This week, we were asked to share statistics about what we’ve learned while researching our mission for the Clean Start Challenge. As I spoke with parents and experts about their personal experiences with bullying, I’ve discovered that one of the most vulnerable groups of children who find themselves bullied on a regular basis is disabled kids. I recently got the opportunity to participate in a conference call spearheaded by AbilityPath.org, in coalition with the Special Olympics, Best Buddies and “Glee’s” Lauren Potter. The call took place in conjunction with the release of an important study called “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” which provides powerful stories and statistics about how disabled individuals are repeatedly bullied by their peers.
According to the “Walk a Mile in their Shoes” report, “research conducted over the past 20 years has demonstrated conclusively that children with disabilities are significantly more likely than their peers to be the victims of bullying. One study in the British Journal of Learning Support found much higher rates of bullying in children with special needs. The researchers indicated that 60% of students with special needs or disabilities reported being bullied compared to 25% of the general student population.”
Lauren Potter, who stars as Becky Jackson, Coach Sue’s confidante and sidekick in “Glee,” shared personal stories of how she confronted bullies in her own school. Potter was born with Down syndrome, and despite this disability, she has demonstrated incredible confidence and perseverance in the face of adversity. While recounting an incident in which a group of boys attempted to taunt her, Potter says she turned around and told them to “just grow up.” Potter’s own mom shared how proud she is of her daughter being a role model to children with disabilities, and the pair hope to inspire others to develop positive self-esteem while “Disabling Bullies” head-on.
Also participating in the call were Timothy and Anthony Shriver, who spoke on behalf of the Special Olympics. As children with disabilities are mainstreamed into regular classroom settings, the Shrivers believe it is imperative that educators and parents teach children at a very young age about the importance of accepting those who are different from themselves.
Finally, Sheryl Young, the CEO of Community Gatepath and Abilitypath.org talked about the organization’s mission to provide education and support for families with children who have disabilities as well as provide strategies that can be implemented to help reduce the risks of bullying. For more information, visit Abilitypath.org. And check out Lauren Potter and her mom’s powerful message on behalf of the organization. Lauren is truly an inspiration!