How bullying affects a disabled child?
The impact of bullying on disabled children may be different to the impact of bullying on other children. This is because their condition may be reinforced or worsened by the bullying. For example a child with a social communication disorder may already be reluctant to mix in social situations but because of bullying they’ve experienced they withdraw further. This may mean they lose the opportunity to develop their social skills and therefore feel less confident in social situations which then exacerbates the problem.
Some of the parents spoke of the effects the bullying had on their children: “She struggles with friendships and sustaining friendships. She’s lost her self-esteem.”
“She now attends school part time and attends a special school for one day a week. She also receives counselling. Everyone underestimated the damage done by the bullying.”
Many of their children were receiving support with these effects:
“She has a mentor at the school which she sees once a week. They work on building her self-esteem and self-worth and help with friendships.”
“They worked on her confidence and gradually brought her out of herself, building up the confidence she lost. It’s so nice to see the difference.”
“The school uses the SEAL programme. They’re really proactive using it which can only be a bonus, so I’m hoping that will filter through. There’s a lovely atmosphere in the school and they do a lot of anti-bullying work in the classroom.”
Children and young people can be positively supported through these experiences and there are ways to develop their confidence a
How bullying affects siblings
Brothers, sisters and other family members can be affected too. “She came home in tears saying they’d been saying various things out loud – that’s her with the spaz brother.”
“Her brother was bullied at school. Sometimes she was also bullied – you know how rumours are spread, things he’d done in the past. On one hand she felt so protective, so defensive of her sibling. On the other huge resentment – he was causing her to get this grief which was out of her control.”
They stressed the importance of talking about the situation within the family and also getting outside help to deal with the bullying, such as talking to the school.
“We make bullying a point of discussion rather than a taboo issue. We talked about what she should be saying to people, how to explain his condition. Hopefully it made it clearer about how to explain it and her stronger to deal with it.”
“I think our situation shows that at times of transition for siblings of disabled brothers or sisters, and during adolescence there is a need to have proactive support.”
Contact a Family produces a guide called ‘Siblings’ which looks at how siblings of a child who has a disability or a long-term condition can be supported and some the typical issues that may come up. Please contact the Contact a Family Helpline on 0808 808 3555 if you would like a copy.