Valley Life for All: How to deal with bullies if you have special needs | VailDaily.com

Valley Life for All: How to deal with bullies if you have special needs

Emily Garcia
Special to the Vail Daily

Editor’s note: The Vail Daily, in conjunction with Valley Life For All, continues a monthly series of profiles about people in our community who have different abilities.Twenty-seven percent of Americans experience some disability. One hundred percent are a part of our community. Each has a story.

Meet Emily: She has a huge smile and a larger heart. She wants to be a spiritual counselor for other people who are struggling. She knows what it is to be bullied and helps us understand the social skills that are struggles for kids with special needs. She has high functioning autism and epilepsy. 

Read Emily’s story.  Her voice will change you.

Valley Life for All

Bullying is a real issue for kids with special needs. Some kids cope with bullying through self-harm. The bullying causes anxiety and depression and then can lead to more serious things like cutting. In the past, I’ve been bullied for who I am, and this song brings me a lot of joy:

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me.

For kids with special needs: Be who you are. Most bullies just want to get a reaction. Don’t give it to them. Ignore them. And if ignoring doesn’t work, then learn to step away from the person and say, “Stop it. You are really hurting my feelings.” If someone is bullying you, be firm and respectful and ask them to stop. If that doesn’t work then go find a staff member or teacher.

For kids who don’t have special needs, just know that everyone with a disorder has different ways of expressing themselves. Kids with mental illness such as bipolar or schizophrenia don’t read cues as well, like body language and other things, so they might have outbursts and get angry. My advice is don’t fight back. They just get angry because they can’t always see what is really happening. Show some empathy. Ask them questions like, “Are you OK? What’s happening that is upsetting you?”

Teachers need to help students process their emotions, not just ignore kids who are upset or hurting. Teachers may dismiss things by saying, “She didn’t mean that,” or “Go sit somewhere else.” Teachers should be compassionate and consider and validate students’ negative feelings.

I had to learn a lot of things like how to make friends in a polite, appropriate manner. I also learned boundaries like sexual, emotional, physical, and verbal. I learned how to have boundaries and how to respect other’s boundaries. I think all kids on IEP (Individual Education Plan) should have a life skills class to help them socialize better and integrate into the school population better.

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me.

There is no such thing as “normal.” People need to know that kids with special needs have a struggle with social skills and with life. They take things personally and get anxious or have outbursts. You can help by showing empathy. Ask questions instead of just teasing them or not wanting to be near them. Stick up for them. Put yourself in their shoes.

Local nonprofit Valley Life for All is working to build inclusive communities where people of all abilities belong and contribute. We want to hear your voice.  Request a training or join the conversation at http://www.valleylifeforall.org or #voicability4all. Help us redefine the perception of challenge.