Arlene is on the SCENE

A “Novel” Approach to Our Bullying Problem

Posted on: April 15, 2011

The National Council on Disability (NCD), in a recent briefing paper, describes the compelling issue of bullying as it affects children with disabilities.  The NCD found that despite the significant personal and social impact that bullying has on both individuals with disabilities and on their peer group as a whole, this issue has been glossed over by educators and policy-makers alike.

Research clearly demonstrates that the inclusion of students with disabilities in the same school setting as their non-disabled peers benefits both groups.  These benefits can only be realized, however, when significant efforts are made to create what the NCD calls a “welcoming environment.”  The briefing paper outlines research demonstrating unequivocally that students with disabilities face more bullying than their non-disabled peers.

What can be done about this?  We believe that educational programs such as the one created by the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation and the National CMT Resource Center can effectively address this issue by fostering a greater understanding, and more importantly, a connection, among students of all abilities.

Books like Arlene On the Scene attempt to bridge the gap by relating disability to any personal difference.  The character compares her disability to a wide range of differences: from not knowing how to ride a bike to a hidden musical talent.  As Arlene puts it, people are like a mosaic collage, and packaging your peers into a neat little box, with a single label slapped on the side, just doesn’t work.  People want to be recognized for all that they are, and any difference—race, culture, disability, disease—is a part of the human mosaic.

HNF and the National CMT Resource Center will continue to spread this message through free school presentations that offers a new way to look at disability and difference.  It is time to address the disparate impact of negative social behaviors like bullying by forging connections and understanding among school-age children and by developing attitudes that will create a more supportive environment for all.

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