Friday, September 4, 2009

Bullying: A Big Problem for Kids with Special Needs or Just Small Potatoes? (by Kate Altman)

Check out this article on bullying and schools:

What do you think? Is bullying of kids with special needs still a big problem in schools? Are kids with “invisible” disorders like Asperger’s Syndrome more likely to be bullied than those with apparent disorders like Down syndrome or Cerebral Palsy? What is the role of schools and the legal system in preventing and punishing bullying and how can they most effectively do so?

I have worked in wraparound for several years and have spent a lot of time in schools as a result. As a TSS (therapeutic staff support), I spent anywhere from 10 to 25 hours per week with one student in a single school district. Maybe it was the school districts I happened to be placed in or maybe the kids I worked with were just lucky, but I observed very little bullying. Perhaps that is merely due to the fact that I am an adult and whenever I was around, kids refrained from bullying. Yet, as a TSS (and quite young-looking at the time), I often felt that I became invisible to the kids and that they acted pretty naturally around me. I worked in classrooms ranging from a typical pre-K in a Catholic school to Life Skills classes in middle and high schools, and cannot say I ever witnessed an incident of bullying firsthand (I did have a student report bullying on his bus ride home, but I didn’t see it and the school managed the problem very quickly and effectively). I also remember speaking with a teacher who had been in her district for over 30 years. She described today’s children (this was in a middle school) as “much kinder” to her Life Skills students than past generations, but said the tradeoff was this generation appears lazier and more coddled by her parents (her observation, not mine!). In reading Coulter’s article, I’m wondering if my experience and this teacher’s was atypical or at least just typical for the county in which we work, as compared to the majority of schools in this country.

Has your child experienced bullying, or do you work in a school and have firsthand experience with bullying (or lack of bullying)? Please share your insights in the comments section below.

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