How to stop school-based bullying

Published: Thursday, Oct. 8 2015 10:41 a.m. MDT

Q: My 10-year-old son has dyslexia and ADHD and takes several medications to help him concentrate and read better. I think he's getting bullied at school. He won't admit it, but he comes home sad a lot. His teachers seem clueless. What can I do?

— Lucinda M., Reston, Va.

A: Great question, and one that parents everywhere, whether their child is bullied or not, should be talking about at PTA meetings and at home. In your situation, the first step is to make your child feel safe enough to talk about what's going on. That comes from his knowing it's not his fault (kids so often blame themselves) and knowing that you — and his teachers — will stick up for him. So talk to your child about what's going on and find ways for him to tell you and his teachers when it happens. Maybe talk about it casually as you go for a walk or a bike ride.

Next, try to get the school involved in an anti-bullying campaign. There's a successful initiative in Alberta, Canada — the Teasing and Bullying Unacceptable Behaviour (TAB) program that gets results with 4th-6th graders who don't understand about kids with differences. In this case, the difference is stuttering (but any attribute will work). Kids who understood the problem or knew someone, such as a family member, who stuttered were less likely to bully. The kids who didn't know anything about stuttering or anyone who stuttered were the most likely to make fun of "different" kids.

The really great news? After going through TAB, potential bullies showed the biggest attitude change. Once they learned that stuttering was involuntary and how bullying really hurt their schoolmate, friend or even sibling, the bullying became socially unacceptable.

A lot of bullies are what researchers call "dually involved"; they've been bullied too. For those children, it usually starts at home. That's why establishing a school-based program is good for everyone.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.

(c) 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

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