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Bullying Behavior: 4 Steps for Educators to Help Students with Special Needs

November 1, 2016

This is the first of a two-part series on bullying behavior. Coming soon! Information for parents.

Children with special needs are often victims of bullying, and at times, can express bullying behaviors themselves while in school. Challenges with language and communication, socialization, perspective taking and self-awareness increase the likelihood that a child may experience bullying. These skill deficits coupled with weaker social supports can put children with special needs at a higher risk for bullying or demonstrating bullying behaviors themselves.
 
If you feel a student is a victim of others’ bullying behavior, call a meeting to collaborate with teachers and/or administration and the Heartland AEA staff in your building to work toward a solution. Each team member will have a unique perspective of the student and the concerning situation. The most effective solutions depend on each team member working together to help resolve the issue. As a team, use a problem solving process like the one below:
 
Step 1: Determine areas of concern
  • Would the student benefit from acquiring additional verbal or nonverbal communication skills, social interaction skills, play or leisure skills?

  • Is there an opportunity to enhance the student’s performance skills? Does the student have the skills but needs additional practice to demonstrate the skills fluently in all settings?

  • Does the student have social supports or could existing supports be strengthened? Does the student regularly interact with a group of peers who are positive?

Step 2: Identify strategies for growth

  • Building skills requires additional instruction, such as modeling (live or video) or story-based interventions. Instruction-based social skill intervention resources are available through the Heartland AEA library. Examples include Skillstreaming, Building Social Relationships and the Strong Start series.

  • Enhancing a student’s performance requires practice with reinforcement. Examples of evidence-based strategies include: Generalization, Naturalistic Teaching Strategies and Self-Management. Read more about these resources in the National Autism Center's Standards Report Link.

  • Limited social supports requires working with targeted peers. Examples include diversity education, peer advocacy and peer training.

Step 3: Implement the strategies as designed

  • In order for the team to make a decision about the use of a specific strategy, it must be used as intended for a sufficient amount of time.

Step 4: Consider data when making decisions

  • Set a goal and collect data to make decisions regarding the success of the interventions, whether they should continue and if they need to be modified.

Repeat these four steps until the team observes noticeable improvement. If bullying behavior continues to negatively impact a student’s involvement at school, it’s imperative that the team review the school’s anti-bullying and harassment policies to ensure all students feel safe in the school setting.

If you are an educator who wants to learn more about bullying prevention or intervention, talk to the Heartland AEA staff in your building or visit our website for additional information.
 
Heartland AEA School Psychologists Kristen Bloch, Madeleine Moody and Jane Jensen and School Social Worker Morgan Stone blog about challenging behavior and autism and the services and supports available from Heartland AEA.
picture of Kristen Bloch picture of Madedline Moody

Kristen Bloch

Madeleine Moody

Jane Jensen

Morgan Stone

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