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IMPACT

Bullying Among Children and Youth with Disabilities and Special Needs

What is bullying?

Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentional and that involves an imbalance of power or strength. Often, it is repeated over time. Bullying can take many forms, such as hitting, kicking, or shoving (physical bullying); teasing or name-calling (verbal bullying); intimidation through gestures or social exclusion (nonverbal bullying or emotional bullying); and sending insulting messages by text messaging or e-mail (cyberbullying).

 

What is known about bullying among children with disabilities and special needs?

There is a small but growing amount of research literature on bullying among children with disabilities and special needs. This research indicates that these children may be at particular risk of being bullied by their peers. For example, research tells us that:

 

How does bullying affect children?

Bullying can have serious consequences. Children and youth who are bullied are more likely than other children to:

 

Can bullying of my child be illegal?

Yes. Bullying behavior may cross the line to become "disability harassment," which is illegal under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. According to the U.S. Department of Education, disability harassment is "intimidation or abusive behavior toward a student based on disability that creates a hostile environment by interfering with or denying a student's participation in or receipt of benefits, services, or opportunities in the institution's program" (U.S. Department of Education, 2000). This behavior can take different forms including verbal harassment, physical threats, or threatening written statements. When a school finds out that harassment may have occurred, staff must investigate the incident(s) promptly and respond appropriately.

Disability harassment can occur in any location that is connected with school: in classrooms, in the cafeteria, in hallways, on the playground or athletic fields, or on a school bus. It also can occur during school-sponsored events (Education Law Center, 2002).

 

What can I do if I think my child is being bullied or is the victim of disability harassment?

 

What if the bullying or harassment does not stop?

If your school district does not take reasonable, appropriate steps to end the bullying or harassment of your child, the district may be violating federal, state, and local laws. For more information about your legal rights, you may want to contact:

 

References

Dawkins, J. L. (1996). Bullying, physical disability and the paediatric patient. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 38, 603-612.

Education Law Center (2002). What can you do if your child with a disability is being harassed by other students? (fact sheet). Retrieved August 10, 2005, from www.elc-pa.org

Hugh-Jones, S., & Smith, P. K. (1999). Self-reports of short and long term effects of bullying on children who stammer. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 141-158.

Janssen, I., Craig, W. M., Boyce, W. F., & Pickett, W. (2004). Associations between overweight and obesity within bullying behaviors in school-aged children. Pediatrics, 113, 1187-1194.

Martlew, M., & Hodson, J. (1991). Children with mild learning difficulties in an integrated and in a special school: Comparisons of behaviour, teasing and teachers' attitudes. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 61, 355-372.

Law, M., King, G., King, S., Kertoy, M., Hurley, P., et al. (2006). Patterns of participation in recreation and leisure activities among children with complex physical disabilities. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 48, 337–342.

Mishna, F. (2003). Learning disabilities and bullying: Double jeopardy. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36, 1-15.

Nabuzoka, D. & Smith, P. K. (1993). Sociometric status and social behaviour of children with and without learning difficulties. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34, 1435-1448.

Storch, E. A., Lewin, A. B., Silverstein, J. H., Heidgerken, A. D., Strawser, M. S., Baumeister, A., & Geffken, G. R. (2004a). Peer victimization and psychosocial adjustment in children with type 1 diabetes. Clinical Pediatrics, 43, 467-471.

Storch, E. A., Lewin, A. B., Silverstein, J. H., Heidgerken, A. D., Strawser, M. S., Baumeister, A., & Geffken, G. R. (2004b). Social-psychological correlates of peer victimization in children with endocrine disorders. Journal of Pediatrics, 145, 784-784.

Thompson, D., Whitney, I., & Smith, P. (1994). Bullying of children with special needs in mainstream schools. Support for Learning, 9, 103-106.

Unnever, J. D., & Cornell, D. G. (2003). Bullying, self-control, and ADHD. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18, 129-147.

U.S. Department of Education (2000). Prohibited disability harassment: Reminder of responsibilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Retrieved August 10, 2005, from www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/disabharassltr.html

Yude, C., Goodman, R., & McConachie, H. (1998). Peer problems of children with hemiplegia in mainstream primary schools. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 39, 533-541.


Reprinted from "Bullying Among Children and Youth with Disabilities and Special Needs," published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). This and other materials are available online at www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov.

 

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Retrieved from the Web site of the Institute on Community Integration, University of Minnesota (http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/241). Citation: Palmer, S., Heyne, L., Montie, J., Abery, B., & Gaylord, V. (Eds.). (Spring/Summer 2011). Impact: Feature Issue on Supporting the Social Well-Being of Children and Youth with Disabilities, 24(1). [Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute on Community Integration].
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The PDF version of this Impact, with photos and graphics, is also online at http://ici.umn.edu/products/impact/241/241.pdf.

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