Children with special needs are victims of a nationwide silent epidemic of bullying, according to the "Walk a Mile in Their Shoes" report released today by AbilityPath.org, an online hub and special needs community for parents and professionals of children with disabilities. Full report and related resources will be released online at www.abilitypath.org at 11 a.m. PST.
"Bullying is every parent's fear," said Sheryl Young, CEO of Community Gatepath, the nonprofit organization which created AbilityPath.org. "This report and guide were developed to include children with special needs in the national dialogue and to raise the level of awareness about bullying, cyberbullying and the devastating developmental effects it can have upon children with special needs."
In collaboration with Special Olympics and Best Buddies, AbilityPath.org announced its "Disable Bullying" campaign that will engage a coalition of parents, educators, and policymakers. "Glee" actress Lauren Potter will represent the campaign as a spokesperson and be featured in its online public service announcement available at www.youtube.com/abilitypathchannel.
"This important report confirms the presence of a silent epidemic in our schools and communities," said Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics. Shriver called on young people to join the "Spread the Word to End the Word Campaign," a nationwide drive to end use of the "R" word.
In response to the abuses detailed in the report, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), announced plans to brief members of Congress. "We have to explore every option to protect children with special needs, indeed all children from bullying," said Speier.
California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson announced that he would call on schools to raise the level of awareness about the bullying of children with special needs. "I applaud the efforts AbilityPath.org has taken to bring attention to this very important issue; no child should have to endure the cruelty of bullying," said Torlakson.
Anthony K. Shriver, chairman of Best Buddies also endorsed the "Disable Bullying" campaign. "If we can teach young people to respect their peers with special needs, to see them as classmates, as teammates, as friends -- and most importantly -- as equals, then we stand a good chance of putting an end to this epidemic," said Anthony K. Shriver.