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Special Needs and Learning Difficulties

My child with special needs is being cyberbullied. What should I do?

Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can create problems for kids with special needs who might be targeted because of their differences.

Keep an eye on the sites your kid visits at home, and, depending on your kid's level of independence, use parental controls to block instant messages, chat rooms, and emails from all but trusted friends. If bullying, either online or off, becomes a problem, it may be necessary for you to advocate for your kid so he feels safe when he goes to school or participates in an after-school activity.

If you feel your child is being cyberbullied, it's important to let your school administrators know. Although no federal law directly addresses bullying, in some cases bullying overlaps with discriminatory harassment when it's based on disability, among other things. When bullying and harassment overlap, federally funded schools (including colleges and universities) have an obligation to resolve the harassment.

When the situation is not adequately resolved, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division may be able to help.

Make sure also to monitor your child's mood. Children who are being bullied can experience deep suffering and may develop depression. Some even attempt suicide. Make sure your child knows that he is loved and valued by you and plenty of other people. Look out for signs of depression, and don't hesitate to contact a mental health professional.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at childmind.org.

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