Every child at some point will be the target of unwanted attention from someone at school. But does having ADHD make your child a stronger magnet for bullying behavior? Unfortunately, the fact that they may be more boisterous than other children, blurt out comments or can't wait their turn, may unintentionally cause or escalate an altercation with a bully.
My son, before he took medication for his ADHD, tended to find friends more forgiving of his behavior, frequently other special needs children. After speaking with our specialist, he pointed out that children with ADHD may not pick up on or understand all the social cues that other children seem to be aware of intuitively. This gap in understanding can make them appear different and therefore more vulnerable to bullying behavior. So what do you do when your child is being bullied, perhaps directly because of his or her ADHD?
Notify the school: First and foremost it is the school's responsibility to provide a safe environment in which your child can learn. Make sure you contact the principal and teachers, and meet to discuss a plan to address the situation. The school should try to handle the matter confidentially so as not to put your child at any additional risk. If you don't feel that you are being taken seriously enough, let the school administrators know that you are aware that the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) stated in a Letter to Colleagues that schools are obligated to investigate and take prompt steps to end any harassment based upon an individual's disability or be in violation of federal civil rights laws.
Help your child understand how to maintain a low profile: Talk to your child about being more aware of his or her behavior, such as speaking in a lower voice or not commenting on the conversations of others. For my son, who is a visual learner, we found DVDs and CDs that model the behavior we are trying to encourage.
Minimize high stress interactions: There are some cases where removing your child from a potentially difficult situation is the best answer. For example, you may not want to push your child into a highly competitive sport where teammates may be too aggressive about your child's focus and attention. For us, after an incident on the school bus, we decided to drive our son back and forth to school. We simply knew there was no adult supervision on the bus besides the driver. Since intervention is critical to diffusing a bullying incident, we decided to avoid this altogether.
And finally, talk to your child on an ongoing basis. Ask him or her questions about their day and how they interacted with others. Keep actively engaged so that you can identify if something is wrong and intercede before a small social skills issue becomes something more serious.