Over the past several years, numerous studies have emerged recognizing the rise in bullying among school-aged kids, particularly those with learning and behavioral disorders. According to a study in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 46 percent of parents reported that their autistic kids were bullied in comparison to the estimated 11 percent of bullied kids in the general population. Likewise, according to a study in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms are nearly 10 times as likely as others to be regular targets of bullies.
To help children better understand learning and behavioral disorders and reduce the amount of bullying at schools, it is important for educators and parents to have the right tools and resources to talk with children about these challenges and what it feels like to struggle with learning and behavioral issues, such as ADHD, dyslexia, and Asperger’s syndrome. Since children with these disorders are often misunderstood by their classmates, doing empathy activities with kids can serve as a great strategy to promote both understanding and acceptance.
Brain Balance Achievement Centers, supplemental learning centers that help children struggling with learning and behavioral disorders through a drug-free, whole-child approach, has created the following empathy activities for educators and parents to share with children.
1. The Messy and Distracted Locker or Closet
Children with ADHD tend to be disorganized and often lose or forget their belongings. For teachers conducting an in-school empathy activity, they can pack a locker full of things (papers, various books, pencils, etc.) and provide the children with a list of items to find. To distract the children, the teacher can consistently ask questions. After the activity is complete, the teacher can ask questions to help the students understand how it feels to have ADHD. This same activity can be conducted by parents at home using a cabinet, closet, or storage container.
2. Through the Eyes of a Dyslexic Child
Educators and parents can show children a written sentence in which the letters in the words are flipped around. Showing a sentence to them this way is how a dyslexic child usually views a written sentence. Have the children attempt to read the sentence and then show them how it actually reads to demonstrate the challenges that dyslexic children face.
3. Listen with Your Eyes, Watch with Your Ears
Educators and parents can show children three separate movie clips at the same time with equal levels of volume. After a few minutes, ask three questions that pertain to the clips and ask them the same three questions as the first activity.
Children often make fun of what they don’t understand so by doing simple activities like these, they can gain a better understanding of the challenges so many children face on a daily basis, leading to less bullying and more camaraderie.
Dr. Robert Melillo is a researcher, professor, lecturer, best-selling author, creator of the Brain Balance Program and co-founder of Brain Balance Achievement Centers.