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October is National Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying is Common, Especially for People With Intellectual Disabilities
Athlete hugging his mother outside next to a track.

If you’ve ever been bullied, you know how difficult and painful it is. Bullying is unwanted aggressive behavior by another person or group of people. Common forms of bullying include physical acts such as hitting and tripping, verbal acts like name calling and threats, and social acts that include spreading rumors or making embarrassing comments.

Kids who are bullied experience depression and anxiety, isolation and loneliness, changes in their health, decreased academic achievement, and more. Bullying is also linked to substance abuse and suicide. Many of those effects can persist into adulthood.

Unfortunately, bullying is a common occurrence in American schools. Recent studies have found that about 20% of children between the ages of 12 to 18 experienced bullying.

The numbers are even worse for children with disabilities. They are 2 to 3 times more likely to be bullied than their peers without disabilities.

Because of the startling prevalence of bullying, people around the world recognize October as National Bullying Prevention Month, a month-long event to prevent childhood bullying and promote kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.

The Origin of National Bullying Prevention Month

Bullying was once thought of as a childhood rite of passage that makes kids tougher. Attitudes about bullying evolved near the start of the new millennium as people began to understand that bullying can have devastating long-term consequences.

PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center founded National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week in 2006 to bring more attention to the effects of bullying and to empower schools and parents to end childhood bullying.

In 2010, PACER expanded the week to a full month and designated October as National Bullying Prevention Month, a nationwide campaign to educate communities of their role in preventing bullying. The campaign draws support each year from organizations like Facebook, Disney, Cartoon Network, CNN, and many others.

Inclusion Reduces Bullying

“People have bullied me for how I look or because of disabilities. But Play Unified is helping people come together and build confidence.”
Joel, Special Olympics Athlete

Special Olympics supports the growing movement to end bullying. We believe that the key to creating safe and accepting environments for everyone is to provide socially inclusive attitudes, policies, programming, and resources.

That’s why we have initiatives like Unified Schools and Unified Sports, in which students with and without intellectual disabilities learn together and compete together as teammates. More than half of administrators at Unified Schools say that inclusive climates like these discourage abusive behavior and language, and reduce bullying.

The R-Word is a Form of Bullying

People with intellectual disabilities often experience hateful language that includes slurs like the R-word. A recent study found that more than half of social media posts about people with intellectual disabilities contained the slur. Calling someone the R-word is a form of bullying.

Special Olympics urges people to promote acceptance by ending the use of the R-word. Calling someone with intellectual disabilities that slur is the same as using slurs against Black people, LGBTQ+ people, and people from other minority communities.

In 2009, Special Olympics created the Spread the Word: Inclusion campaign to highlight the harmful effects of the R-word on people with intellectual disabilities and to encourage young people around the world to change the conversation.

Why the R-Word Is the R-Slur

Kantar reviewed nearly 50 million social posts in the U.S. over 2 years. Over two-thirds of posts about people with intellectual disabilities were negative and nearly 29 million contained slurs (i.e., using the word “retard(ed)” or other words combined with “-tard”).

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