The purpose of this study is to evaluate the level of bullying of students with disabilities and special education needs. The study aims at understanding how learners with disabilities are coping up with the challenge of bullying while in school. The vice is common among children who have physical, intellectual, developmental, sensory, or social disorders. Traditional and cyberbullying among children living with a disability is a major problem all over the world. Therefore, this paper provides a framework for comprehending the important psychological issues in special needs children brought about by bullying. The population of this study is grade two students with disabilities. The data collected from previous research will inform the literature review of this paper. The findings of this study are directly useful to staff and organizations working with children in policy development and implementation to serve as reference points for bullying in school.
Managing disruptive and problematic behavior in the classroom is a great concern for teachers. The most problematic behavior that primary teachers have to contend with in the classroom are inattention, poor focus, fighting, and interrupting other students. The above behaviors can make it challenging for teachers to give lessons and provide a conducive environment for students to learn. Additionally, dealing with these problematic behaviors in the classroom can cause significant teacher stress and burnout. External causes result in behavioral problems and their impacts are often ignored or misunderstood. Students’ emotional and psychological factors are usually ignored or misdiagnosed in average children and exhibit withdrawal, despair, anger and thinking about stress management (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). Therefore, most of the youngsters are put in regular classrooms where they are left attempting to deal with their issues in the background. Teachers can solve behavioral challenges in the classroom by detecting their causes, especially when teaching grade two children with disabilities.
Children with behavioral problems usually require more than simple notification or punishment in class. In their formative years, teachers should focus more on cognitive learning theories that involve memory, motivation, and attention. Since the brain of children is still at the developmental stage, concentrating their attention on particular details will help them to memorize concepts faster. School children with behavioral issues do always come from dysfunctional families and abusive parents; some may have underlying psychiatric problems which may hinder their learning. Some of the children may be suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) which may affect their attentiveness in class. However, considering that ADHD is an organic challenge, a child with a different ED and behavioral problem will be identified to evaluate if its attention levels can be improved by motivation (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). The intervention method that the paper will employ is the behavioral approach.
Disabled persons are categorized as marginalized or underserved populations in most communities. In the school setting, school-going children with physical, psychological, emotional, or cognitive challenges experience hardships in achieving their goal in an environment where they are abused. Bullying in school has become a systematic challenge that members of the minority population deal with every day (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). However, there are few studies that have been done that analyze and expose the extent of the problem. Therefore, this research is relevant because it will expose the extent of children with disability bullying in schools.
Children who first come to primary school to learn reading, writing, and simple Math do not usually have the background knowledge or skills to acquire this information quickly; thus, a careful and empathetic approach is required. Methods of finding appropriate ways to interact with school children were formulated by educational psychology, which studies how students learn and apply specific principles in teaching to improve the learning process (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). It is necessary to resolve various issues that arise between educators and children by explaining how students perceive data and how they learn, showing teachers more effective methodologies to deliver knowledge (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). The problem that will be discussed in this case study is behavioral issues in my classroom of second-graders. One student with an emotional disability (ED) will be included in this study to improve his situation through cognitive learning. Since children’s brain is still developing, encouragement and an orderly environment may wire their neurons in a way to prime them that the learning process is a pleasurable experience and will help them focus better.
Children with behavioral problems often need something more than a simple notification or punishment in class. In these groups of students, teachers should focus more on cognitive learning theories that incorporate memory, attention, and motivation (Kirschner & Hendrick, 2020). Since children’s brain is developing, concentrating their attention on specific details will help them memorize the necessary information faster. Schoolchildren with conduct issues do not always have a poor home environment and abusive parents; some may have such psychiatric problems as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, since ADHD is more an organic problem, the child with a different ED and behavioral challenges will be selected to test3 if motivation can help improve this child’s conduct. This student disrupts teaching frequently and has tense relationships with his peers. The intervention that will be used in this case is a behavioral approach.
Behavioral methodologies include classic and operant conditioning that focuses on reward, punishment, and reinforcement of specific behavior. According to Duchesne and McMaugh (2018), these approaches are not concerned with emotional and cognitive components of behavior but concentrate on external factors that influence one’s actions. Classic conditioning implies using an artificial stimulus to train a particular response to a stimulus (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). Operant conditioning implements negative and positive consequences to weaken or strengthen an activity (Duchesne & McMaugh, 2018). In case of a good conduct in the classroom, classic conditioning can be applied by using a loud bell sound on a smartphone to gain immediate attention from students. After this sound, learners will be allowed to listen to one of their favorite music singles for thirty seconds, and then they all will need to listen to the instructor. The teacher will ask the children to submit the list of songs they like so that different tracks can be played during such short breaks. Moreover, operant conditioning can be implemented by verbal encouragement if the student selected for the study behaves for more than ten minutes.
Historically, scholars and policymakers have challenged the establishment and promotion of separate classrooms and schools for disabled learners. Within the past two decades, a transformative model has emerged in different societies to allow for inclusive learning environments for all children, including those with disabilities. Øksendal et al. (2019) observed that most studies completed between 1989 and 2003 revealed that bullying was higher among learners with various disabilities. In the same analysis, Øksendal et al. (2019) identified these major forms of abuse: teasing, verbal insults, threats, taking personal items, name-calling, and making fun. These issues tend to create tense environments for the affected individuals, thereby compelling them to have a reduced number of friends while struggling with the challenge of staying alone. The nature of these challenges explained why there was a strong need for presenting proper guidelines and interventions.
In another report, Berchiatti et al. (2021) observed that bullying was a major challenge that affected the overall outcomes and experiences of children with learning disabilities and special educational needs (SEN). Specifically, the study revealed that 90 percent of the individuals included in the investigation reported different forms of bullying (Berchiatti et al., 2021). Consequently, these victims encountered numerous challenges in the learning environment, including reduced participation in social activities and disinterestedness. The ultimate result was that their academic scores and grades were poorer in comparison with their normal classmates. The absence of proper mechanisms to reshape child behavior was also seen as a major predictor of negative outcomes in learning environments with disabled individuals. In another investigation, Falla et al. (2021) observed that a number of factors in different schools created numerous opportunities for increasing cases of bullying. For instance, the fact that some children had sensory, emotional, intellectual, physical, and developmental disabilities was the first determinant of the possible nature of bullying. Additionally, learners in intolerant educational environments were 2 times more likely to be bullied than their counterparts in desirable classrooms (Falla et al., 2021). In the same study, Falla et al. (2021) reported that some children with different types of disabilities were observed to bully their classmates. These issues show conclusively that disabilities are directly linked to bullying in a wide range of learning environments.
Disabilities are usually diverse and tend to affect school-going children differently. In a study by Øksendal et al. (2019), the primary focus was on the needs of individuals with food allergies and special health demands. For instance, the investigators observed that the existence of medical conditions made more learners incapable of expressing themselves fully or engaging in activities capable of meeting their needs. Consequently, non-disabled children had a tendency to make fun of or failing to integrate themselves into their social groups. The affected individuals, therefore, suffer the problem of loneliness (Falla et al., 2021). Additionally, some of the learners with various allergies witnessed incidents whereby their counterparts were exposed to various allergens to them (Falla et al., 2021). This portrayal reveals that bullying in students with disabilities was a major problem that could affect their overall educational and life outcomes.
The problem of disability in learning institutions has compelled researchers to focus on different forms of personal challenges and how they dictate the overall level of bullying. For example, Lekhal and Karlsen (2021) observed that bullying was more common among students with a wide range of learning disabilities and special difficulties. Additionally, the study revealed that those who had vision and hearing challenges had reduced chances of being abused or insulted in comparison with those who had physical disabilities (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). This report was instrumental because it shed more light on the personal factors among the disabled fraternity and how they dictated their possibilities of encountering different forms of bullying and abuse (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). The emerging insights could help future researchers and policymakers consider appropriate strategies to help most affected individuals.
In the 2021 annual report by UNESCO, it occurred that disabled children aged between 13 and 15 years had increased chances of encountering different forms of abuse in their environments (UNESCO News, 2021). These problems affected them both in school and in their neighborhoods. The most likely reason for such a trend was because they were transitioning from childhood to their adolescence. The physical and emotional changes taking place in their bodies were a leading personal factor in the increasing possibility of discrimination and subsequent bullying (UNESCO News, 2021). This observation could guide experts and policymakers to meet the demands of more learners during the identified age bracket and ensure that they record positive educational outcomes.
The possible impact of bullying on children with disabilities is an area that has received numerous support from different investigators. In their study, Berchiatti et al. (2021) realized that all forms of bullying were detrimental in nature and affected the overall mental and cognitive well being of the victims. Specifically, the majority of them recorded increasing levels of anxiety, stress, reduced emotional intelligence, and low self-esteem (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021).
Most of these individuals withdrew from most of the learning and social activities designed to support their needs. Consequently, such individuals found it hard to grasp most of the contents delivered in the classroom. This issue could explain why disabled persons in mixed schools continued to record poorer grades in comparison with their non-disabled classmates. In aged, disabled learners, the problem of bullying was pervasive and predisposed them to depression and stress. In a study by Gao (2020), it occurred that violence and verbal abuse in learning institutions could take different shapes. In advanced cases, the affected children could develop additional mental and psychological problems. In the worst scenarios, some of the victims could choose to quit school or even commit suicide. The complexity of these outcomes was a valid reason for learning environments and educationists to consider various interventions that could help deliver better outcomes (Berchiatti et al., 2021). The implementation of appropriate policies and guidelines could set the stage for helping more teachers to challenge bullying against disabled learners directly. Such a move was evidence-based and capable of empowering these students to realize their academic and developmental aims.
The nature of the identified problem in the completed literature review calls for an effective intervention guided by the concepts of educational psychology and human development. The first attribute guides educationists to master how children learn, the nature of the necessary resources and methods, the best processes, and personal differences. The consideration of such aspects guides the educator to provide the relevant guidelines and support to ensure that human development is realized (Gao, 2020). Based on this understanding, Bronfenbrenner’s model stands out as a powerful framework for developing the best intervention that could help prevent cases of bullying against disabled children in their respective classrooms.
The selected model asserts that biological attributes and environmental aspects influence a child’s overall development. This bioecological framework identifies various systems that help educationists identify and mitigate barriers in the learning process (Gao, 2020). The professionals need to begin with the micro-system since it revolves around the individual. This attribute will help the educator learn more about the child and consider the best ways to empower him or her. The mesosystem describes the relationships of the individual with the surrounding environment. The teacher will consider the relevant approaches to make the environment inclusive and capable of minimizing cases of abuse (Gao, 2020). The exo-system will focus on the wider external settings whereby development could be achieved. The macro system will entail the cultural attributes capable of affecting the learners and inhibiting or promoting abusive tendencies. His framework also provides the chrono-system to embrace emerging concepts and ideas that could help improve educational processes while overcoming bullying against disabled learners.
Based on this understanding, teachers and policymakers can consider the use of the identified framework to introduce ideas and practices capable of maximizing resilience. The model will allow educators to identify the major systems and tackle predictors of bullying directly. The professional will then form a multidisciplinary team to guide the victims and non-disabled learners in the classroom (Gao, 2020). An inclusive approach would help improve the level of resilience and create opportunities for reduced bullying. The beneficiaries of this intervention will find it easier to challenge all forms of abuse. They will go further to introduce extracurricular activities that can allow the learners to get rid of their biases.
A sense of belonging will emerge whereby the learners will form better social groups and disregard the established social tendencies. These beneficiaries will also learn how to report and shame those who engage in bullying. The majority of them would also be willing to engage in other sports activities (Berchiatti et al., 2021). The process, therefore, needs to be pursued in such a way that it resonates with the concept of educational psychology. This means that the professionals will implement the intervention model within the wider teaching process (Øksendal et al., 2019). More learners will receive personalized instructions, counseling, support, and guidelines based on their personal capabilities and disabilities. These efforts will make the intervention effective, capable of influencing the learning process positively and eventually help mitigate the pervasive problem of bullying.
Motivation for Problematic Behaviors in Regular and Special Education
Problematic or disruptive behaviors are common occurrences in a classroom setting. Teachers experience unwanted behaviors in special education as well as when teaching the general population. However, male students have proved to be the cheeky ones with 80% of the reported cases being mischievous committed by boys (Gao, 2020). Most of these problematic acts are committed during the lunch hour or break time when there is minimal teacher supervision. However, there are many factors that contribute to delinquent behaviors, impulsivity a personal factor that causes pupils to tomcat without giving prior thought to their actions. Nevertheless, the condition may be caused by underlying psychological disorders which predispose the victims to act badly. Additionally, lack of interpersonal skills may cause students to nope cope well with others in the classroom. Therefore, students act differently because of various issues affecting their lives at the moment.
Students dealing with emotional and behavioral disorders need to receive regular instructions in a special education sessions since their behavior is too maladaptive for coping with the general population. To encourage them to behave uprightly, the teachers can employ the token economy. In this program, the students earn points or tokens for every instance they exhibit positive behavior (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). The tokens and points are redeemable at the token store after they have been accumulated for a certain period of time. However, to ensure the effectiveness of the token program, the teachers must reward positive behavior consistently while the items in the store must be genuinely interesting or motivating to the students. Therefore, the programs call for careful preparation and the institution must commit resources to ensure the token store is effectively equipped.
The other intervention method is a classroom behavior chart which tracks the level of discipline of every student. The student behaving positively progresses upwards on the chart while the ones who behave negatively fall downwards. Therefore, the chart encourages students to become accountable for their actions and this helps the teacher to monitor the progress of the students (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). Nevertheless, the system may fail to work if the difficult students stay perpetually at the bottom of the chart. The focus should be positive to the highest degree and the students kept motivated. The chart’s intervention can be reinforced by the lottery system where students who behave positively are given a ticket with their name on it. The tickets are then kept in a jar and at the end of the week, one is drawn, and the winners are awarded with prizes.
Students living with a disability require special care in the classroom to ensure that they get the most from their learning experience. Therefore, this calls for their protection from bullying by other students who are different from them. Then the most effective anti-bullying plan is designed with knowledge and skills, consistently trained, and used throughout the school and not just in the classroom settings. Creating a caring, safe, and respectful learning environment for all students is important to enabling affected students to feel comfortable attending school (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). There are many intervention strategies available for stopping bullying in school, but for this case study, the paper will adopt behavioral interventions because they have a higher likelihood of encouraging change of behaviors of other students toward special needs children both in the classroom and the entire school.
Whole School Intervention
Educators and schools have a responsibility to ensure children with disabilities are not being bullied or discriminated against by other students in the school. However, it is important to note that the most effective anti-bullying interventions feature other whole-school approaches for challenges such as health promotion, mental health, and social and emotional learning for early school leaving. Therefore, the school will not have to implement new intervention strategies since it has other programs running. However, the school will have to take a comprehensive approach to teach or sensitize the students about disability and the challenges that these students experience in their lives (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). The second step is teaching other students to offer assistance instead of condemnation to the special needs children. Creating awareness of the plight of special needs children within the general population of the school increases the level of care extended to them. Nevertheless, the school ensures that it has laid good school and classroom rules and established good supervision during breaks and during game times.
Additionally, the school should establish an anti-bullying policy for everyone in the school, including the non-teaching and teaching staff, students, and parents/guardians. In this case, the board of management is responsible for ensuring that the school has an effective anti-bullying strategy that is differentiated for children living with disability in the school. Isolation from peers is the main factor that encourages bullying for all children. Therefore, the intervention strategy should ensure that the normal and special needs children all co-exist peacefully within the same school settings (Lekhal & Karlsen, 2021). The board of management of the school should encourage cultural, vision, and organizational changes which are inclusive of the teaching methodologies. The students will be taught how to live peacefully with special needs children and to offer them the assistance that they may need while at school. To ensure that the needs of the children are adequately addressed, school policies and practices will adopt a bullying prevention policy that will accomplish the following reasons.
In the classroom, it is important to raise awareness among the second graders that children with disabilities need special attention and love. Often, special needs kids feel isolated, anxious, bullied, and socially excluded frequently. Therefore, the classroom teacher has a responsibility to ensure that these children are not discriminated against or singled out for bullying by other students because of their underlying conditions. Therefore, the teacher should ensure that children with disabilities are not isolated and have been granted the same opportunities to interact and create friendships with their peers (Gao, 2020). To this end, children with special kids in the classroom will learn using the same methodologies as the other children, including engaging in group work. Additionally, the teacher will set up inclusive extracurricular activities that encompass the needs of disabled children. These students will be encouraged to engage in extracurricular activities but there will be peer monitoring. Moreover, during the breaks, the teacher will encourage and promote the independence and interaction of all students. However, children with disabilities will be taught friendship skills, including how to form a group, cooperate, develop, and show empathy.
During classroom sessions, the teacher should address the communication needs of children with disabilities. The teacher should focus on skills development for the special needs children, which includes improving their self-esteem and resilience, cooperation with their classmates through group work and role-play (Gao, 2020). Additionally, the classroom teacher should establish an environment that caters to the needs of all students, including the disabled ones. This includes formulating effective teaching strategies and learning practices to ensure that there are positive student-teacher and peer-peer interactions for all second graders in the classroom. Moreover, the support given to disabled children should match their level of needs. The teachers should supplement the support with instructions on how the students can get their independence.
Based on the previous class experience, most of the students had a fixed mindset about children with disabilities. They could not believe that they were in the same class with students who were different from them and learning. Therefore, the study revealed that most students did not know how to behave toward those with a disability or different from them. As a result, they thought bullying others was fun and did not think about the impact their actions had on their fellow students. On the other hand, disabled children indicated that they found it challenging to learn in an environment where they are bullied or belittled by their peers. Students who had no disability are more likely to respond negatively when asked about their intelligence and ability to complete academic challenges. However, after creating awareness of the challenges facing disabled students and the importance of treating them positively, most students indicated a willingness to change their behaviors of bullying special needs peers. The response from the second graders was the same for the entire school with students indicating that they were willing to change and offer their support to their disabled schoolmates.
In regard to learning, behavioral, emotional, and social developments, it was important to consider the context in which they took place. A simple approach that was selected for this class is the use of labels to distinguish students with various types of disabilities. These learners have behaviors that resulted from inherent psychiatric disturbances. Therefore, the special needs students in the class of second graders tended to be reactive rather than active. The most prevalent symptoms from these students were phobia or withdrawal from class and curricular activities. In such a case, the students were encouraged to form a friendship with others and to avoid being alone. The students were included in the peer mentoring programs, which aided in their optimization of socializing and skills. These students were taught to deal with peer rejection and learning difficulties. The cognitive reaction of the second graders was solved by encouraging the special needs students to regulate their behavior through self-reinforcement, self-monitoring, and anger management tactics. Since the students were young, they were taught to redirect their behavioral approaches towards positive reinforcement and response cost. However, in some instances where the students threw tantrums, a combined approach such as involving family therapy was used. The success rate of the above measures goes a long way in reinforcing positive behavioral, emotional, and social results.
After further research in trying to understand the possible outcomes of the interventions, more time was taken to review and record the results. Amongst the female students, notable differences were observed in the cognition of what the second graders understood. For students with learning disabilities, the use of visual animations literally gave them an understanding that was never present in their thought process previously. Additionally, understanding the approach gave the student the motivation to continue with the strategies of helping them to focus on classwork and peer-to-peer relationships. On the other hand, to the male student, the behavioral manipulation allowed them to formulate an understanding of the importance of stopping bullying others and focusing their energy on math skills.
Second graders are a delicate set of children that need constant care and supervision to ensure that they are not bullying each other or engaging in disruptive behaviors. Therefore, in the matter of physical strategy, it was important to understand the level of the disability first before selecting an intervention method. Some of the students needed special input from a killed specialist while others needed little management to live with their conditions. For example, the hearing-impaired students needed hearing aid devices and noise cancellation earphones to stabilize them. However, the main strategy involved empathizing with the importance of developing social interaction skills and independence. Therefore, the students were encouraged to involve themselves in emotional development and communication activities to enhance their hearing skills. The students with the hearing impairment were assisted by assigning personal agents who customized the learning target for the student. Hence, the research reveals that the therapeutic approach needs a behavioral approach, which tunes the preferences of the child in a way that enhances their functional communication and attentiveness in class.
Bullying remains one of the predicaments learners with disabilities encounter in their learning environments. Different forms of abuse exist that define the nature of this issue, such as name-calling, insults, exposure to allergens, and violent behaviors. The occurrence of these victimizations make it impossible for disabled learners to remain in their social groups or record positive educational results. The proposed intervention appears practical, evidence-based, and capable of supporting inclusive classrooms that have reduced cases of bullying.
Problematic and disruptive behaviors are a challenge that all teachers and administrative staff comes across. However, handling each behavior can become a daunting task. Different behaviors are caused by different factors. Thanks to educational psychologists and researchers there is a way to focus on the student’s state of mind to find out the reasons why students act out or misbehave. There are many factors to why students misbehave such as attention-seeking, home life, emotional disturbances, anxiety, disabilities, and even teacher strategies when handling problematic behaviors. There are negative reinforcements that could cause unwanted behavior. There are intrinsic and extrinsic motivations that could explain why students misbehave as well. Some students get a sense of satisfaction when they misbehave or do it simply for attention. Most of the time there is an underlying reason for every behavior.
To understand why students behave in a problematic manner, the teacher should have documentation and an observation schedule to find the appropriate intervention targeting specific behaviors. It is important to recognize that problematic behaviors occur in every setting either regular or special school environments. This is explaining why using the motivational perspective in educational psychology is important when selecting the intervention for a particular educational setting. The paper has discussed several interventions that can help in targeting problematic behaviors. Some of the tools identified include positive reports, whole-school intervention, classroom setting intervention, and behavioral intervention plans. Nevertheless, although the problematic behaviors can prove to be a challenge, the results gained from the second graders’ class will be important in the future because they will help administrators and teachers in targeting and reducing unwanted behaviors and bullying in schools.
Lastly, teachers need to understand the elements and events that predispose their students to engage in bullying behaviors to manage the situation effectively. In the class of second graders with a special needs child, many factors contributed immensely to other students bullying their colleagues living with a disability. First, the students were not oriented to understand that people are born and abled differently. As a result, many viewed the disability of others as a point of ridicule rather than their personality. Secondly, to some of the students, it was the first time they met someone with a disability, and they could not comprehend the differences between themselves and that other student. However, after carefully explaining to them the condition of their fellow students, they became empathetic while others offered to help the students to enjoy classwork by integrating them into group work.
Berchiatti, M., Ferrer, A., Galiana, L., Badenes-Ribera, L., & Longobardi, C. (2021). Bullying in students with special education needs and learning difficulties: The role of the student teacher relationship quality and students’ social status in the peer group. Child & Youth Care Forum, 1(1). Web.
Duchesne, S., & McMaugh, A. (2018). Educational psychology for learning and teaching (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.
Falla, D., Sánchez, S., & Casas, J. A. (2021). What do we know about bullying in schoolchildren with disabilities? A systematic review of recent work. Sustainability, 13(1), 416-433. Web.
Gao, W. (2020). Anti-bullying interventions for children with special needs: A 2003-2020 systematic literature review. HLK.
Kirschner, P. A., & Hendrick, C. (2020). How learning happens: Seminal works in educational psychology and what they mean in practice. Routledge.
Lekhal, R., & Karlsen, L. (2021). Bullying of students who receive special education services for learning and behavior difficulties in Norway. International Journal of Inclusive Education. Web.
NESCO News. (2021). Bullying rates are higher for children with disabilities. UNESCO. Øksendal, E., Brandlistuen, R. E., Holte, A., & Wang, M. V. (2019). Peer-victimization of young children with developmental and behavioral difficulties—A population-based study. Journal of Pediatric Psychology 44(1), 1-4. Web.