Bullying and deaf children
We know from talking to families that most deaf children and young people don’t have problems with bullying at school or at leisure activities. But as a parent you might have questions about what you should do if your child does experience bullying. It’s important to know how to support your child if they’re bullied, and how to work with the school to make sure the bullying is dealt with effectively.
How might deaf children experience bullying?
Bullying can take many forms. It can be verbal, emotional or physical, and it can happen at school or other places like guides, scouts, sports groups and after-school clubs. Bullying can happen face-to-face, over the phone, through texts or online (cyberbullying). Bullying can also be unintentional, for example a classmate not inviting a deaf child to their party because the deaf child finds it difficult to join in games and this is seen as them not ‘wanting to be friends’.
Some examples of things that might make a deaf child more vulnerable to bullying include:
- not understanding what’s going on in lessons or break time
- being more direct than hearing peers
- being less able to pick up on social cues, both verbal and non-verbal, for example, a sarcastic comment or tone of voice.
- appearing physically different because of using hearing aids, implants and radio aids
- teaching arrangements which emphasise their difference (e.g. being taught separately from peers, being given different work or being supported by a teaching assistant)
- negative attitudes of others towards any kind of disability
- lack of deaf awareness among staff and other children
- a history of over-protection by adults, meaning that they have little experience of standing up for themselves or defending themselves within their peer group.
How is my child protected from bullying?
All schools should have their own definition of bullying, and their own anti-bullying policy which should include procedures for reporting and responding to bullying. Your child’s school should make sure that their policy is accessible to and reflects the needs of deaf pupils.
Equality and anti-discrimination legislation requires schools to:
- take reasonable steps to make sure deaf pupils aren’t treated less favourably than other pupils in terms of the school’s arrangements for preventing and dealing with bullying
- take measures to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- promote equality of opportunity between pupils and encourage good relations between deaf and other pupils.
Need more information?
If you’re concerned about deaf children and bullying, have a look at our free resources for parents, professionals, and young people.
These resources all focus on school, but the information and advice they offer applies to any situation your child might find themselves in.
Bullying: Advice for parents of deaf children
We have produced a guide that gives information about:
- the steps you and your child can take to decrease their risk of being bullied
- improving your child’s confidence and self-esteem
- developing your child’s social and communication skills
- keeping your child safe online
- choosing a suitable school, and working with the school to improve deaf awareness
- noticing if your child is being bullied (or is bullying another child)
- how to help your child develop the skills and knowledge to be able to get help if they’re being bullied
- what action to take if you think your child is being bullied
- what the law says about bullying.
Bullying and Deaf Children: A guide for primary and secondary schools
In addition, we have produced a guide that you can pass on to your child’s school or Teacher of the Deaf. It gives information about:
- the challenges deaf pupils face in school
- preventing bullying by creating a safer school environment and promoting deaf awareness and positive attitudes to deafness
- developing the social skills, confidence and self-esteem of deaf pupils
- how to identify and respond to bullying of deaf children.
We have lots of information about staying safe online and what to do if your child is being cyberbullied (bullied online on things like social media networks, forums, instant messaging or text messaging).
- The Buzz (our website for deaf children and young people) has information on cyberbullying, including advice on where young people can go for help.
- A flyer for young people, How to stay safe and smart online
- Information for parents with tips on what they can do to keep their child safe online.
- Online safety lesson plans for secondary school teachers.