4 Things You Need To Know If Your Child Is Bullied – Autism, ADHD

Unfortunately, bullying is widespread and significantly impacts our differently wired children.  I’ve asked Stacey Gahagan to educate us on how to keep our children safe.

Stacey is the owner of The Gahagan Law Firm, PLLC — an education law firm dedicated to representing children with disabilities and their families throughout North Carolina and committed to ensuring all students receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

Take it away, Stacey!

My law practice is dedicated to ensuring students with disabilities across North Carolina receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504).  As part of our consultation process, I meet with parents and ask them to write an overview/timeline of events.  I would estimate at least ninety percent (90%) of my clients who are parents of children with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disabilities, or any low incidence disability, describe various bullying situations their child has experienced.

Sometimes the school properly and promptly addresses the bullying; but, more often, school personnel are dismissive of the bullying, blame the disabled child for the bullying, or deem the complaint of bullying an over-reaction by the parent.  This continues to surprise me, as we are all aware—either firsthand or through the media—of the painful impact of bullying, especially on our most vulnerable students.

In my practice, I have represented clients who exhibited school refusal behaviors due to bullying—either refusing to attend school or refusing to engage when present.  I have had too many clients who engage(d) in self-injurious behaviors due to bullying.  I have defended clients who received disciplinary consequences for retaliating against their tormentors.  I have advocated for clients who were the victims of bullying, and the proposal from the school district was to reassign my client (not the bully) to another class or school to alleviate the bullying.  However, what I have not seen in any of these cases is documentation that my clients’ IEP/Section 504 teams were addressing the issue.

The IDEA and Section 504 both demand that students with disabilities receive a FAPE.  When bullying interferes with a disabled student’s ability to receive a FAPE, the IEP/Section 504 team is charged with taking action.  The way a team approaches addressing the bullying can vary greatly, but the team cannot ignore it.  There are so many tools available to the team (e.g., social skills lessons, dedicated counseling sessions each week, goals for self-advocacy, training for the student’s general education teachers and administrators) that a good team can work to find a solution.  The IEP/Section 504 team does not have the authority to reassign the bully; however, the principal (who is often the LEA Representative at the meeting) does.  School administrators also have established protocols they must follow for all students when bullying is reported.  Check the Board Policies for your child’s school district/charter school to find the procedure followed in your child’s school.

What to do (and not do) if you suspect or observe bullying of your child:

  1. DO: Notify the school in writing. Be clear and thorough in your report—Where is this happening?  Who is the bully?  How did you learn about the bullying?  When did you first learn about the bullying?  Has it happened more than once?  Most bullying policies require a principal to take action and conduct an investigation within a specific number of days after receiving a bullying report.  Do not rely on a verbal report to the teacher, teacher’s aide, after-school worker, or anyone else.

  2. DON’T: Confront the bully.  In my experience, when parents attempt to confront the bully, they view their actions as reasonable and an attempt to make the situation better.   Schools do not view it this way and often impose restrictions on these parents to prevent them from coming into the school unattended or participating in field trips, etc.

  3. DO: Ask for an IEP/Section 504 meeting.  If you believe the bullying is impacting your child’s education, you need to meet with his/her team to discuss steps to take.  Be prepared for the meeting and ready to give examples of the impact of the bullying.  Remember the IEP/Section 504 team can only develop plans and propose solutions for your child—it cannot take actions against the bully.  

  4. DO: Seek to understand your child’s rights.  Find the Board’s policy on bullying.  Reference it in your written notification to the school.  Keep track of the timelines for the principal to respond.  If you disagree with the response, there is generally a right to appeal.  As a child with a disability, your child has even more protection than a general bullying policy.  Use them to protect and advocate for your child.  If you need help, consult with a special education law attorney or a special education advocacy organization. 

Bullying impacts disabled children—especially children with social communication impairments—profoundly.  Follow these steps and do not underestimate the importance of putting your concerns in writing.

To learn more about Stacey and her work, please visit her website (www.gahaganlaw.com) or her Facebook page (fb.me/gahaganlaw)

 Take care,

Holly Blanc Moses
The Mom/Psychologist/Behavior Analyst WHO GETS IT


I’m SO EXCITED to invite you to a special Facebook group for parents of differently wired children.  


  1. You are a parent of a child who is wired differently.

  2. You want to support and be supported.

  3. You want a no judgment zone!

Join Here

Copyright © *2018* “4 Tips on what to do if your child is bullied”, All rights reserved.
*All content provided is protected under applicable copyright, patent, trademark, and other proprietary rights. All content is provided for informational and educational purposes only. No content is intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological diagnosis, advice or treatment. Information provided does not create an agreement for service between Holly Blanc Moses and the recipient. Consult your physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or medical condition. Children or adults who show signs of dangerous behavior toward themselves and/or others, should be placed immediately under the care of a qualified professional. 
Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *