Bullying Awareness and Special Needs Children
Bullying is a sad reality, sad because it has lasting impacts for everyone involved, including the victim, the perpetrator, and bystanders. While bullying continues to happen, online and in the real world, what is needed is greater awareness. An important fact that not everyone knows is that children with special needs, like cerebral palsy or autism spectrum disorder, are much more vulnerable to bullying than their peers. Awareness is needed because it shines a light on what is happening and leads to prevention.
Special Needs Children More Susceptible to Bullying
Bullies tend to target their peers who look different, act different, or only seem different. That means that kids with physical disabilities, like those caused by cerebral palsy, or with behavioral challenges, or even those who are perceived to be part of the LGBT community, are more vulnerable than other kids to bullying and bullies. In fact, in the U.S. children with disabilities are at a 63 percent greater risk of being bullied.
The Lasting Effects of Bullying
Children who seem different are more often targets of bullies, and anyone who is bullied is put at risk for having serious and lasting mental health issues and other consequences. Bullying can cause actual physical harm, but it is more likely to cause emotional and mental health damage. Children who have been bullied are at a greater risk than their non-bullied peers for suffering from anxiety disorders, depression, low self-esteem, and even substance abuse problems later in life.
Cyberbullying is also a big risk for children with special needs and can be just as damaging. While cyberbullying does not cause physical harm, it does impact a child just as much as in-person bullying in terms of emotional health. Any type of bullying can also increase the risk that a child will attempt suicide.
Preventing Bullying with Awareness
Supporting children who are victims of bullying is important because it helps to mitigate the negative consequences, but even more important is taking steps to prevent bullying. Many schools and other organizations are focusing now on prevention, anti-bullying campaigns, and kindness campaigns. These are all ways of bringing awareness to this very serious issue.
At the heart of awareness is changing the culture to eliminate bullying. By making more people aware of the issue of bullying, school leaders and other adults and even peers can begin to make changes that shift away from negativity and towards empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is this change that will really take awareness to the next level and actually prevent bullying activities.
Another important aspect of awareness and prevention is empowering bystanders, typically other children who witness bullying of children with special needs. Adults can help empower these children through awareness and kindness campaigns, and by directly teaching them what to do when they see bullying in action. Making sure that these children are not afraid to speak up and to support their special needs peers is a crucial way that the culture can be changed and that bullying can be prevented.
Special needs children are more vulnerable to bullying than many of their peers. They are susceptible to all the negative consequences of bullying, which can be devastating. By increasing awareness of this issue, everyone involved can begin to bring change and to prevent bullying while also supporting the victims.