Bullying and Kids with Disabilities: When Your Child is the Bully


[MUSIC PLAYING] So one of the difficult things
when you’re talking about kids with disabilities is
bullying– is those circumstances in which you might
suspect that your child, or you might suspect, as an
educator, that a child who has a disability is actually
perpetrating the bullying or is targeting other kids or
sometimes maybe isn’t targeting other kids. But because of their disability,
their behavior is such that they may not
understand the inappropriateness of certain
actions that they’re doing in school. And in this day in age, with
zero-tolerance policies all over the place, I have had so
many clients, Julie, over the years, get themselves into
a whole heap of trouble– Oh, yeah. –because they did something
inappropriate that was what I would call a manifestation
of their disability, meaning that they– the reason that they did it was,
in part, because they had this disability. And yet, here they are
in deep trouble. And so it’s important. It’s a difficult thing for a
parent to grapple with if they suspect that their child is
actually the one who is perpetrating the bullying. And I’ve had many clients say
to me, I feel terrible for these other kids, or I feel
terrible for the parents of these other students. But it’s a really hard
thing to address. And so– Right. And it’s much harder, in some
ways, than dealing with it if you’re the parent of a child
who’s being bullied. Because then people are
sympathetic to you, at least, on some level. If your child is the one who’s
actually getting into trouble and hurting other kids, either
physically or otherwise, then you may not feel like you have
the sympathy of your school district or the team when you
want to help and you want to address the situation. So we’re here to give
some ideas on that. And the point is, just as if
your child is being bullied, if your child is the bullier,
it’s just as appropriate to do all that investigation through
evaluation and determining, what are the skill deficits
which are causing the child to do inappropriate things
that is being perceived as bullying. Right. OK, so it’s just as important to
address the issues if your child is the bully,
as it is if your child is being bullied. And on that note, I think that
one of the things that happens so often with kids who have
disabilities is they’ve been bullied, bullied, bullied,
bullied. They say nothing. They internalize. They take it. And then, all of the sudden,
one day they lose it– Yep, they snap. –and they, pow. Who’s going to get blamed
in that case? The kid who acted out. The person who gave the hit. Yep, that’s right. And so you have circumstances
by which you’ve just reached your point, that you can’t
take it anymore. And you do become the person
who’s done the bullying. But then, on the other hand,
it may just be a case where they’re inappropriate. They don’t understand how
inappropriate they’re being. But nonetheless, that behavior
needs to be addressed as well. And that’s a difficult thing,
because as the parent, you may be saying, that’s
self defense. My kid’s been taking
it all this time. And nobody’s been doing
anything about it. And he finally fought back. And good for him or
good for her. And I hear that. Absolutely. It still needs to
be addressed. Whether one punch constitutes
bullying is, again, one of those legal definition
questions, right? But it’s one of those– situations are rarely as neat
and easy as we’d like to imagine them to be. And we have very few devils
and angels in our schools. It’s really people are
a little bit of both. And you have a lot
of nuance to it. Right. And so yes, you want to be
addressing it through the individualized education
program. As a parent, you may need
parent training on it. There are all sorts
of ways in which– when your child may be the one
who’s perpetrating some of the difficult behaviors, that you
want to make sure that you’re on top of it as well. And if it means that you’re
getting resistance from your school district, you want to
say, I’m trying to assist you in making this a better
situation for everybody. And in the case where the child
takes it, takes it, takes it, and pow, an
appropriate IP goal in that circumstance might be that the
child will learn to advocate when he does feel like
he’s being abused. So he’s not internalizing,
internalizing, internalizing. And so you’re teaching the skill
to go to an adult, to tell the parents about it when
they get home, or whatever the case may be, so that you’re
not getting to that explosive point. Because that’s the thing. It’s this long, long fuse with
a massive explosion. And unfortunately, the stakes
really couldn’t be higher on this subject, because we know
that many of the kids who perpetrate violent crimes
against school districts are kids who were targeted. In fact, I think the statistics
are that most of those kids were targeted and
bullied and bullied and bullied until they snapped. So we want to make sure that we
intervene well before the point where someone snaps. [MUSIC PLAYING]