Objectives—This report presents data on the types and incidence of bullying experienced by people with disabilities of all ages, all types of diagnoses and all functioning levels.
Data Source—Data was collected from 42 individuals using a qualitative and quantitative survey involving three subgroups: people with disabilities (3), parents and caretakers of those with disabilities who agreed to take the survey on behalf of the person in their care (26), as well as those who indicated they are neither disabled nor the parents or caretakers of one with special needs (10). The subjects of the study represented 10 different types of disabilities, with the highest number of respondents listing a learning disability (13) and a disability on the Autism Spectrum (16) as their primary type of disability. The remaining three people did not provide information on the type of respondent they were.
Results—Respondents were asked to report how many times in their lifetime they had experienced bullying behaviors from among the four main categories of bullying: verbal, physical, social and cyber. The incidence of verbal bullying was found to be much higher for those with disabilities than for those without disabilities who were the subjects of the survey. In addition, the other three categories of bullying that were part of this study were also found to significantly higher than that experienced by the non-disabled participants. Below is a chart summarizing the findings:
Results of Study on Types of Bullying Experienced by the Disabled
Conclusions—This study concurs with the findings of previous studies that those with disabilities experience much more bullying than those without disabilities. But most significantly, the results increase awareness that those with disabilities attract a much higher incidence of verbal bullying than any other bullying type. Verbal bullying is believed to be the type of bullying most often chosen by bullies for their disabled victims because of the bullies’ perceptions of “special needs” victims as being weaker and less likely to retaliate or report them. In addition, verbal aggression is believed to be the bullies’ way of recognizing and pointing out to their peers that the victims are somehow different from them.
Qualitative Responses--Survey respondents were asked their opinion as to why people with disabilities are bullied. Several answers with common themes were received, including:
- "Because they are different"
- "Because they are defenseless or easy targets"
- "Because they have a lack of understanding or are ignorant about people with diabilities"
- "Because they learned the bullying behavior at home"
- "Because it makes them feel superior or powerful"
- "Because they are ignorant"
- “They have been brought up in an environment that does not tolerate or understand differences in people.”
- “My daughter was a target of bullying from her middle school teacher. I believe it is because of the lack of social skills and having trouble communicating, not only with her peers but also with adults. When she tried to report the bullying, she had to answer questions from the school administrators, which made her confused, then defensive.”
- “Possibly because the person wants to be as normal as possible, and isn’t honest with co-workers about the disabilities he or she has. So they lack understanding?”
- “I honestly think that bullies pick on children that have similar traits that they see in themselves and don’t like.”
- “The bullies think those with disabilities are different, and they think that different is bad.”
- “Because they think they can get away with it.”
- “Self-internalized power and persuasion.”