Children with ADHD face enormous challenges every day. They struggle to meet expectations of teachers, parents and friends. ADHD behavior is difficult to control and impossible to predict. A child with ADHD often finds himself in the center of a chaotic world most of his peers do not understand. He longs to be included in social activities, but is excluded from guest lists because of his odd or inappropriate behavior. He can’t understand why he is shunned on the playground, or laughed at in public. The behaviors that are normal for him seem bizarre to others.
A recent study highlighted in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, examined whether adolescents who were diagnosed with ADHD had a higher prevalence of being a victim of bullying than those children who do not exhibit symptoms of ADHD. The study indicated adolescents with ADHD were shown to be at risk for victimization in most cases.
Why Are Kids With ADHD Bullied?
Children with ADHD have a hard time making friends, and an even harder time maintaining friendships. They can become too possessive, or get angry and say things that are insulting or hurtful. Kids with ADHD don’t understand boundaries and personal space. Peers are put off by their pushy attitude and lack of social skills.
Parents and teachers can overlook the symptoms of ADHD and focus on helping the child assimilate to his environment. Kids, however, do not have that level of understanding and maturity. The lack of empathy and tolerance can lead to maliciousness and bullying. Once kids identify differences and odd behaviors being exhibited by a child with ADHD, they often “gang up” on the child who is unable to control his objectionable behaviors.
Where Does The Bullying Take Place?
Bullying can occur in any setting. Kids don’t have to know each other for bullying to take place. Subtle bullying occurs when a group of kids makes fun of the child with ADHD by calling him names, or imitating his actions. Aggressive bullying involves physical contact such as pushing, shoving, hitting, or tripping the victim as he walks by.
Can Kids With ADHD be Bullies?
Kids with ADHD are not always the victims of bullying. Studies have indicated that kids with ADHD can often become bullies themselves, and relentlessly pick on their peers and exhibit aggressive behavior toward others. Kids with ADHD get frustrated with their circumstances, and may lash out at others trying to compensate for their frustration. Whatever form it takes, bullying is never acceptable.
How Do I Know if My Child is Being Bullied?
Young children will usually tell you if someone is picking on them. They may be reluctant to go to daycare, or try to steer clear of a particular child at the park. Younger children can identify the aggressor without the fear of the stigma attached to being a tattletale. They are more likely to let you know they need help. In some cases, parents witness bullying taking place and can stop it before it gets out of hand. With young kids, it could be something as simple learning to take turns, or sharing a snack.
What About Older Kids? What Signs Should I Look For?
Older kids have a different set of rules. Adolescents will suffer in silence, rather than risk the repercussions of being a snitch. It’s up to parents and teachers to be mindful of the red flags that indicate bullying might be taking place.
Your adolescent child may display subtle signs that he is being bullied. He may become withdrawn, or reluctant to go to school. He may seem anxious, or complain of headaches and other maladies. You may notice a lack of enthusiasm or a change in personality. Pay attention to these symptoms, and try to get your child to discuss his feelings. If you notice suspicious bruises, or marks on your child’s body, do not allow him to dismiss your questions. Find out the source of the injuries.
What Can Parents Do for Bullying and ADHD?
Communication is essential. Stay in touch with your child’s teachers and ask them to let you know if your child is struggling in social situations. Set aside time every day to talk with your child. Ask him questions about his day, his friends, and his feelings. Assure him that he can tell you anything, and that you will help him with situations he can’t handle by himself. Assure him that you will be discreet, so he won’t worry about embarrassment or repercussions.
Help your child cultivate friendships. Kids are less likely to be bullied if they have friends. Role-playing can be helpful when teaching your child how to interact socially. Set up scenarios, and help your child react appropriately to different situations. Let your child invite a friend over, and plan activities that foster cooperation, self-esteem and fun. Game nights are a great way for kids to interact and get to know each other while being supervised.
If the bullying continues in spite of your efforts, you may have to get school officials involved. Schools have policies in place to address bullying. If your child is being bullied outside of a school environment, you should meet with the offender’s parents to find a solution that will stop it. Remember, you are your child’s best advocate when it comes to bullying and ADHD.