Bullying and learning differences

By Julie Rawe

At a glance

  • Bullying is when someone uses their power to control or harm someone else.

  • Not all bullying is physical — teasing or making fun of someone can be just as harmful.

  • Kids who learn and think differently are more likely to be bullied.

Bullying is a widespread problem. Many kids bully because they want to feel powerful. So they pick on kids they see as weaker or less likely to defend themselves.

Kids who learn and think differently are more likely to be bullied than kids who aren’t struggling in school. One reason is their differences can make them stand out from the crowd. They may have challenges in school, like trouble reading or sitting still. Or they may get special services, like tutoring.

Another reason is that struggles in school can affect kids’ confidence and self-esteem. Kids who bully may target kids who seem less likely to speak up for themselves.

But not all kids who are bullied are timid. Some may be hyperactive or misbehave (whether they mean to or not). They may get targeted because they are aggressive or easily upset. It’s also common for kids who are bullied to react by bullying others.

Read on to learn more about bullying and how to stop it.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Julie Rawe is the special projects editor at Understood.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Ellen Braaten, PhD is the director of LEAP at Massachusetts General Hospital.