Bullying Special Needs Kids – Even School Staff Are Guilty

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We all know that there are many negative effects of being bullied, but this is especially true of bullying special needs kids. One of my persistent fears is the very real possibility that my very special girl will be subject to this demoralizing treatment by other children. In fact, it has already happened.

Emotions Will Determine Readiness for Learning

What about you and your children?  Have you found it difficult to keep yourself composed when you are in essence being attacked?  Learning will be difficult in emotionally charged situations in our children’s school environment when our children are attacked by conditions that are either abusive or bullying?

Photo by Diego Grez Bullying is a worldwide problem.

Photo by Diego Grez
Bullying is a worldwide problem.


One thing that contributes to this problem is the lack of our child’s ‘expressive’ and ‘receptive’ language skills.  I have found that my daughter struggles with explaining what has occurred when she is at school.  She is in kindergarten now and sometimes asks to go back to her old school, she calls it her blue school because of the school’s colors.  She has begun to say that she doesn’t like school. Now this isn’t always the case but more often than not she doesn’t want to go even struggling a couple of mornings when getting on the school bus.  How I hate days like that, they are emotionally very difficult for me too.


Language Plays A Very Important Role

Expressive language is still a problem for her.  So when I ask her about her day, asking specific questions about what she has done, she never has a story about what has occurred.  Often when we are in the car, when she is normally pretty relaxed, I may hear a response that I cannot get from her when we are in the more distracting environment at home.  I had been trying to figure out what was behind her morning struggles to go to school.  In her more relaxed frame of mind she responded with “they call me shrimp”.  So, apparently, name calling had been happening and for a much longer time than I was comfortable with.   It had taken me too long to drill down on it.

So as a reminder:

EXPRESSIVE LANGUAGE is how we are able to convey meaning and messages to others when using our words, sentences, gestures and writing.  A child should label objects in their environment, put sentences together with the words they have in their vocabulary, use correctly the grammar of their language, recount a story, answer questions and, in my mind, most importantly describe the events and and actions that happened around them.

Does this trouble you a bit?  When you ask your kiddo about their day can they give expression to what they liked about their day, or did not like?  If a child cannot answer our question regarding what has happened in their day, well that is alarming to me because how will they be able to tell us that something inappropriate or scary had happened?  The problem is sometimes our special needs children just can’t, at least not yet!

RECEPTIVE LANGUAGE is simply being able to listen to what is spoken and the ability to understand it.  Having good ‘receptive’ language means that comprehending what has been spoken will be possible for them.  It is critically important for understanding directions and being able to interact socially, carry on a conversation and engage in play, and to follow steps from what someone has asked them to do.

Fear In School  … Foreboding … Bullies Do This to Our Kids

Now having summarized these important language abilities means that if a special needs child is being bullied it will be very emotionally disorienting.  There will be confusion and most likely fear because the bully’s conduct won’t be something they can respond to and then won’t be able to discuss it with us when they get home.  There may be a confusing array of emotions that they just cannot verbalize.

Kindergarten should be a time to set their foundation for the next six grades.

Kindergarten should be a time to set their foundation for the next six grades.  The question … Is It?

The emotional welfare of a child is SO important if they are going to be able to learn in their school environment.  Every year there are persistent stories about bullying.  When an adult bullies I consider that abuse.  And sadly it has occurred in some schools from time to time.   This is terribly disheartening, don’t you think?  I have seen reports of adults bullying a child, abusing them on school buses, on playgrounds, from staff not keeping a child safe in the school environment so that they have actually been able to leave the school grounds, and from teachers in the classroom.  One time there was a YouTube of a teacher was filmed keeping a special needs child stuck in a chair when he just couldn’t process how to get himself unstuck.  Her speech toward him was not appropriate, it was even demeaning.   I was appalled.

A Shocking Example

Just three days ago the story of a Rockland County New York school administrator was revealed.   She was see to have been abusively bullying students in the school for special needs children for which she was responsible.

Have you heard this audio and ABC news cast on YouTube of her rant at students.  It is totally outrageous treatment of young people with special needs that will no doubt shock you.

What my research indicates is that this happened three years ago, the school Principal was suspended for a week but it appears is still an employee in the school district.  NOT appropriate.

What about the children whose tender hearts were or may be yet damaged by her shocking conduct?  Nothing, absolutely nothing justifies such treatment of children, not a bad day, not getting up on the wrong side of the bed, not personal trauma, not even a child’s poor conduct.  There are appropriate disciplinary steps to be taken when a child is acting inappropriately and yelling at kids and calling them names is NOT acceptable.  (We will put up a post about the law’s disciplinary requirements at a future date.)

How will abusive conduct present for your special needs child?  

What do you think it will do to their mental and emotional welfare?

It’s going to be different for each of them because of their varying levels and abilities, especially language abilities.  If they cannot express what has gone on, then expect anger, frustration, fear, and resistance.  If your child is resisting going to school, it deserves your attention.

It could be that school and the work they are doing is just hard for them.  I know that it is for my daughter.  She is being asked to do things that are quite challenging for her skill set, especially the fine motor work of tracing letters and numbers.  She still does not count all the way to 10 and does not sight identify the alphabet.  So, if that is hard, how much more so if there are emotionally charged situations.

SO….if there is bullying happening, we need to be able to discover this!

What To Do?  Do This!

Once determined that there is indeed a problem…here is what I recommend:

  1. Write a letter regarding your concerns to the child’s teacher with a return response required from her/him within 3 – 5 days.  In this letter, summarize the issues and request an investigation be made regarding your concerns and that the results be conveyed to you in writing.  Be sure to copy the school psychologist.
  2. If/when a response is received consider closely what you have been told.  Determine if the corrective actions are satisfactory and respond accordingly.
  3. If your child is supposed to have an aide with her/him during the school day, then find out what is happening there.  If an aide is with the child then bullying and name calling should not be happening.  Right?
  4. Respond that you agree or disagree, in written form, and ask that a follow-up be conducted with you.
  5. Should you not feel the response from the teacher is adequate, then a follow up letter will be necessary.  Now you will copy the school’s Principal, following the same expectation you gave to the teacher, you want a return response in a reasonable amount of time, no more than 5 days.  Remember your child may still be experiencing problems.
  6. Where necessary, continue to escalate your correspondence up the district’s chain of command, usually an administrator for special education would be next.



I strongly recommend you have things in writing.  The letters don’t have to be fancy.  They should state the problem in a factual manner with a closing comment that of course you are very disturbed by what is occurring.  Think of it this way, what is done in writing can be traced and serves as proof of your diligence.  I hope you never have to use it in a legal way.

Normally, you won’t have to raise the red flag to administrators.  My experience is that the teaching staff do want the best for our kiddos, even under the most trying of circumstances considering our classrooms today are lacking adequate funding. ALWAYS give you child’s teaching staff the ‘benefit of the doubt’, approaching your communication from a place of diplomacy, not being arrogant or belligerent.  But do be adamant that this is a problem that must be resolved.

Prevention Is So Much Better

What do you think?  Are you in tune with your child’s school and the school administrators? We can prevent allot of negative outcomes for our kids by just being present.  Do you make time to check in with you child, even visiting the classroom from time to time?  This often requires doing so with a school administrator which always makes me crazy.  We should be able to drop into their class for a visit without having to make a prior arrangement. When I served as an OSHA investigator we always made surprise visits on employers because that was the best way to see what was real in that work environment.  I expect it is equally true in the classroom even though I’m sure it can be disruptive to the flow of the class activities especially with special needs children.  Nevertheless, just being present from time to time is wonderful for communication between home and school.

Isn't this what we want, our children functioning well, communicating and engaging in the give and take of their school environment?

Isn’t this what we want, our children functioning well, communicating and engaging in the give and take of their school environment?

This is a difficult subject.   It is one that has been near and dear to my heart because of the horrible emotional damage that can happen to our loved one.   When we consider the place our loved ones are in as people growing and learning and how much they may or may not be able to do physically, mentally, and emotionally it behooves us to stay on top of this troubling problem. When they are teens the emotional trauma can and has been so significant that I have read reports of suicide.   There are MANY reports that speak of the difficult mental health problems young people experience as they enter adulthood.  Now of all the things that should NOT happen for special needs kids, that outcome breaks my heart as I am sure it does yours too.

Please do comment and share your story with us.  

We can all learn and I believe benefit from what you experienced.

AND…let me know if I can help.

Just Contact Me Here!

Kind Regards,

6 Responses to “Bullying Special Needs Kids – Even School Staff Are Guilty

  • Hey Linda,
    This is a very interesting site you have! There is a lot of useful information here that others should read and grow an understanding too. People need to start being more aware of the bully towards special needs kids in school.
    To be honest, in my very younger years I to was guilty of bullying I was very young at the time and I guess I didn’t know better.Until one year the tables turned I had real bad skin problems and I got bullied. I guess you can say I got a taste of my own medicine. After that my whole out looked changed and I started protecting and sticking up for kids being bullied, The kids I might have bullied when I was young later made peace with and became friends. So, what I think it comes down to is kids and even adults need to be educated on the effects of bullying and how damaging it actually can be. We as a society need to turn around and instead of bring others down, bring everyone up together. We are all in this together!
    Thank You for your article!

    • admin

      Hello Anthony! How kind of you to take time and to share your story. It is very touching to see how you grew through your school years and as you got older you defended the children who were subject to bullying. You must have surely developed some maturity as you could not have seen it with those eyes of understanding so that you were getting a taste of your own medicine.

      I agree with you! It does come down to kids and adults being educated and seeing how damaging bullying actually is. I long for the day when we will bring everyone up together. Yes we ARE in this together and will only have peace once that is anchored in everyone’s hearts.

      Thank you for your heart that you have shared with us here.


  • Hi Linda,

    While I don’t have a special need background, I did have an experience of being bullied at high school. My best friends pulled a prank on me and it lasted for almost a year before I found out.

    Although I wasn’t verbally or physically abused, I was emotionally manipulated and it made me look very silly. I was so upset that I knew I was falling apart so I sought for support from a trusted teacher.

    She listened to my story and went the extra mile to sit down with the pranksters to have a little chat. Although they never really apologized to me, even until this day (almost 15 years now), I was grateful that an adult stood by me when I was most vulnerable.

    That incident mold my protective and out-spoken character (especially of those being bullied) that I have today. In fact, I am so sensitive, I could sniff a bully through just a conversation.

    “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

    • admin

      Hello Cathy and thank you ever so much for sharing your personal story with me. How sad that ‘best friends’ were guilty of such a thoughtless act such that you had to endure being bullied in high school. It is shameful conduct to treat another so disrespectfully so as to manipulate them. It took courage to seek help, its like going to a counselor knowing we need to talk something out but fearing the repercussion of having to face our injured feelings. I hope that should anything so inappropriate ever happen to any of our special needs children that a teacher will step up and go “the extra mile” to protect and correct bad and hurtful behavior.

      I am glad you found that it made you stronger and would love to see you “sniff a bully through just a conversation”, now that would be oh so cool!

      Thank you for dropping in to read and share your story with me and my audience. I am sure we have taken value and insight from your words.


  • Hi Linda

    I love your site. It i full of great resources and not only for parents of children with special needs – all children are special and we need to give them the best start in life.

    Bullying is such a terrible thing. Thankfully I have never been bullied (I had too man big brothers) but what make me feel really sick is when carers bully (abuse) the very person they are supposed to care for and protect.

    Unfortunately cases of neglect/abuse is on the increase (or perhaps it’s just that it is being reported more) and this makes me so sad.

    My nephew has specials needs and has 24 hour care in his own home but the level of care is not always up to scratch and his mother has to intervene and quite often report them for not putting his needs first. On the other hand, he has some great carers but you often find that the good ones leave!

    I will take on board your advice on reporting issues at school should they arise. I feel that while schools talk the talk about anti-bullying , when it actually happens, they often don’t do much at all. My sister had to remove her two children from their primary school as one was being bullied and nothing was being done about it so she moved them to a different school.

    Thank you for sharing Linda.

    Wishing you all the best.


    • Linda

      Thank you very Olive for personally sharing the importance of the critical nature of bullying. There are many avenues available to us when we have discovered abuse. I was so proud of the special needs student aide who reported his observations in that New York school and saddened that as he stood up to do what was right he lost his job. It makes me very upset that children whose language abilities are subjected to horrible treatment becasue one may not hear about it from them because of their expressive language capacity has not matured.

      it is my sincere desire that your dear family will not have long term and residual negative affects from the inexcusable bullying events at their school and then having to be moved to another. This is disrupting to their education and poses a challenge for the parents I am sure. I applaud their devotion to stay on top of what is occurring in their children’s lives at school and to do what’s right for the children by moving them to hopefully a better school environment.

      If I can be of any help, do let me know.


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