A recent study (including more than 800 special-ed and general-ed students between the ages of 9 and 16 from nine different schools) found that 38% of the students admitted to bullying other students and 67% said they had been the victims of bullies. Additionally, it concluded that special-ed students are at greater risk for being bullied or bullying others, and students with visible or more obvious disabilities were victimized most often. They also reported the highest levels of bullying.
Dr. S has addressed the issue of bullying at length, and has advice about how parents and educators need to handle the subject.
First, the child who is bullied often or regularly requires identification and urgent attention from caregivers. The often-bullied may already be depressed or withdrawn. This is important to note. Any often-bullied child can suffer chronic psychological injury, blows to self esteem, humiliation and anger. The child can also harbor frustration, helplessness, and rage and can become depressed.
Often, both bully and bullied desperately need and crave positive attention at home, especially from the same gendered parent or other mentor. And both may benefit from after school or special school programming.
A bully should always be stopped immediately and monitored closely. He may need to develop increased social awareness and sensitivity to others, acceptable ways to increase self esteem and channel aggression, and an identity not based on aggression alone. Ideally, the bully should be brought to a point where he understands his obligation to apologize meaningfully to his victim and actually does so without coercion. Bullying itself can be a traumatic experience for the bully who experiences remorse, shame and guilt. Such bullies, who are also followers or act impulsively, are easier to treat and have a better prognosis. The bully who is a leader or deliberately cruel, or suffers little or no remorse, shame, or guilt, is much harder to rehabilitate and can be at very high risk for future criminality.
In addition, educators and parents should assure the often-bullied child’s safety. He may need help to develop self esteem and to learn specific strategies to stand up for and protect himself. For general principles regarding coping with the violence. His other needs may include learning social skills or appropriate assertiveness or self defense techniques and their deterrent value. Depression may require treatment by a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
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