Study explores bullying that targets students with disabilities — and how to fight it
02 May 2023 By Chuck Green, CYFS
Being bullied is not pleasant for anyone. But for students with disabilities, the effects can be more damaging — and the risk of bullying is disproportionately higher.
Bullying is a public health crisis linked to adverse educational and mental health outcomes such as poor grades, negative perceptions of school, depression and anxiety. Students with disabilities have a greater risk of being victimized, as well as more social difficulties than peers without disabilities, and may be less responsive to existing bullying intervention programming.
Despite the potential of significant, long-term detrimental outcomes, little research has been done on these students’ experiences and needs.
Miriam Crinion, graduate research assistant at the Buros Center for Testing, is using funding from a Society for the Study of School Psychology dissertation grant to explore the unique social experiences of adolescent students with disabilities who have been involved in bullying. She is particularly focused on the support systems and coping strategies that enable students to manage bullying behaviors.
“I’m passionate about students with disabilities, who have been marginalized for so long — both in society and the education system,” she said.
Through interviews, Crinion is gathering data from 15 students with disabilities who have completed Target Bullying Intervention Program (T-BIP), a free individualized program housed in the Nebraska Bullying Prevention and Intervention Laboratory, directed by Susan Swearer, chair of the Department of Educational Psychology and Crinion’s faculty mentor.
The program is designed for students ages 7-18 who are involved in bullying. Supervised trained specialists conduct a three-hour cognitive-behavioral intervention tailored to specific student concerns, such as depression, anxiety, cognition and how they problem-solve for their particular situation. Specialists compile data, write reports and present findings to parents, teachers and others to help address provide specific recommendations to stop bullying involvement and restore relationships.
Thanks to the grant, Crinion has hired two undergraduate students from the Department of Sociology to help transcribe interviews and code data. This summer and fall, she will prepare her dissertation transcript.
She is on track to complete her doctorate in August 2024.
Crinion will use her findings to help researchers better understand the lived experiences — particularly the social challenges — of students with disabilities who have been bullied. This will enable school psychologists to identify and improve evidence-based psychosocial support programming and create safe, supportive school environments for students with disabilities.
“I’ve seen how these students struggle to make and keep friends,” she said. “I want to do anything I can to help them have better social experiences at school.”
College of Education and Human Sciences