This week marked Anti-Bullying Week, and we wanted to raise awareness of the campaign, advise parents/carers on the latest research and share resources to support young people with SEND who may be experiencing bullying.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) was really encouraged by the results of last year’s awareness campaign. Impressively, 80% of schools marked the week in 2020 – helping to reach over 7.5 million children and young people.
Anti-Bullying Week is co-ordinated in England and Wales by the ABA and took place this week (15th to 19th November 2021). ABA asked over 400 young people, teachers and parents what they wanted from this year’s Anti-Bullying Week. It was decided that the theme should be about hope and the positive and kind things we can do to halt hurtful behaviour in its tracks.
The campaign outlined the following asks:
- Ask if someone’s OK. Say you’re sorry. Just say hey.
- In a world that can sometimes feel like it’s filled with negativity, one kind word can provide a moment of hope. It can be a turning point. It can change someone’s perspective. It can change their day. It can change the course of a conversation and break the cycle of bullying.
- Best of all, one kind word leads to another. Kindness fuels kindness. So, from the playground to Parliament, and from our phones to our homes, together our actions can fire a chain reaction that powers positivity.
- It starts with one kind word. It starts today.
According to ABA, disabled children and those with special educational needs (SEN) are more likely to experience online bullying.
What does the research tell us?
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner found that disabled children and those with visible medical conditions can be twice as likely as their peers to become targets for bullying behaviour. The National Autistic Society found that two out of five children on the autistic spectrum had been bullied at school. Mencap found that nearly nine out of 10 people with a learning disability experience some form of bullying, with over two thirds experiencing it on a regular basis.
Research conducted by Stella Chatzitheochari (University of Warwick) in collaboration with Sam Parsons (University College London) and Lucinda Platt (London School of Economics and Political Science) suggests that children and young people with disabilities are more likely to be bullied at school compared to those students with no known disabilities.
The researchers analysed nationally representative data from two renowned longitudinal studies: the Millennium Cohort Study and Next Steps (formerly known as Longitudinal Study of Young People in England). These studies allowed them to examine the prevalence of school bullying in early childhood (age 7) and adolescence (age 15). Results underlined that children and young people with long-standing limiting conditions such as muscular dystrophy or mobility difficulties, as well as those with Special Educational Needs, were at a higher risk of bullying. These associations between disability and bullying remained even when other characteristics known to influence bullying were taken into account.
Supporting young people
The Good School’s Guide has put together some helpful suggestions on how you can educate your child about bullying. One suggested idea is to explain the actions which constitute bullying, and how and where can it happen. Parents/carers could try social stories or comic strips to help the child to comprehend.
The NSPCC says there is no single sign that will indicate for certain that your child’s being bullied, but watch out for:
- Belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged.
- Physical injuries, such as unexplained bruises.
- Being afraid to go to school, being mysteriously ‘ill’ each morning or skipping school.
- Not doing as well at school.
- Asking for, or stealing, money (to give to whoever’s bullying them).
- Being nervous, losing confidence or becoming distressed and withdrawn.
- Problems with eating or sleeping.
- Bullying others.
Further reading and places to find support
If you think, or are aware, that your child is being bullied, then it’s time to take the next steps. Below are some suggested resources for further reading and support:
- Council for Disabled Children – the Council for Disabled Children (CDC) provides a national forum for issues relating to service provision and support for children and young people with disabilities and special educational needs.
- Young Minds – Young Minds is a national charity committed to improving the mental health of babies, children and young people.
- The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service – It can provide information, support and advice on education provision and entitlements for autistic children and young people.
- Read Autism, Bullying and Me: The Really Useful Stuff You Need to Know about Coping Brilliantly with Bullying by Emily Lovegrove, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, May 2020.
- Read the Department for Education’s advice for schools and parents/carers on cyberbullying (England only).
- Read A Comprehensive Cyberbullying Guide for Parents, which equips parents with the tools necessary to recognise and prevent cyberbullying.
- Visit the Anti-Bullying Alliance for tools and information about cyberbullying and SEN.
- Visit Bullying UK, which offers practical information and advice to young people and their parents.
- Visit KidSMART for information on how to get the very best out of the internet and use technology safely.