How to Prevent Bullying by Making Classrooms More Inclusive
Bullying is a problem for many children, but those who have a disability, like cerebral palsy, or are perceived by their peers as being different, are at a greater risk. That risk is as much as 63% greater than for other children. Teachers have a responsibility to create a safe environment for all children. One way to prevent bullying and to support all kids is to make classrooms more inclusive.
The Importance of Inclusion
Inclusion is an idea that is gaining momentum and it means making sure that all children have the same opportunities, regardless of disability or other factors. A child with cerebral palsy may have a range of limitations, such as difficulty walking or speech delays. That child should still be able to participate in recess, physical education, and all areas of the academic experience. Not only is this important for individuals, but inclusion is also important in fostering an environment that de-emphasizes differences and reduces incidents of bullying.
Make Participation Mandatory
Participation is the key to inclusion. A child who does not participate will not have the same opportunities as others. Having a disability can make a child hesitant to participate, whether in reading aloud, or answering a question, or in playing a game. For the teacher, it is easy to let that child stay comfortably on the sidelines, but doing so does not promote inclusion. Mandatory participation, calling on students randomly, and other strategies make sure everyone gets involved, and over time will help that child develop better self-confidence.
Make Classrooms Accessible to Everyone
Teachers should pay attention to the special needs of all their students and design the classroom for everyone. For a child with a physical disability, for instance, there should be plenty of space to give him access to all areas of the room. Items that children are expected to be able to get from cupboards or shelves should be reachable by all students.
Vary Instruction and Assessment
All children can benefit from instruction and assessments that are varied because all children learn differently. Variation especially benefits children with special needs. Use a variety of instructional strategies, like discussions, reading, games, projects, teamwork, individual work, and media, so that all learning styles are covered. Varied assessments also help include all children, even those who do not do well on traditional tests. Teachers can use projects, self-and peer-assessments, essays, written tests, presentations, and oral tests to benefit all students.
Empower Students to Be Inclusive and Combat Bullying
While making a classroom inclusive for all and preventing bullying is the responsibility of adults, teachers can also engage students and empower them to be a part of the process. Teachers can do this by talking openly about expectations for inclusion and kindness. When children know what the expectations are, they will be more empowered to speak up when they see their peers excluding someone or even bullying another student. A formal process for reporting such incidents also helps to make it more likely that children will speak up because they will know what to do and what is expected of them.
Bullying is a problem that has terrible consequences, for both the perpetrators and the victims. Too often the victims are already vulnerable, children with disabilities that impact self-esteem, mental health, and opportunities. When teachers take steps to make their classrooms safe and inclusive, everyone benefits and bullying decreases.
First person perspective about living with cerebral palsy is available through Alex Diaz-Granados of Cerebral Palsy Guidance, a comprehensive website with quality information on cerebral palsy. To reach Alex or any of the editors at Cerebral Palsy Guidance feel free to check out their about page.