Whether you’ve experienced it firsthand or from afar, it seems everyone has a story about bullying. Dr. Blanca Salazar may have more stories than most. As a pediatric hematologist treating young patients with hemophilia, she says the topic was a regular one during her 18 years of practice in Mexico.
“Children with hemophilia sometimes have a different life than other kids,” she told Vita. “Many times they can’t take part in all of the activities their friends do and that can lead to bullying.”
The numbers back her up. One study’s findings noted at the World Hemophilia Congress in Scotland earlier this year found that 43 percent of children with hemophilia in the U.S., or their parents or caregivers, reported bullying. That’s higher than the reported prevalence of bullying among U.S. children of all medical backgrounds.
With that in mind, we asked Dr. Salazar, who is also CSL Behring’s Global Program Director in Hematology and Thrombosis Research and Development, for some advice on how parents can prevent bullying.
Be Open About Hemophilia: Dr. Salazar says she always tells her patients to be open about their health and explain to other children what hemophilia is and how it affects them. Each child may have a different level of comfort in opening up about their condition, Salazar says. For those who are shy, she adds, some gentle encouragement may be needed from parents.
Get the School Involved: Keeping teachers and school administrators informed on a child’s needs and medical condition is an important part of keeping them safe and healthy. Not only will the school know the right steps to take if a child has a bleed, teachers will also know to keep an eye out for potential bullying or harassment in the school community. Teachers can also facilitate peer support for a child with hemophilia by helping explain the condition and their needs.
Create a Plan: Some children may benefit from an individualized education plan developed by the school in consultation with parents. The U.S. government’s StopBullying.gov site says such plans “can be useful in crafting specialized approaches for preventing and responding to bullying” and creating a safe environment in which children can learn and socialize.
Of course, any approach to preventing bullying must be tailored to the child. The right approach for one child may not be the best way to handle the issue for another. For more resources on bullying prevention, check out the Hemophilia Federation of America’s Bullying Prevention Toolkit and StopBullying.gov’s guide for youth with special health needs.