BulliesTarget Kids with Health Concerns

Bullies often pick on kids with health issues such as allergies and weight problems. Bullies make cruel comments, threaten and tease them about their conditions.

Two studies looking at kids with food allergies and kids going through weight-loss programs reported:

  • Eyal Shemesh, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues found that almost 32% of kids with food allergies reported bullies harassing them  about their allergy, which often involved threats with food.

  • Rebecca Puhl, PhD, of Yale University, and colleagues reported on a study where 64% of teens at weight-loss camps reported weight-related victimization by bullies who were not not just schoolmates but often friends, coaches, teachers, and parents too.

Shemesh’s group analyzed surveys of 251 established food allergy patients, ages 8 to 17, and their parents at a single allergy clinic in the Enhancing, Managing, and Promoting Well-Being and Resiliency program.

Any bullying or harassment of these kids was reported by 45% of them and 36% of their parents, although with poor agreement when related to reasons other than the food allergy.

Being victimized due specifically to food allergies accounted for most of these cases, with 32% of the food allergic kids and about 25% of their parents reporting such bullying.

Almost all the bullies were classmates (80%), and most bullying happened at school (60%).

The most common form was teasing (42%), followed by waving the allergen in front of the child (30%).

Notably, 12% had been forced to touch the food they are allergic to and 10% had food thrown at them by the bullies.

Bullying was significantly associated with poorer quality of life scores and greater anxiety, which the researchers noted was independent of allergy severity. While most of the kids taunted by bullies said they had told someone about what happened, parents knew in only about half of the cases.

To increase disclosure of bullying, “Clinicians might consider asking a screening question about bullying during encounters with children with a food allergy,” Shemesh’s group suggested.

While it’s hard to compare the results with those of other studies, general population rates appear to be 17% to 35%, suggesting that food-allergic kids may be bullied or harassed more than their peers, they pointed out.

picture of bullies making fun of overweight boyPuhl’s study included 361 kids, ages 14 to 18, surveyed online while at two national weight-loss camps.

34% of the respondents were in the normal weight range, while 24% were overweight and 40% were obese.

The large proportion of healthy-weight kids was unexpected, but “program administrators confirmed that a portion of enrollees had experienced significant weight loss and returned to camp for support with weight-loss maintenance.”

The likelihood of weight-based victimization rose with weight, with odds ratios of 8.7 for overweight and 11.7 for obese kids, although those of a normal weight after weight-loss treatment still were at some risk.

The most common form was verbal teasing (75% to 88%), followed by relational victimization (74% to 82%), cyberbullying (59% to 61%), and physical aggression (33% to 61%).

While bullies can be found most anywhere, these studies found that bullying behavior came most frequently from:

  • Peers: 92%

  • Friends: 70%

  • Physical education teachers or sport coaches: 42%

  • Parents: 37%

  • Teachers: 27%

“For those youth who are targets of weight-based victimization at school and at home, healthcare providers may be among their only remaining allies,” researchers reported. “Thus, it can be especially helpful for providers to promote adaptive coping strategies (e.g., positive self-talk, social support, problem-focused coping) during patient visits with youth who are targets of weight-based victimization.”

Both groups of researchers acknowledged the limitation of self-reported data about bullies without independent verification or a control group and that their sample populations may not have been representative of the general population.

Source: Pediatrics (online)



Are Bullies Born or Raised?

In an article by psychotherapist, Katie Hurley, she writes that children are not born bullies; bullies are something they become.

Ms Hurley believes that bullying is a learned behavior that is used in response to stress.  Bullying is an attempt to gain superiority or control over another.

bulliesShe states that while some studies indicate that some bullies have naturally aggressive and/or hyperactive personalities from the start; that should not be taken to mean that all “spirited” kids will bully while all kids who are mellow or laid back will not become bullies.

Her premise is that bullies have immature social skills. They see threats where there are none and identify other kids as hostile when they are not.  Bullies lack compassion and empathy. They have difficulty understanding how others feel.

Ms. Hurley states in her article that while it is hard to find compassion for a bully, it can be useful, however, to understand some of the reasons why kids become bullies:

1. Strained parental relationships.  Bullies often lack warm, caring, and involved parents.  Parents of bullies tend to be highly competitive and place unreasonable demands on their children to be superior to other kids (academically, socially, athletically, etc.).  These parents often have prejudices based on race, sex, wealth, and achievements.  They teach their children to compete at all costs, and to win by whatever means.

2.  Inconsistent discipline.  Bullies often lack consistent discipline at home.  Their parents tend to have difficulty setting limits and/or struggle to hold them accountable for their behavior.

3. Poor academic performance.  Some kids bully in response to academic stress.  When they struggle in the classroom and feel that they are not being helped, they may begin to lose hope.  When hope is lost, children act out.  This can translate to bullies seeking “revenge” on the higher achieving kids.

4. Unsupportive peer networks.  Children who are isolated and feel disliked or unsupported by peers often turn to bullying to gain some social control.  Their distorted thinking causes them to believe that controlling other kids = having friends.

5. Child abuse.  There is ample evidence that children who are physically abused by their parents turn around and bully other kids.  Abuse is cyclical.

6.  Victims of bullies.  Many bullies have actually been victims of bullies at another time.  Due to lack of support, poor social skills, and relying on learned behaviors, these kids use bullying behaviors to try to gain superiority and control so that they will no longer be victimized.

7. Low self-esteem.  When you add up all of the possibilities, it should come as no surprise that bullies tend to struggle with self-esteem.

There are steps to take to avoid raising bullies. Below are a few tips to work on building positive relationships:

  • Praise your children often.  Praise their big accomplishments as well as the little things that make them great every day.
  • Listen when they need to be heard.
  • Help them problem solve.
  • Encourage positive peer relationships.
  • Build positive sibling relationships.  Avoid comparisons, as this breeds unhealthy competition among siblings.
  • Set limits and hold them accountable for their behavior.
  • Teach empathy every day.
  • Carve out special time with each child and spend that time doing something that you both enjoy.
  • Talk often, even when you think they are not listening.
  • Stay calm; model appropriate conflict resolution skills.
  • Decrease exposure to violent TV, movie, and video content.
  • Be present.

Ms Hurley finishes her article on an up note, reminding the reader, again, that bullies are not born; bullies are raised. 

She states that we all have the opportunity to raise children who will choose to be empathic, kind, and loyal friends.  All we have to do is teach them those skills.

Katie Hurley blogs at Practical Parenting.




Protecting the Rights of Persons with Certified Service Animals and Trained Therapy Animals in Canada and the US

Advocacy for barrier-free, public access for persons with disabilities is an ongoing process. Most of us  recognize that persons using wheelchairs and those who are blind and using a service dog should be able to be  accommodated in restaurants, grocery  stores, department stores, and houses of worship as well as public buildings. However, many persons whose disabilities are not visible, are being denied access when accompanied by their service animals. Who are they? They are children and adults who have any type of a disability for which their physician has recommended a service animal.

Please visit the web site of The Canadian Registry of Therapy Animals and Service Animals (CRTASA) at www.crtasa.com. They are providing persons with disabilities a way of validating their right to barrier-free public access. They are Canada’s first official centralized registration service issuing membership services and photo I.D. card registration in Canada and the United States to people with disabilities, their certified service animals, handlers of service animals in training and owners of trained therapy animals.

There are membership details for people with disabilities using certified service animals for assistance, trainers or handlers of service animals in training or owners of trained therapy animals in Canada and the US. Those who train, handle or use a service animal or own a trained therapy animal can apply for the new, official, standardized CRTASA Photo ID Card designed to offer verified CRTASA members with great membership savings on animal related purchases at participating businesses as well as enhanced barrier free access to public places across Canada and the USA by showing the official standardized CRTASA Photo ID Card when using a service animal for assistance.

CRTASA is also collaborating with businesses and service providers across Canada and the USA  to increase promotional saving discounts for their  members. If you are a business or know of a business that might be  interested in becoming one of their Corporate Accessibility Fellows please email them at: corporatesponsorship@crtasa.com


What’s Being Said About “Can Do” Street…

By: http://ilearntechnology.com

What it is: Can Do Street is a website that has games, lessons, and videos focused on character development for young students.  The site is membership based but does have some free content. Hector’s Being Selfish is a free video on the site that teaches students what it means to be selfish.  The cartoon is easy to understand and helps kids recognize selfishness and what it means to be a good friend.  Throughout the video, students are given the chance to interact by answering questions.

How to integrate Hector’s Being Selfish into the classroom: This videos helps children recognize selfishness and offers ways that they can be a good friend.  Character education needs to be taught, we can’t expect that all children will naturally pick it up.  Kids come from different backgrounds and differing expectations at home.  Hector’s Being Selfish is a good video to begin the school year with, and would be a great reminder mid-year.  Watch the video as a whole class and invite students to vote on their answers throughout the video.


Sensitivity to the Differences In Other Children

There are three “Can Do” Kids that have disabilities. Annie wears a hearing aid because she has  hearing loss. Orrie uses a wheelchair to get around and Mickey is blind. These characters are there to introduce young children visiting  “Can Do’ Street  to kids who can do much of what they can do despite the fact that they may look different to them.

Mickey and his dog Muggins make children aware of the role of a guide dog. Mickey talks about how Braille enables him to read music so he can play the saxophone. Annie shows visitors that her hearing loss doesn’t prevent her from being good at basketball or playing the drums in the community center band. Orrie needs a wheelchair to get around, but he can swim, is a straight A student and sings in the community center chorus.

These characters show young visitors to “Can Do” Street that kids with disabilities make good friends who don’t let their disabilities get in the way of having fun.


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