Bullying is a problem that affects lots of young people, but did you know that children with a speech and language disorder are significantly more likely to be bullied than their peers?
A recent study, carried out in 2012, found that children who stutter are 61% more likely to be targeted by a bully, while another study by Mencap found that eight out of ten children with a learning disability have been bullied at some point.
These figures are upsetting, especially considering that bullying can be hard to spot. Children often don’t report it because they feel ashamed or afraid, or because they don’t want to be thought of as a ‘tell tale’.
For this reason, we thought we’d do our bit to combat bullying and provide a resource for parents of children suffering at the hands of bullies. We want to make sure that you’re not only able to recognise the signs of bullying, but also feel comfortable talking to your child about it, so that you can work together towards a positive solution.
Spotting the signs of bullying
There are lots of signs to watch out for if you’re concerned that your child may be being bullied. Keep an eye out for:
- Bruises or marks on their body
- broken or missing possessions
- your child becoming withdrawn
- changes in eating habits or behaviour
- sleeping badly or wetting the bed
- complaining of headaches or stomach aches
- worrying about going to school
- suddenly not doing as well at school
- However, it’s important to remember that just because your child is displaying some of these signs it doesn’t always mean they’re being bullied. Ask yourself whether there could be anything else upsetting your child, or whether any major changes at home could be causing these changes.
Talking to your child about bullying
If you do suspect that bullying is the cause of your child’s anxiety, remember that not all children will respond well to being questioned about it. Sometimes it’s best not to ask them directly, rather to ask open questions about their day and how they’re feeling, making sure you give them plenty of time and opportunity to respond.There are lots of listening skills that you can use in order to try and encourage your child to open up, such as:
- Facing your child - maintain appropriate eye contact to show them you’re interested in what they have to say.
- Not interrupting – only ask questions for clarification. The less you speak the more your child will.
- Listening out for their tone or the ideas behind what your child is saying, have a go at ‘reflecting’ what you’re sensing, or ‘playing back’ what you hear.
- Staying neutral – try to listen without getting angry and upset.
- If you do find out that your child is being bullied, then don’t forget, the way you deal with it can have a huge impact.
If your child is being bullied
Finding out that your child is being bullied can be very upsetting, but it’s important to put your own feelings aside. Before you approach the school, be sure to write a list of the facts: what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, who witnessed it, anything your child did that may have provoked the incident, and whether it was a one-off or series of events.
- Don’t arrive at the school unexpectedly, always make an appointment.
- Work together with the school and make it clear that you are seeking their help in.Try not to accuse the school - teachers are often the last to find out about bullying.
- Be patient - allow the school time to deal with the problem but stay in touch follow up with them to see how the situation is being resolved.
- Hopefully, once you’ve spoken to your child’s school the situation should improve. If it doesn’t, don’t give up. Get in touch with them each time an incident occurs, and get in touch with the Advisory Centre for Education if you’re not satisfied with their response.
Please, now that you’ve read these tips, don’t forget to share them so that other parents are able to recognise the signs of bullying. Even if you don’t think that your child is a victim of bullying, someone else’s may be, so do your bit to stamp out bullying today!