Kids with disabilities may fight more with bullies, according to researchers, who say that the fight response is triggered. A study that examined survey responses from nearly 1,200 students with disabilities in middle and high school found that in addition to fighting back, bullying often led children with disabilities to victimize other children.
“Because students with disabilities often lack age-appropriate social and communication skills, they may act out aggressively as a response to being bullied,” said Chad Rose of the University of Missouri who led the study.
“If a child reaches into their ‘bully response toolbox’ and the only tools they have are physical or verbal aggression, they likely will respond aggressively,” Rose said. The study was published in the journal Remedial and Special Education.
The conditions ranged from intellectual disabilities to autism, and included behavioral and emotional disorders along with learning disabilities. The survey sampled students from 25 different schools in five districts in grades 6 through 12.
“Children with disabilities often lash out physically as a defense mechanism against bullying,” Rose said. “By intervening with these children and giving them the proper skills and tools, we can not only help prevent future bullying of these children but improve their psychosocial outcomes as well.”