Copyright Amanda Gray 2009
Between a parent of a child with ADHD, and Amanda (a special education teacher) - published here with permission.
My 11 year old daughter with ADHD and learning disabilities has experienced some bullying by a boy in her class room. The teacher attempted to talk individually to the boy doing the bullying as well as talk privately with my daughter who was distressed over the nasty name-calling, but the boy continues to bully her. This school year had so many new changes with all the kids switching to a new building that I think this year has been the toughest year on my daughter.
The sad thing is that the bullying only made a bad situation even worse. My daughter is literally asking me if she could start going to counselling. Can you imagine???? She is experiencing "separation anxiety" and hates leaving me to go to school. This has gone on throughout the entire school year, but it never got better. Any thoughts on this?
There are a few things that you might want to look into (though I don't profess to have all the answers)
1. Find out if the boy's parents know about what he is doing and what they feel about it.
The Education Department in Australia recommend that parents of a child who is being bullied don't directly contact the parents of the "bully". However, you can ask the teacher and/or principal to speak to the parents. If they are shocked or disgusted or upset at their child's behaviour, the school might be able to get them involved in designing and implementing consequences for his actions, or they might help their child understand the impact of their bullying on your daughter.
2. If the parents are not on side, and the bullying is occurring due to lack of empathy, the teacher may be able to incorporate lessons, activities and rules into her classroom that tackle the issue of respect and value for diversity.
For example, set up a buddy system where children take turns in "looking after each other" in the playground.
Or have children do activities that help them recognise and value their differences, for example designing posters saying "I am special because..." (for all children, not specific just to your child).
Every morning she could have a "sharing circle", which is about discussing general issues that children have anonymously reported (using a ballot box) or issues that the teacher thinks they need to discuss. For example, she could get the students to talk about teasing, what it is, how it makes others/themselves feel, then ask the students to come up with a rule that might prevent it, and consequences for if it happens.
Publicly addressing the issue of teasing, and having strict consequences in place without talking specifically about your daughter can be a way of "shaming" the bully into backing off. But more importantly, it is about your daughter knowing that there are people on her side at school, and setting up a support network of peers for her so she feels more protected even if the teacher cannot always be present.
Addressing it in a general way may also reduce the likelihood of the boy targeting your daughter more if he feels she has "told on" or "snitched" on him.
I like the idea of the "sharing circle" and I think that is an excellent way to have children open up without feeling guilty or ashamed. I am sure that it is helpful because the children remain anonymous. My daughter had already discussed the bullying problem with one of her teachers. The teacher contacted me on the telephone and that is how I discovered what was going on. My daughter had not discussed this with me.
I did have a long discussion with my child about how bullying is wrong and hurtful to others. I explained that she should tell me and tell her teacher if it happens again. Unfortunately, the boy continued through the year harassing my daughter, bullying her and calling her hurtful names.
…. I think that I will continue to help my daughter try to work through any negative feelings from being bullied. We have considered going to a counsellor just to have someone professional discuss important topics and to try to work through the negative experience.
I want to add that my daughter has been having anxiety and insomnia much more than usual. I am not sure if this is directly related to the boy bullying her or not? It is a serious concern of mine and I do think that counselling could be a good choice for now. My daughter never had anxiety or insomnia to this degree, until this school year when the boy began bullying her.
It is very sad and unfortunate that I was not informed by the school much sooner about my daughter getting bullied by this boy. I was completely in the dark about it. It was not, until the school teacher contacted me that I discovered what was going on. This explains why my daughter constantly did not want to go to school and why she always had a stomach ache.
Schools should contact parents immediately when and if they think there is a bullying situation with their child. Some kids, like my daughter, do not share at home with family the details of being bullied at school. Although, I did not discover the truth, until close to the end of the school year, I am grateful that I finally found out so I can help my daughter work through the negative emotions and feelings.