From the 12th – 16th November it is Anti-Bullying Week. Bullying is something that, fortunately, I do not have personal experience of. Nonetheless, it is an important issue to blog about as sadly, research suggests that children and young people with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than those without disabilities. I often hear individuals with dyspraxia talk about being bullied.
Bullying has been defined as:
“the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face to face or online.”
Although we typically tend to associate bullying with schools, it can also take place in other situations, such as the workplace. Bullying can take a variety of forms, including physical, verbal or emotional bullying.
As I mentioned above, children and young people with disabilities are more likely to be bullied. This includes those of us with dyspraxia. Although thankfully I haven’t experienced bullying myself, I have had negative comments about my dyspraxia. Things such as “oh she has problems”. Even comments such as that can be upsetting, so I can’t imagine how awful it must be to experience bullying – to have comments such as that, and worse, repeatedly and/or other forms of bullying too. The comment I mentioned was during a PE lesson at school and of the few comments I did have, unsurprisingly they were often in PE! Whilst dyspraxia is a hidden disability, PE is often one of the situations where we stand out the most, which can mean we are targeted.
The less obvious aspect of dyspraxia that may make us vulnerable to bullying is difficulties with social skills. People might not always understand that we have social difficulties due to dyspraxia, but they may notice that we are ‘different’ due to dyspraxia and make comments about this. There’s also the fact that we can be very literal thinkers, which unfortunately people are likely to take advantage of. This may mean that those of us with dyspraxia are more likely to experience more subtle forms of bullying and not realise at first until it escalates. For example, a comment I had in PE was, when talking to a couple of people about dyspraxia, “What did you say? Did you say you sometimes get called a spastic?” Me being literal meant I wasn’t sure if they were genuinely asking me what I said at first. Thankfully this didn’t escalate any further, but I imagine this sort of situation is not uncommon.
The main theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is to choose respect over bullying, with the emphasis that bullying is a behaviour choice. Whilst those of us with disabilities are more likely to be bullied, it doesn’t make that okay in any way.
Another theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week is that, on 15th November, the anti-bullying alliance are holding a ‘Stop Speak Support’ Day to highlight the issue of cyberbullying. I personally believe that social media has so many positives, particularly the support offered online when you have a disability, but at the same time there are also negatives that we need to be aware of. Cyber bullying is continuing to be a significant issue for young people. Online bullying can be a lot more hidden, so if you come across something on social media or experience cyber-bullying yourself, please use the report button or speak to someone you trust about it. Lots of people assume this will make things worse, but people are there to support you.
I felt that bullying was an important topic to blog about, but at the same time didn’t feel it was right to go into depth about things that I haven’t experienced myself. Hopefully though it’s been helpful in some way, even if it’s helped you to become more aware of situations in which you can look out for bullying. If you are being bullied, please speak to someone about it. It is never okay and you should be respected for who you are.