When Your Child With Special Needs Is Bullied

I heard the boys snickering and turned to see what was going on.

My son was awkwardly trying to catch water balloons, as several boys threw them at him.

It was the end of school party on the last day of second grade. The teacher was there along with several room moms. No one seemed to even notice.

Anger, hurt, shame, and frustration burned in me as I ran over.

My son was so confused. They were supposed to be doing water balloon tosses, back and forth, between two children. Why weren’t these boys following the rules?

My heart felt like breaking in two, right there on the playground.

We had already made the decision to homeschool about two months prior. I felt more secure about that decision than ever before. I had no idea that he would be bullied this soon. “Second grade?” I thought. It seemed surreal.

And yet, it happened, right in front of me. And who knows how many times it had happened before.


How can we expect our children to understand the impact of bullying, if we aren't taking it seriously ourselves?

I spoke with another mom last week about her 13-year-old son, also on the spectrum. She and I were talking about the most difficult parts of figuring this motherhood thing out. Her words brought me right back to that playground.

It doesn’t matter what we do with the school. The most difficult part for us is the bullying. It is constant and we are out of options to try to make it stop. My son is miserable, all the time, ” she said through tears.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and responded with the only words I could think of.

I am so very sorry.”

When Your Child With Special Needs Is Bullied

An Example Of Bullying

Earlier this week, my husband and I were at dinner with friends. The guys were telling jokes and cracking up. I felt myself stiffen as one of them started acting like ‘Rain Man‘ at the table. My youngest son was there, but thankfully didn’t understand the reference. So were two other children.

I grabbed my husband’s hand under the table and squeezed. My mortified husband, quickly and loudly changed the subject. But I couldn’t shake the feelings of sadness and frustration.

How can we expect our children to understand the impact of bullying, if we aren’t taking it seriously ourselves?

When Your Child With Special Needs Is Bullied

When Your Child With Special Needs Is Bullied

I do not think that the boys throwing water balloons at my son really thought about what they were doing. They acted as though it was all in good fun. I do not think the gentleman at dinner really thought about what he was doing. He acted as though it was all in good fun.

But it’s not. It isn’t fun. It’s straight up wrong.

No matter how schools may teach against bullying, nothing is more powerful than example. 

What example are we setting, as parents, when we make inappropriate jokes at the expense of an entire group of people?  Or when we allow our children to ostracize and single out another child at the park for ridicule?

Maybe it’s because I have two unique children, that are often the outsiders. Maybe it’s because I have always rooted for the underdog. Maybe it’s because I see it more and more, now that my boys are getting older.

No matter what the reason,  I’m tired of making excuses for the inexcusable.


My boys and I are having a very serious conversation this morning. Not about how they are treated, but how they treat others. We are discussing some of the other children in their classes and social groups.

I am making myself as clear as possible.

We help.

We are kind.

We include.

We reach out.

We laugh at funny jokes, not at other people.

We stand up for.

We are empathetic.

We encourage.

We build up.

And we do not bully.

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The Constant Turmoil Of Parenting A Child With Special Needs


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  1. This touched me! Thank you! Last year my daughter (with HFA) and I were at VBS , and a boy a year older than her (who played competitive baseball) hit her very much on purpose with a water balloon right on the chest. I’ll never forget the tears and pain…..on top of her not liking to be wet….still breaks my heart. She is refusing to do VBS this year and I can’t say I blame her. We also quit a homeschool co-op this year because she was being bullied and because it was too noisy. She is 9 and does not like other children and will not even let us call her a kid, young, or child (etc.). Unfortunately, as homeschoolers, we are very isolated. 🙁 Thanks SO much Shawna!! I really appreciate what you do!

    1. Stephanie Contreras says:

      I hate that for your girl! We also had to quit our co-op because of bullying…both by students and others mamas! It broke my heart to see my boy hurting and it broke even bigger because it was other homeschool mamas! I don’t know the answers…I sure wish I did!

      1. Ugh….I’m sorry for what you and your son went through. It’s really frustrating when the adults chime in too. At our co-op, the Dad of the main bullies (big surprise, right) asked me, in a very aggravated tone, “Whats wrong with her?!?” (Because, she didn’t want to sit by anyone or touch science project materials….she would wear earmuffs and cry and panic at the noise from the kids) Oh, and then I was dubbed “helicopter mom” and pretty much avoided…..as their kids weren’t “getting anything” from mine. If just one kind parent would step up and encourage one of their children to be a buddy it would have meant the world to my girl. Just remember…..we are good parents and can’t be responsible for others ignorance. Even if we feel alone……this…..proves were not. If it wasn’t for this blog I’d kinda be lost. ?

  2. Vivienne Walsh says:

    My granddaughter was bullied in First Grade. Her classmates found ways to trigger absence seizures. When she lashed out one day and hit one of her tormentors, she was placed alone in a classroom for the remainder of break. This is not why we decided to homeschool her and her siblings, she only told us about it months after she was taken out of that school. But we are glad we did.

    1. That’s awful. ??

  3. Thank you for your post.
    bullying is heartbreaking and I constantly worry my daughter is being bullied but can’t tell me….

  4. Thank you for your post! I am sorry to hear that so many children get bullied and that it tends to fly under the teachers’ (and often the parents’) radar. We are homeschooling my 12 year-old daughter who is on the Autism Spectrum, but also find it hard to find acceptance within homeschool co-ops. My daughter was in public school and she was bullied in first and second grade and then again in 4th grade. We did not find out that she was bullied in 4th grade until I was already homeschooling her. Neurotypical bullies often get away with bullying children who are on the spectrum because they get to cover up their actions and our children may not be able to communicate what is happening or may not recognize the bullying as such. My child was in a gifted class at an A-rated public school in a school district considered to be excellent. Soon after arriving in that class, some of her classmates started playing a “game” in which they would compete to see who could make my child have a meltdown in the least amount of time. My child loves animals, including insects, and the bullies (girls and boys) started killing bugs in front of my child. It took us several months to figure it out, because all that the teachers would see was that she started running away from the playground during recess and had increasing meltdowns. Finally, a classmate stepped up and told the teacher who put an end to it in her class. However, by then the children had started teaching their friends in other classes how to get my child to have meltdowns and and from time to time children from other classes would try to start the bullying again. Third grade was much better because the teacher looked out for my child. In 4th grade, the bullying started again. This time, they did not kill bugs, but they were a lot more manipulative. I am sorry about the lengthy post, but I just wanted to share how hidden the bullying can be. Homeschooling has been a saving grace for our family. The anxiety, fear, and depression experienced by children who are bullied can be profound. I was bullied as a child (I do not have a disability), and I never told my parents because of fear of retaliation from the bullies. Even on days that I was not bullied, I lived in fear of getting bullied. Children’s thought processes may be very different from what we’d expect. Add to that communication challenges and other challenges, and our children become an easy target for bullies.

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your daughter’s experience. It makes my heart heart. I think there are so many layers to this – and that is precisely what makes it so important to discuss.

      Thank you for sharing your life, here with us.

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