Bullying and children with hearing loss

Bullying is the most frequent form of violence in schools. So what is it? Bullying is intentional aggressive behavior repeated against an individual who cannot readily defend him or herself. Bullying involves a real or perceived imbalance of power and the intention to cause physical, social or emotional harm. Bullying is different than conflict. Conflict is a disagreement between two people who are presumed to be on an equal footing. With bullying, one person is perceived to have more power. In addition to the standard type of bullying that we associate with one or more children bullying another child in the school yard, a new form of bullying has now developed. There is an increase in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is in many ways worse than person to person bullying because no one else sees it and therefore stopping it is more difficult.

How do you know it is bullying?

If the child can answer yes to the following questions, it is bullying:
  • Is there an imbalance of power?
  • Did it happen more than once?
  • Is it intentional?
  • Does it cause physical, social or emotional harm?

Impact on children with hearing loss

Bullying of children with hearing loss is common. It does not only take place in mainstream schools. There are significant reports of children who use cochlear implants being bullied in schools for the deaf. As a result, it is not unusual for a child to refuse to use a cochlear implant when in school.

What is the role of the audiologist?

Everyone who works with children of any age should be aware of bullying and needs to watch out for signs of bullying behavior. When you see a child for evaluation, you should ask more than “How are you hearing today?” You should also be aware of symptoms of bullying. These include:
  • Sudden refusal to go to school, or reduced interest in school
  • Change in academic performance
  • Reduced interest in school or after school activities or family activities
  • Appears angry, sad, or depressed
  • Decreased interest in some or all friends
  • Refusal to wear technology
You can ask kids “how is school?” In addition, you can start a conversation to provide an opportunity for the child to discuss problems. Questions you can ask include:
  • Do you know what bullying behavior is?
  • Does your school have a bullying program?
  • How does your schools program work?
  • Have you every observed anyone being bullied?
  • Has anyone ever bullied you?
  • If yes, what did you do about it? Who did you tell? What did they do?

Frequently, parents do not know that their child is being bullied. The child often sees the bullying as their weakness and does not want to discuss it, even with family.

If you discover that a child has been or is being bullied, you should notify the appropriate authorities and tell the parents and then the school. If there are social work services available in your facility, the social worker may be able to make the school contact and facilitate bringing things out in the open. If not, you should look for somebody else who can help.

By assisting children deal with bulling in a constructive fashion, you can help to be successful in school and succeed as adults.