Can you imagine, in this day and age, a kid at school getting bullied because they were blind, or deaf. Surely not right? What about a kid getting bullied because they had a learning disability? 5 Kiwi families give advice on dealing with learning disability bullying.

It’s almost unbelievable but this happens daily in New Zealand schools.

Of course kids will be kids. But as parents we’re all teaching our kids about tolerance, and accepting and embracing differences right? And in our schools, which all supposedly have a zero tolerance to bullying, bullying a child because they had ADHD, or dyslexia, well that would be a community outrage right?

Apparently not.

Not only does this scene play out most days in our schools, but the families involved are being devastated by this. Kid’s, who already have so many emotional, physical and mental challenges to deal with, are being traumatised. Parents are at a total loss. And often the only answer is to move the kid from the school entirely!

Is this the New Zealand we want to live in?

The world is jam-packed full of hatred.

And our only chance to balance out all the hate is by rising above it, and truely embracing our differences. And if we can’t, as a whole community, and as a whole country, then none of us are any better than the hate merchants we love to ridicule.


Bullying in New Zealand

Bullying in New Zealand schools is still a huge problem. It’s even responsible for a number of the suicides that give New Zealand the highest suicide rate in the world.

We’ve been talking about bullying in schools for decades now. And over the last decade schools have apparently moved to a ‘zero tolerance’ on bullying, whatever that means. Either as a country we’re just paying lip service to this problem, or New Zealand kids are just inherently cruel. Because the statistics say we are failing our children. In fact, and incredibly, almost a third of Year 4 kids report being bullied on a weekly basis or more!

Bullying statistics in New Zealand schools
Source: Pinkshirt.org.nz

Here’s just a few quick things to think about with bullying generally:

How to deal with learning disability bullying – 6 Kiwi families speak out

The inspiration for this article came from a comment posted on our Kids with sensory issues page. Helen’s comment had quite an effect on us:

Hello can any one tell me how to cope with a 13 year old boy who is on medication for ADHD since he has started school and 2 years ago was diagnosed with sensory disorder. He is causing havoc at school and told the school he would be happy if they expelled him so he could stay home… Sadly he has no friends… The kids at school have called him a retard and a waste of space and i am sure he has retaliated verbally back to them. Has any one had anything similar?

Now of course we know bullying exists in schools. And we all know that kids can be cruel.

But our experience of modern primary schools has been really positive. Bullying really is taken very seriously. And learning disabilities aren’t hidden away, in fact they’re highlighted. And kids are taught about what they mean, and how to work with the kids in their classes with different learning styles.

So it did still come as a bit of a shock, when multiple parents commented on our Facebook post. These parents all came out saying their child with a learning disability had experienced bullying in schools!

Fortunately though, these parents had some great advice to offer:


Helen’s comment totally resonated with Dalene on Facebook. Her family took the homeschooling route with their son:

Yes. Us. This year. I could have written that!

We are now with Te Kura / homeschooling. Our son is ADHD, Sensory Processing AND Aspergers. We had numerous school meetings, Board of Trustee meetings, and stand downs. Eventually he just refused to return. They expelled him. Now he’s home and happy as!


Tracey couldn’t speak highly enough of the Jean Seabrook Memorial School. This is a school that’s purposed designed for kids with learning disabilities. Bizarrely it’s the only school of it’s kind in New Zealand. And equally bizarrely it receives no Government funding (so does, unfortunately, have very high fees):

The big decision was made, in the middle of his 4th year at school we enrolled him into a private school – Jean Seabrook Memorial School. JSMS is a school for children with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). The school started in 2005 after frequent requests from parents for this type of schooling for children with severe SLD that were not coping emotionally, or educationally, in the mainstream school system.

Within a few weeks my boy was happy again, he was excited to go to school every day. He had friends, a best friend and now 3 years on he has a class full of best friends. Additional to the social success, he is learning to read and write, which we had thought wouldn’t happen for him. Slowly but surely he is learning more every day.


Sarah is big into the community/support group concept. She mentioned aa great Facebook page for ADHD family support:

We have a lovely support group ADHD NZ Support Page where we all have kids that are having similar issues. Is homeschooling an option as it really sounds like he’s not happy at school?

My 13 year old ADHD boy, whilst being way behind academically and emotionally, still enjoys going to school. He too has always struggled making friends. Also a good thing to do is find some other kids/parents with similar issues near you and organise for the kids to hang out and hopefully make friends with each other.


Donna chimed in and spoke of support services as an option. If you’re looking for information on support services, check out Special education overview:

Heck the poor lad.

What annoys me is that no doubt you’ve had to fight to get any diagnosis or assistance and he’s now 13! If only professionals would recognise that earlier detection, that is in preschool, makes for much better outcomes for these children and their families.

I’m not a professional but I can spot a toddler on the spectrum a mile away. My heart goes out to you.


Aretha has only been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 39 (if you’re looking for adult support services, check out ADHD.org, or the Mental Health Foundation). She had some sage advice for Helen:

I feel for you, and truly hope you find something that works for him. Kids can be so cruel. I went through school and university with undiagnosed ADHD. I was only diagnosed 3 years ago at the age of 39!

There’s nothing wrong with us, our brains are just wired differently. We are like Dory from Finding Nemo!

Best of luck to you. Give a big hug to your son.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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