Helping Special Needs Kids Cope with Bullying

Bullying is a sick cancer that is spreading in our competitive culture. It's not isolated to school playgrounds. It takes place everywhere: home, workplace, daycare, in school, out of school. Even churches and supposedly safe places aren't bully-free. Why? Because bullies bring their bullying behavior with them wherever they go. There are two kinds of bullying: physical and emotional. Physical poses an immediate, obvious threat. Emotional is more subtle, but equally dangerous because its harder to detect. And bullies hide in all shapes, sizes, genders, colors and behind all creeds and ideologies. Many don't look like bullies. So no one believe the bullied child. "Little Suzie wouldn't never do that! She's too sweet!" Unfortunately that subterfuge is how bullying continues. Are you bullied? Here are coping strategies. Do them in order.

Start by knowing your bully. Why is she picking on you? Does she single you out or is she mean to everyone? Usually, it has nothing to do with you. It's her problem. She's weak, scared, bullied at home, or hurting in some way. It's not your fault. You didn't cause it and you can't cure it. But you can...

1- Stay out of the bully's path. Don't hide. Just don't engage or attract attention purposely.

2-Ignore the bully. Look right through him as though he's not there. If he's intentionally bullying, it will fail to hit the mark.

3-If she tries to engage, continue to ignore. Walk right past her. Quietly get up and move. Ignore catcalls or whispered remarks. Refuse to let her start something.

4-If he talks to you, don't answer. He'll look like an idiot talking to himself and probably shut up.

5-If the bully questions don't answer. Just because someone asks you something doesn't mean you have to answer. Especially if you know he's just trying to goad you. Professional bullies bait with innocuous questions. If you answer, he's established contact and suddenly it goes from innocent to harassing. He's throwing a gauntlet. If you pick it up, the games begin.

6-If you cannot avoid her and she starts in, stare at her. Don't lower your eyes, show fear or say anything. With dogs this is a sign of dominance. It says, "I see you and I can take you." Walk (don't run) away ASAP.

7-If he gets physical defend yourself however you can. If he throws a weak punch that's just cowardly show of power. Call his bluff. Ignore and walk away. He might back down.

8-If you're a child, get help from an adult: caregiver, playground supervisor, teacher, principal, adult friend, police officer (if it's after school). School professionals are trained to deal with bullying. Tell your parents. You aren't being "chicken", you're being smart.

9-Or shout loudly and firmly "Stop." Don't cringe or scream.

10-If there's no help available, and the bully is hurting you, you've got two choices: fight or flight. If this is an ongoing situation flight will only feed it. Fighting back, although frowned upon, can sometimes stop it. Or you might take a beating. It's depends upon the bully. If he's on drugs, run away. Drugs, especially uppers, can make a person stronger.

11-NOTE: Thinking maybe you should just turn the other cheek, like the Bible says? If you followed the above steps, then you already tried that and it didn't work. Don't let yourself to be someone's punching bag.

12-If--AND ONLY IF-- you've done all of the above and a fight is unavoidable, fight back. If you're weaker or outnumbered, protect yourself however you can. Bite. Pull hair. Pinch under the arm in the soft flesh. Kick in the groin. This is no time for Queensbury Rules.  This isn't a fair fight so there are no rules. Surviving is what matters. But do get the heck out of there ASAP.

I know some of this advice sound contradictory. Bullying is complicated. Bullies are different. There's no one-size-fits-all solution. You have to deal with each situation individually. Trust yourself to know what to do when you need to.


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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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