Children with Special Needs and Bullying

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By Mia Ingui

Children with disabilities, such as physical, developmental, intellectual,

and emotional disabilities, are at an increased risk of being bullied. Any

amount of factors including physical vulnerability, social skill challenges,

or intolerant environments may increase the risk of these children being

exposed to intolerance from others. Another issue stems from recent

research, which also suggests that some children with disabilities may

bully others as well. It is imperative to create a safe environment for

these children, and all children, to prevent unnecessary intolerance and

bullying. Special considerations are needed when addressing bullying in

youth with disabilities. Disability harassment has many different forms,

including verbal harassment, physical threats or threatening written

statements. If the bullying occurs in school and the school learns of the

disability harassment, the school MUST investigate the incident promptly

and respond appropriately, by law. Bullying behavior is considered,

“disability harassment,” which is prohibited under Section 504 of the

Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities

Act of 1990. This is reassurance that children with special needs are

protected against those who may harass or bully them. There are also

many other resources to help kids with disabilities who are bullied or who

bully others, and there are Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or

Section 504 plans that can be useful in creating specialized approaches

for preventing and responding to bullying.