see if there are allies who can help your child during the day. Talk with their teachers, counselor, the yard duty people, the librarian. Who is near when the bullying is happening? Educate them on the situation and formulate a plan. Sometimes letting your child know that there’s a safe place near means that they can escape from difficult situations while you’re working out a plan at the administrative level.
Are there friendly children? Sometimes it helps to talk with friendly parents, or parents of friendly children and formulate strategies to use during the day. Bullying, after all, is a problem with the system, and everyone should want to eradicate it. Sometimes, parents have pressured administration to bring in external bullying presentations. Other times, parents have taken turns volunteering on the school yard during lunch time. You can also visit the school to observe.
Follow Your Gut
Sigal Sagan at the Mom and Dad Academy blog talks about picking up the phone and calling the parent of a bullying child. She suggests words to use. Doing this is a wild card—you never really know what you’ll end up with—but here are her suggestions.
Don’t Stop Pushing
If the bullying situation isn’t dealt with, you can send a brief email describing the situation and requesting a meeting to the school superintendent, copying the principal, special education director, and chair of the school board. Print out a copy of the letter for your records. Keep following up (and documenting your efforts) until you get response.
If your child has been granted educational support for a learning disability with an Independent Educational Plan (IEP), you can ask for an emergency IEP meeting.
If the bullying is coming from a teacher or within the school, see our guidelines for dealing with difficult teacher situations.
For more information on how to help your LD child find success, go to our Pathway for Success series.