VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As Canada celebrates Pink Shirt Day — also known as Anti-Bullying Day — the Developmental Disabilities Association is asking people to spare a thought for one of society’s most vulnerable groups.
“Kids with developmental disabilities are more likely to get bullied than typical children because they’re vulnerable, and very often bullies pick on people who don’t have as much power,” says the group’s executive director Alanna Hendren.
According to government statistics, 47 per cent of Canadian parents report their children as being victims of bullying. Separate studies have shown kids with developmental disabilities are twice as likely to be targeted.
A spotlight was placed on the issue earlier this month after video of an Australian boy with Achondroplasia dwarfism went viral. Nine-year-old Quaden Bayles can be seen weeping and threatening suicide because of constant harassment from his peers.
Not all such cases receive such attention.
“A lot of children with developmental disabilities don’t understand insults or put downs or sarcasm, and don’t understand they’re even being bullied,” Hendren says.
While there may be an impulse to protect children with developmental disabilities by separating them from the rest of the class, Hendren says a better option is to foster an inclusive environment where those with disabilities can build their communication and social skills.
“It’s really important for those kids to understand that they do have the backing of society, that they don’t deserve to be victims, and that people are around to support them.”
Hendren is calling on students and teachers alike to recognize bullying when it happens so they can step in or tell somebody.
Pink Shirt Day started in Nova Scotia in 2007 when two students bought and distributed 50 pink shirts after a new classmate was harassed and threatened for wearing pink.
The last Wednesday each February has since become national anti-bullying day in Canada.