Q&A Section – Does bullying belong in an IEP?

This is the question of the month as featured in Issue Number 10

Question: Can bullying being put into an IEP?


In the USA and the UK bullying can be addressed in the IEP (Individualized Education Program).  In the USA, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires public schools to provide FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education in the least restrictive environment to their individual needs through an IEP (Individualized Education Plan.)  According to Special Education Attorney Jennifer Laviano, “Bullying is a special education issue when it involves disability based harassment and/or because their disability prevents them from responding in an appropriate way to being treated cruelly.” They need the tools to handle harassing confrontations. You need to be able to feel safe in school. Not recognizing mean behavior is one of the major components. Not being able to quickly process and find an appropriate response or even be able to respond are all major components for ASD kids.

If there was a major incident or if bullying isn’t being addressed then it needs to be put into the IEP. If it was one minor incident and the school handled it quickly and efficiently then maybe you don’t need to call a PPT meeting and have it put into your child’s IEP. If you do decide that bullying needs to be addressed using the IEP, here are some things to note.

In the IEP it needs to be stated that:

  • The child is more vulnerable socially and needs help with social skills“>social skills
  • Needs to be noted that the parents are concerned
  • Look at coping strategies as well.
  • There needs to be clear goals and objectives. The goals need to broken-down into socially pragmatic skills. Give them a social tool box to handle socially difficult situations.
  •  Examples of specific objectives for an IEP include but are not limited to: he/she will learn when she is being excluded, she/he will learn how to advocate for herself when she is being isolated, he/she will seek adult support when recognizing mean behavior.
  • Getting the classroom teacher the school psychologists and the speech pathologists to all work together to help your child learn coping mechanisms, as well as, appropriate responses.


Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby

Leslie Burby is a former Editor of Autism Parenting Magazine and a public speaker on autism related issues. She is the author of three autism related books: Emotional Mastery for Adult's with Autism (2013); Early Signs of Autism in Toddlers, Infants and Babies (2014); and the children's book Grace Figures Out School (2014).

  • Avatar Jeri-lyn Cumiskey says:

    VERY interesting. I teach a special day class and I have seen this happen a lot. Most often, my students are taunted and since several of them are more impulsive, they defend themselves and it appears to be ten times more aggressive than the kid who started it. I’ve known kids with disabilities to just snap on their perpetrator only to find themselves suspended while the bully just gets a slap on the wrist.

    I love the idea of putting a goal for this in the IEP! I’d love it even more of we could just put the bullies in a more restrictive environment and just let the other kids be kids and have fun.

  • Avatar ann sumich says:

    Had I known my son was being bullied I’d have pulled him from public school. As happened later in the “bullier’s” life he was sent to prison for 7 years because he picked a violent fight…
    By the way, me son is doing extremely well: college degree, excellent job, etc.
    Yes, it was a lot of work to get him there…

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