So what can we do to help our children?
If you suspect bullying is happening at school, first talk to your child. Ask them about the experience and what is happening. Find out if they have reported the behavior to anyone at school and, if so, what their response was.
Call a meeting. Bullying behavior can become “disability harassment” which is protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Calling a meeting with the 504/IEP team (if your child has an IEP or 504) or the Principal to discuss whether your child’s needs are being met. Experts in disability advocacy also suggest making sure that your child is not also engaging in bullying behavior as a result.
Making sure your child is a strong self-advocate is a great way to prevent and deter bullying behavior. Starting early (preschool/kindergarten) with involving your child in teaching their peers about their hearing loss can be a tremendous protective factor in reducing bullying later. When the entire class knows about Lila’s hearing aids and communication needs, they are more likely to protect her from those who do not - and to stop a bully in their tracks. We’ll be rolling out a new weekly activity to help you learn how to start teaching self-advocacy, soon! It is never too late!
Help your child identity a “safe person” to whom they can report bullying behavior. Use this tool to start that conversation and then make a plan for how you’ll help them respond.
Enroll your child into empowerment programs like Able SC’s EQUIP Young Adult program with arms them with skills and also peers who can talk about how they’ve handled personal experiences.
Information gathered and adapted from StopBullying.gov, Able SC, and Hands & Voices National.
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