9 Anti-Bullying Strategies to Keep Students with Disabilities Safe

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Occupational Therapists

Check out this list to discover new anti-bullying strategies to create a positive classroom environment and build up your student’s social and emotional skills.

“It breaks your heart to witness it. Your student, who has a learning disability, sits down next to two classmates in the cafeteria. The duo rolls their eyes and sneers, ‘Look, it’s the slow kid,’ one says. When you catch up to them, they shrug. ‘We were just joking around,’ they say.

Bullying is a problem for all sorts of kids. A National Center for Education Statistics survey recently found that one in four elementary and secondary students report being bullied each week, and 7 percent say they are bullied every day.

But zoom in on students with disabilities, and it’s ubiquitous. Sixty percent of students with disabilities are bullied in school, according to AbilityPath. And students with disabilities are often socially excluded or isolated, making them targets for bullying.

Bullying is any unwanted behavior that hurts someone else. It often involves an imbalance of power. Just because there wasn’t intent or the bully says he ‘was just joking around’ doesn’t mean that it’s not bullying. If any child feels intimidated or hurt in any way, it’s bullying.

At the same time, it’s important to note that not all childhood conflict is bullying. Rough play, arguments, and conflict do not necessarily comprise bullying. Any time that both children are quick to apologize and move on, it’s not bullying.

Students with disabilities (in this case, students who receive services through an IEP) are more likely to be bullied. As their teacher, you’re often the first line of defense. Here are nine ways to combat the bullying of students with disabilities in your classroom, from creating a positive classroom culture to planning lessons that build student social and emotional skills.

Classroom Culture Counts

1. Analyze your words.

It’s not intentional, but you may talk to students who have ADHD or learning disabilities differently than other students. For example, making sarcastic comments when Sam has misplaced his pencil for the millionth time. This is problematic because when kids see adults treating certain kids differently, they think it’s OK for them to do the same. Pay close attention to how you speak to students to be sure you’re modeling the communication you want to see from your students.

2. Supervise hot spots.

We know that bullying is more likely to occur when teachers aren’t watching. Figure out your school’s ‘hot spots’ for bullying—the places with less supervision and more kids. To start, ask custodians, office assistants, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers where they see problems.

3. Make class meetings routine.

Even a quick 10-minute class meeting allows students time to talk about things that are important to them and address concerns that arise. Allow students to take a leadership role by planning the meeting, but be ready to help them solve problems and stay on topic. (Here are tips on leading class meetings.)

4. Build a positive classroom climate.

A positive class climate is predictable, consistent, and equitable. Take time at the start and throughout the year to model problem solving and communication. And go out of your way to recognize each student for his or her unique strengths and talents. (Read these tips for building a positive classroom climate.)”

To learn additional anti-bullying ways to keep your students with disabilities safe, read the full article here.

Do you have any anti-bullying tactics that have worked for you in the past? Please share them with us in the “comments” section below!


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