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Parenting a Child With a Disability Who Is Bullied

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Parenting a child with disabilities has its own set of challenges. Add in a school bully and it multiplies the difficulty ten fold. I teach my children to believe in themselves and ignore the “mean kids.” Unfortunately, it is easier said then done. Even for adults. We ask a lot of children who are already navigating some pretty big obstacles.

My son has fetal alcohol syndrome, ADHD, mood disorder, epilepsy and a variety of other challenges. Last year, he was the target of a bully. A boy twice his size. He was told to avoid this child and not to engage. One day while having lunch in the school cafeteria, he was confronted by this child. When he chose to disengage, the child pulled him from his seat and began hitting him in his head. The faculty and administration came to his rescue, but not before my son suffered a mild concussion and a trip to the ER.

The original filing by the school resource officer stated it was an altercation and at that time was not willing to file charges. The administration argued on our behalf that it was an unprovoked attack. My husband and I were outraged and made sure the case went to court. This child was charged with assault and battery on my son.

My daughter has ADD, developmental delays and issues with social situations (conversation and spacial awareness). She has also been the target of bullies for the last 13 years of her 18 years on this earth. She is in her senior year of high school and has asked to quit with only six months until graduation. Her current bully rides her bus. As parents, we have to make difficult and life changing decisions. I chose to leave my 20 year career to be able to drive her to school and pick her up as needed.

When it comes to the “no bullying policy” in our school system, often the burden of proof is on the victim. It can be a “he said, she said” situation. The administration will implement a “no contact contract” which states the two students can not have direct, indirect or written contact with each other. However, the administration can not have eyes and ears everywhere. They have to go on information provided by the two parties.

The incidents of bullying are on the rise. Children have access to social media and other forms of instant communication. The school policies need to address these outlets. Our school system has mandates in place for children who have been caught with cigarettes and/or alcohol. We need to include bullying in these mandates. Having all parents involved is key. I believe the first step is sensitivity training for both parties and their parents.

I can’t help but wonder if we would have less #metoo if these issues were addressed early on and bullies had real consequences. It is about basic human respect. We need to teach our children to speak up for themselves and others, without fear of retaliation.

As the parents of children with disabilities we advocate for the needs of our children daily. We fight for their right to a fair education. We should not have to worry about their safety, both physically and mentally, while at school.

Mahatma Gandhi said it best: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

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Getty image by MarkPiovesan

Originally published: December 22, 2017
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