Understanding Bullying and Its Impact on Kids With Learning Disabilities or AD/HD
Kids with learning or attention problems can be easy prey for bullies. An expert tells you how to recognize the signs that your child is being bullied.
By Marlene Snyder, Ph.D.
Bullies! Every classroom has at least one. Whose name comes to mind when you hear the word "bully" ? Who was the kid who could upset your day with his verbal, physical, or emotional insults? Most adults who were bullied remember such childhood events vividly.
Bullying among elementary school children and teenagers is a growing problem in many schools in the United States. It's happening in urban, suburban, and rural schools. Kids who have learning disabilities (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) are especially vulnerable to bullying problems.
While bullying isn't new, professionals today have a new level of understanding of the problem. Bullying is a learned behavior that can be prevented! Effective bullying prevention programs are being used in progressive school systems throughout the country. It's important for parents, students, teachers, and school administrators to understand and learn to manage bullying that occurs at school and elsewhere.
What is Bullying?
"A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative acts on the part of one or more other students. It is a negative action when someone intentionally inflicts, or attempts to inflict, injury or discomfort upon another," says Dan Olweus, a prominent researcher on bullying behaviors. Bullying may involve physical aggression such as fighting, shoving, or kicking; verbal aggression such as name calling; or more subtle acts such as socially isolating another child. With the increase in numbers of personal computers at home, youth have also learned to use email and websites to bully or harass others.
It is important for adults and youth to understand the difference* between bullying and normal conflict.
|Happens occasionally||Happens repeatedly|
|Accidental||Done on purpose|
|Not serious||Serious - threat of physical harm or emotional or psychological hurt|
|Equal emotional reaction||Strong emotional reaction on part of the victim|
|Not seeking power or attention||Seeking power or control|
|Not trying to get something||Trying to gain material things or power|
|Remorseful - takes responsibility||No remorse - blames victim|
|Effort to solve the problem||No effort to solve the problem|
Why Focus on Bullying?
Given the rising concern about violent crime among youth, parents, schools, and communities are concerned about reducing "bullying" behaviors because:
- Persistent bullying can leave long-term scars (e.g., low self-esteem, depression) on victims. Some victims of bullying may turn to violent means of retaliation. Some severely bullied victims have tried suicide as a means to escape their tormentors.
- Students who bully others are especially likely to engage in other antisocial and delinquent behaviors such as vandalism, shoplifting, truancy, and illicit drug use. This antisocial behavior pattern often will continue into young adulthood.
- Bullying may contribute to a negative school social climate that is not conducive to good social relationships or learning. Everyone is affected by bullying, even those not directly involved in the conflict. Youth who are "bystanders" often watch bullying but don't intervene, because they don't know what to do and may fear retaliation from the bully.
- Bullying is a widespread problem among school children. Surveys of 4th-6th graders in several states indicate that 25 percent of all children had been bullied at least "several times" within a two-month period; about 10 percent had been bullied at least once per week. One in five (20 percent) children reported having taken part in bullying other students at least "several times" within the last two months.