How To Respond When Your Special Needs Child Is Bullied.

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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You feel a mixture of anger and compassion. You want to scream at the child who is bullying yours, but also scoop your hurting child into your arms. In these sensitive moments, how do you respond when your child is the victim of bullying?

Even though it happened more than 4 years ago, I can see that day clearly in my mind. It was a warm May afternoon in our hometown. My oldest son was playing baseball and I was one of the coaches. Because our family is always busy, that day being no different, my 4 year old son was also with me. I arranged a seat for him in the dugout, on the far right side by the water cooler, while I was on the field coaching.

He kept saying, over and over: “I get to sit with the bigger boys on a real baseball field!” joyfully, as if he was looking at life with a fresh perspective every day. Although he was drug and alcohol exposed at birth, he has a spirit that can light up a room and turn any frown into a smile. That’s why I couldn’t believe what I saw from the field.

The “bigger boys” were making fun of him in the dugout. Because he was different, unique, and filled with an authentic joy for life. They made fun of how loud he was when he asked them questions, or shared a thought. We knew then, and know now, that it’s a social cue he’s yet to pick up on. But we also celebrate his enthusiasm and curiosity. His questions are amazing too. We pray they never come to an end. That day, the “bigger boys” saw their opportunity to make sport out of his precious inquisitiveness.

At just 4 years old, my son understood exactly what was happening to him. He clued into their taunts and belligerent facial expressions. When I reached the dugout his head was lowered in defeat. Tears dripped from his eyes on to his shorts as he tucked himself as tight as possible into the back corner of the dugout. I wanted to wreck that entire place and send all of those entitled, spoiled, suburban punks running for cover. “How dare they make fun of a child, my child,” I thought, seething through my clinched teeth!

However, I remained calm and restrained myself. It wasn’t easy but that day I learned a better way to respond when my child is bullied.


I wrapped my arms around my son and focused on his broken heart before I did anything else.

The first response to your child, when they’re bullied, must be comfort and reassurance. Make their broken heart your focus. It’s easy, because we’re human, to want to spring into action, call the school, knock on the neighbor’s door, march into the teacher’s classroom, or call the bully out immediately. There’s a time and place for all of that. We’ll get to that in a minute. First things first- comfort your hurting child. Focus everything you’ve got in you on them.

The first response to your child, when they’re bullied, must be comfort and reassurance.

My son’s special need causes him to have extreme emotion that comes on suddenly. That day in the dugout was no exception. So the first thing I did was wrap my arms around him, comfort him, and reassure him. I looked him in the eye and told him that Daddy is here.


I protected him. This really doesn’t need much explanation because it’s hard-wired into our DNA as parents. We are wired to protect our children, especially when they’ve been hurt by someone else. Do not shy away from doing everything in your power to make sure your child is safe and cared for. That day, I turned my back to the other boys in the dugout and focused on my son, creating a barrier between him and them. Then, I set up a seat for him down the third base line, where I was coaching, so he no longer had to be in the dugout without me.

Now I know, we live in a world of over-reaction, and parents can be guilty of this more than anyone at times. After all, this is our children we’re talking about. I don’t want to be the unstable parent who jumps at anything and neither do you. Make sure you approach the protection of your child with wisdom and a 360 degree understanding of what is happening before you react.


After comfort and protection (which are both ongoing), comes confrontation. This is when things get real and you knock on that next door neighbor’s door, sit down with the principal, schedule a conference with the teacher, call a meeting with the bully’s parents, look the bully in the eye and shut the situation down.

Make sure you have a clear path of explanation when it’s time to confront. Stay calm but be firm. It’s critical that you set up clear boundaries as you move forward. Never lose your cool or walk in guns blazin, especially when you are meeting with teachers, a principal, guidance counselor, or a coach. If you lose your cool over the way your child has been treated, which is understandable, their perspective will shift away from what’s happened to your child, to you. The issue at hand could get lost.

That afternoon on the ball diamond, I politely, but firmly confronted the boy’s parents and explained what had happened. Fortunately, they sprung into action and dealt with their sons in an appropriate and just manner.


If opportunity allows, educate others on your child’s special need. Explain the facts about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Share the truths about Autism or Downs Syndrome. Paint a clear picture on what life is like with a child who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder.

Be careful not to overshare your child’s information. You never want to give out so many details that they could be used against your child. Follow suit with confrontation and approach teachers, coaches, principals, neighbors, and counselors calmly, but firmly. Your goal is to bring change and understanding, both of bullying, and special needs.


If your attempt to confront and educate is futile and the bullying continues, it’s time to take action. Only do this if you’ve exhausted other attempts, or in extreme cases. You may need to bring authorities into the situation, or file a report, or charges. As far as it depends on you, work toward resolution before you get to this point, but don’t hesitate to take action if the need arrises.

My son is unique. Actually, two of my sons are unique and have very unique special needs. The majority of the world does not, and probably will not, understand them. That’s why I must do everything in my power to bring understand but also guidance and protection. I was given this responsibility when I was blessed with the opportunity to be their dad.

Are you the parent of a child with special needs? Have you dealt with bullying or disrespectful treatment? How did you respond?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

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Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

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Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

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Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

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Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

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Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.