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Bullying is a way of being repeatedly cruel to another person whether physically, verbally, socially or emotionally. A child with disabilities can be either the aggressor or the victim, most often the victim due to the imbalance of power.

Bullying can mean different things to different ages and stages of child development.  More boys than girls are bullied. One-third of students experience bullying at school, and almost one-third report having bullied someone else (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2005). Bullying seldom happens without bystanders. Bullying, whether the victim or the bully, has life-long consequences if not dealt with in an appropriate manner.Unfortunately, those with disabilities, be they learning or mental health are more often victimized due to the imbalance of power.

A young child may only know that someone is being mean or hurting her or making her feel sad.  A teenager on the other hand won’t necessarily tell anyone there is a problem. They will try to handle it on their own as they may think they will hurt you by telling you. They may also be embarrassed by the situation.

Bullying can be verbal, physical, social or electronic (cyber-bullying).  The best thing to do is to watch for signs that your child may be a victim or a bully.

You must also keep in mind that the neurology of those with any type of mental illness (OCD, ADHD, etc.) can contribute, influence or impact a child’s bullying behaviours.These  issues then need to be worked on (medication, professional help, etc).

Signs and symptoms that your child may be being bullied:

  • Coming home with torn clothes or damaged or missing belongings
  • Not having any good friends
  • Unexplained bruises, scratches, etc.
  • Refusal to go out – school, social activities, playground
  • Shyness, stomach aches, headaches, panic attacks
  • Not being able to sleep/sleeping too much, exhaustion

Who is the Bully?

  • Children with mental health issues that want to belong
  • Children with neurology that affects every aspect of their health
  • Insecure children needing to make themselves feel good by making others feel bad
  • School and social failures
  • Can be learned behaviour from television, movies, other children or parents/adults
  • Bigger and stronger than their victims
  • Intolerant towards differences
  • Initally they may show no empathy, compassion or shame but they can be extremely remorseful, even though it may be delayed
  • Children that have undergone trauma in their lives

What you can do if your child is the bully:

  • Teach moral responsibilities
  • Social skills training
  • Appropriate role modeling
  • Positive reinforcement for good
  • Seek professional help if needed

How to Deal with a Bully:

Children should not have to deal with a bully without adult intervention. Research shows that telling your child to deal with the bully results in increasing the bullies power.

  • If the situation occurs at school involve your child’s teacher; principal or school/community behaviour consultant.
  • Use humour if possible to defuse the situation
  • Intervene immediately with discipline
  • Create opportunities to “do good”
  • Teach friendship skills – see Social Skills Training in the Finding Support Section
  • Agreeing with the bully may defuse the situation
  • Know when to seek professional help – if you are out of ideas or you need additional support this may be the time.
  • There are a number of good books on dealing with bullies including but not limited to: Keys to Dealing with Bullies by Barry E. McNamara and The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander by Barbara Coloroso. These books are available for loan at various libraries.

How to Deal with the Victim:

  • Listen, listen, listen – be clear on what your child is telling you
  • Help the child come up with strategies to reframe the situation so that they are less sensitive to others comments/actions
  • Use strategies to help your child be positive and successful
  • Teach him how to introduce himself into a group
  • Strengthen his sense of self
  • Help your child to fit in – look at how other children are dressing, etc.
  • Social skills training can help with comebacks, reading social cues and other strategies
  • Seek professional help if needed
  • Don’t hesitate to involve police if serious and ongoing


Most children use the internet to play games, connect with friends and more.  Unfortunately, there are dangers in the internet world. Cyber-bullying is simply defined as the use of technology to hurt or intimidate others, their relationships and their reputation.  Social networking sites, email, You Tube, cell phones are all tools at a bully’s disposal. Many teens think it is simply fun but there have been suicides as a result of this type of incident. Kids Help has an amazing site with lots of strategies to prevent cyber-bullying and ways to block the cyber-bully.  They also can talk directly to the child or teen and help them deal with cyber-bullying. (

Useful Resources/links for BULLYING:
Safe Schools Strategy –
Kids Help Phone LIne – or 1-800-668-6868
“Notice of Harrassment Kit for School Bullying” -
Ministry of Education link to 12-pg Bullying Guide –
PREVNet – Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence –
Tools for Life – Life without Bullies –