Students with disabilities are more likely than their non-disabled peers to experience bullying in school. School-based occupational therapists play a crucial role in the provision of comprehensive services to students with disabilities. Although occupational therapists have the expertise and a professional and ethical responsibility to promote the health and safety of their students, occupational therapy practice to date has not included addressing school bullying against students with disabilities. Given the importance and growing national emphasis on school bullying and the potential role for occupational therapy, a national survey entitled “Occupational Therapist’s Roles in Addressing Bullying Against Students with Disabilities,” was carried out to investigate occupational therapists’ practices, perceived competence, and barriers in addressing bullying against students with disabilities. The results of this study highlight the necessity for the profession of occupational therapy to advocate for their involvement in addressing bullying against students with disabilities due to the profession’s comprehensive background in child development and mental health in order to create safer environments for students and promote engagement and inclusion. For occupational therapists to play a more active role in supporting students at school and ultimately decrease the rate of bullying against students with disabilities, additions to curriculum in university programs are needed, as are opportunities for professional continuing education. Finally, most importantly is the need to collaborate with students with disabilities to design inclusive anti-bullying programs.
Dr. Janet Njelesani is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy and IHDSC faculty affiliate whose research focuses on equity for youth and women with disabilities. Working together with graduate students in Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy, this study will be featured at the 6th Annual Steinhardt Research and Scholarship Showcase on April 24, 2018.
Click here for more information on the upcoming showcase.