Children and teens that are diagnosed with learning disabilities have a much greater chance of being bullied than their peers without learning disabilities. One reason for this is that children with learning disabilities often lack age appropriate social skills.
While many children with learning disabilities have great social skills and are very popular, research indicates that many students with learning disabilities are perceived as lacking in social skills. More children with learning disabilities are socially rejected than their peers.
Why is my child with learning disabilities bullied more than other children?
Bullying of students with learning disabilities is likely caused by several factors.
Children with language based learning disabilities often have difficulty processing subtle aspects of language spoken by their peers which can cause them to misunderstand some of the nuances of what is taking place socially. In addition, they might have difficulty expressing themselves clearly, thus causing misunderstandings between them and their peers.
These misunderstandings can cause friction in their relationships. Students with visual-perceptual problems might have difficulty interpreting social information such as facial expressions, or other non-verbal forms of communication. Without the ability to perceive social scenes accurately, these children can make incorrect decisions concerning which children actually like them and which children are not interested in being their friends.
In addition to these reasons for social difficulties, research has suggested that mainstream children are often biased against children with learning disabilities and that this bias may play a big role in the social difficulties experienced by students with learning disabilities.
Research has shown a link between social-skills difficulties and being targeted by bullies. A combination of misinterpreting social scenes, difficulty in communicating, and social isolation places children with learning disabilities at high risk for being bullied. Fortunately, there are strategies that can be utilized to help your child with learning disabilities avoid being targeted:
What you can do to help your child with learning disabilities against bullies
- Children don’t always tell their parents that they are being bullied. The first step is to ask your child if anyone is bullying them. Be aware of any changes in mood or changes in homework completion, or grades. Ask for feedback from teachers and aides that supervise the lunchroom, school yard, etc.
- Help your child develop social skills by attending social skills training groups, attending individual counseling designed to improve social awareness, and participating in extra-curricular activities.
- Spend time with your child analyzing social situations that come up at home and in the community. Discuss social situations that you watch together on TV or on movies. This will help improve your child’s ability to read social cues and avoid being bullied.
- For young children, one effective technique is to arrange play dates with classmates in order to increase the number of friends your child has in school. Generally, the more popular a child is, the less chance that he or she will be bullied in school. Playing in the comfortable environment of your own home, your child should be able to interact well with classmates. This should then translate into children being friendlier in school. Another advantage of having playdates in your house is that you can observe your child’s social interactions. You may discover that your child is making some basic mistakes in terms of how he or she relates to friends and peers. By gently teaching your child more appropriate behavior, you will help them relate more appropriately to peers in school and reduce the likelihood of them being bullied. If your child is too old for you to arrange a playdate, you can instead encourage your child to invite someone from class over to the house.
- Take opportunities to build up your child’s self-esteem. Encourage your child to pursue areas of strength such as music, art, or athletics, so that he or she can experience success and praise on a regular basis.
- Language therapy can help students with learning disabilities improve their receptive and/or expressive skills, which in turn
can help them communicate better with their peers.
- Work with the teachers and administration to identify strategies to help your child avoid being targeted by bullies.
- Get involved on the school/community level to help make the climate of the school more positive, where children and adults go out of their way to be kind to each other and create an environment where bullying is not tolerated.
It’s important that everyone in the school/community work together so that children with learning disabilities not feel stigmatized in the classroom because of their learning difficulties.
Students with learning disabilities are vulnerable to bullying. However, by developing a comprehensive plan to help them, they can experience school as a safe and friendly place, allowing them more energy to grow socially and academically. We can help.
Do you need help figuring out how to provide the best support for your child? A therapist with experience in this area can help. Click here to find a therapist in your area.