A heated roundtable discussion among parents of special needs students and Kulanu administrators on one of the coldest nights last week exposed the raw wounds of bullying and attempted to find solutions to solve this age-old recurring problem.
“I have adults who still talk about middle and high school where they were maligned,” said Jonathan Cooper, LCSW, Director of Inclusion and Community Support Services at Kulanu Academy in Cedarhurst, that services special needs children. He said children who were bullied often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as adults, “purposely avoiding their peer group.”
Cooper began by discussing bullying as it pertains to “typical” students, not special needs students.
Bullying, he noted, leads to poor academics. He said that males often bully with physical aggression, frequently during lunch or recess, females via social environment, and that both forms are isolating (other students will not associate with the bullied student for fear of becoming a target as well).
He cited statistics: Bullies are five times more likely to commit crimes, 200,000 kids stay home each day from school because of bullying, 43 percent of 10,000 middle school students in a study said they were bullied in the last month and special needs kids are bullied 50 percent more than typical students.
Bullies are often popular and socially astute and from stable homes but are looking for power, he said. They also test to see if a child reacts to teasing and if they do, they “hit pay dirt” and the bullied child becomes a “source of entertainment.”
Signs that a child is being bullied include not wanting to go to school, unexplained torn items, a change in the child’s mood, unexplained bruises, statements that don’t make sense and poor self esteem, he said.