This section offers advice for parents of disabled children who are experiencing bullying. This has been written with Contact A Family (CAF) specifically for parents of disabled children. Please click here to download the full version. With thanks to all the parents of disabled children who helped us develop this content.
You may useful information on general tips and how to get support in other sections of this website.
We know that children are more likely to be bullied when they are vulnerable in some way. Research suggests that disabled children are three times more likely than their peers to be bullied. A recent survey by Mencap discovered that eight out of ten children with a learning disability have been bullied. People’s assumptions and prejudices about disability can make disabled children more vulnerable to bullying for a number of reasons, such as:
Negative attitudes towards disability.
A lack of understanding of different disabilities and conditions.
Being seen as “different”.
Not recognising that they are being bullied.
They may be doing different work or have additional support at school.
They may be more isolated due to their disability.
They may have difficulties in telling people about bullying.
They may find it harder to make friends.
As a result of their condition, they may exhibit bullying behaviour; or they may experience lots of transitions which means they have to settle into new environments. Examples of transitions are moving from a special unit to a mainstream school, spending periods of time in hospital and returning to school.
In addition to usual forms of bullying, disabled children may also experience different forms of bullying, like:
Manipulative bullying: where a person is controlling someone.
“It wasn’t long before people realised that they could take advantage of her.”
Conditional friendship: where a child thinks someone is being their friend but phases of friendliness are alternated with phases of bullying.
“He wanted to please them, wanted to be friends so he didn’t see it as a problem.”
Exploitative bullying: where features of a child’s condition are used to bully them.
“He’s hypersensitive to smell. They’d spray deodorant in the room so he had to leave the room.”
It is understandable to feel anxious about bullying; however it is important to remember that not all disabled children are bullied.
“Don’t assume your child is going to be bullied but be prepared in case they are.”
“Prepare your child for school. If you’re worried that they’re going to be a target for bullies think how do I prepare them for this? Build their self-confidence, self-esteem.”