In recent years, parents and teachers have taken a hard look at bullying in schools. Bullying can be hard to detect and even harder to stop. It can escalate, creating a tense and hostile environment for the victim, and in some cases, can even be deadly. Stopping bullying is critical towards building safe schools. With October being National Bullying Prevention Month, let’s take a look at how bullying affects children with hearing loss – and what can be done to stop it.
Bullying in Schools
Bullying can be verbal, physical, or take the form of subtle actions and it can occur in the classroom on the playground or even in cyberspace. Bullies choose their victims so they can feel strong and in control. The victims of bullying don’t do anything to cause the bullying but may exhibit some form of difference that bullies prey upon. Children and teens with physical disabilities are often singled out for bullying if they have a noticeable impairment.
Once thought to be an inevitable, but unfortunate, part of the school yard social order, bullying is now seen as a serious behavior issue. Research is also starting to look closer at finding solutions for bullying behavior. Schools and parents are working in tandem to create a better, safer learning environment.
The solution to bullying behavior isn’t simple. Often, bullying happens in spaces where adults aren’t present like school buses, bathrooms and via phone or social media. The victim may be threatened with further aggression or violence if they report the behavior. It requires consistent responses to bullying, as well as building peer support for the victims and emotional support to address the issues underlying the bully’s cruelty and aggression. With quick responses to bullying issues, the behavior can be curtailed.
Childhood Hearing Loss and Bullying
The results of a study on childhood hearing loss and bullying have recently been released. Surveying young people ages 7-18, “The Effect of Hearing Loss on Peer Victimization in School-Age Children” looked at what impact -if any- childhood hearing loss had on bullying dynamics. The researchers involved 87 school-aged participants, asking them detailed questions about bullying behaviors they have experienced. All study participants manage hearing loss with cochlear implants or hearing aids.
What the study found was that children who live with hearing loss are far more likely to be targeted by a bully than children without hearing issues. Over a quarter of students in general report having been bullied, while for students with hearing loss that number rises to nearly 50%. While one in twenty kids today feels socially isolated from their peers, one in four kids with hearing loss experience isolation.
The study also looked at detailed information about the nature of the bullying experienced. Children with hearing loss experienced bullying patterns similar to students with other disabilities and special needs. They are more likely to experience loneliness and social restrictions – such as receiving few invitations to join activities and events. Bullying also had the effect of making it harder to form friendships.
All in all, young people with hearing loss may be far more likely to face bullying than their peers. Their wellness, safety and education deserve support and attention. Victims of bullying need to know that aggressive behavior will not be tolerated and that they have a safe space at school and at home.
Training kids, parents and teachers to respond to bullying helps build strong social support and an environment where bullying can’t thrive. Teaching children to look out for each other’s safety and well-being, as well as ways to face and respond to bullying aggression, can transform bullying dynamics.
The actions of kids need decisive support from adults. Teachers and parents need to be watchful for the signs of bullying such as injuries, missing or damaged belongings, and changes in sleep, appetite, mood and grades.
One new program in Australia is seeking to build empathy for students with hearing loss through a short virtual reality experience that allows the viewer to view playground and classroom situations from the perspective of a student with hearing difficulty. Although the technology doesn’t directly address bullying, it works towards underlying causes – building understanding across different student experiences.
Desert Valley Audiology
Does your child have hearing issues that need to be addressed? Desert Valley Audiology can help. With complete audiological testing and a wide selection of the best hearing aids and assistive products, Desert Valley Audiology can help your family get on the path to hearing health.