Bullying is a serious problem that can affect all children, but atypical kids are especially vulnerable because they tend to be seen as easy targets by cruel peers. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to protect your child from bullying and preserve his self-esteem, ensuring that he has a safe and happy experience at school. Here’s how:

1. Talk to your child about bullying: As early as possible, talk to your child about bullying. Explain that bullies pick on vulnerable children because they’re hurting, and being mean to other people makes them feel powerful. Tell her that bullies are driven by reactions, so she should remain calm and avoid responding – no matter how provoked she feels. Role play at home to practice remaining calm.

2. Develop an action plan: Make sure your child has a plan he can implement if bullying strikes. For example, he can walk in the direction of an adult who can witness the behavior and make sure he is protected. If he’s cornered and no adults are around, tell him to yell loudly until someone comes to his aid. He should also be prepared to tell you about any bullying that occurs right away since the behavior is likely to recur.

3. Get the school involved: If your child has been the victim of bullying, review the school’s policy and report the behavior to the principal. If the school doesn’t respond quickly enough, escalate the issue and get the school board or superintendent involved. Bullying is a serious problem with very real consequences, so never stop fighting for your child.

4. Surround your kid with supportive and loving people: When kids are bullied at school, it can destroy their self-esteem. Make sure that doesn’t happen by surrounding your child with peers, friends and family members who love and support her. Arrange playdates with kind children, spend more time with the cousins and bring her grandparents around more frequently. Make sure your child always knows that she has a network of people she can count on.

I want to hear from you! Has your atypical kid been the victim of bullying at school? How did you handle it? Leave your answer in the comment box below!