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Unfortunately, bullying is a common practice today. More and more children are being bullied and for bullies it does not matter who their targets are. If your child has special needs, you want to give them the appropriate tools and support system to equip them with social skills to help them in the time of need. You can do this by implementing a bullying prevention plan in your child’s IEP. In addition, under recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, schools are responsible for addressing any bullying that interferes with your child’s right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
Here are some ways that your child’s IEP can help…
It can increase self-advocacy skills so that your child can tell someone “no” or walk away.
Social skills goals can be created to help them with role playing, social interactions and making friendships.
It can teach your child to develop and learn how to respond verbally to bullying behavior.
It can help your child with articulation and language to communicate their needs.
Things you can do to help limit bullying…
Talk to your child about what bullying is and what to do when it occurs.
Create a code word or signal that your child can use when they are in need of help or adult supervision.
Designate an adult your child can always turn to for help.
Make sure your child participates in social groups to give them opportunities to make friends and develop relationships.
Build speech and language skills to help them communicate with you about what is going on.
Give your child a verbal response that they can use towards the bully, if bullying occurs.
What accommodations and/or strategies can be placed in the IEP?
There are many things that the IEP team should consider when using accommodations and/or strategies to prevent bullying, such as:
Providing preferential seating for your child, i.e. in the front of the classroom or near the teacher.
Implementing assistive technology to use to help your child communicate their needs.
Creating a buddy system for your child as they navigate through the hallways, lunchroom, playground and/or bathroom.
Providing an 1:1 instructional aide for children who require intensive support.
Implementing boundaries for certain situations and places.
Things to remember…
If you find out your child is being bullied, act right away by contacting your child’s teacher.
Do not criticize your child or make them feel worse about the situation.
Know the nature and details of the bullying behavior.
Find out about your local and/or state’s bullying laws.
Involve your child in any decision-making, when appropriate.
If you are not getting an appropriate response, contact the school’s principal (or superintendent, if needed).
Since you are part of the IEP team, make sure that bullying is not impacting your child’s educational needs. Most of the time, bullying is handled at the school level. However, there are times when the school does not handle the situation appropriately. If this is the case, contact the Office for Civil Rights and/or an attorney.