“Together, we are stronger than bullying”

sm-FrankLatham03 Frank Latham knows about bullying. Over one summer he went from being the second shortest kid in his K-8 school and often badgered for it, to growing nine inches and becoming one of the school’s tallest.

“They weren’t so comfortable with putting me down after that,” he said.

By sharing his own experiences of being bullied he was able to bond with the more than 110 people who attended his seminar about learning to prevent bullying people with developmental disabilities.

Classified with a learning disability, Latham brought both a professional and personal experience with disabilities into his program. He has a unique insight into the struggles of students with disabilities.

The seminar, presented by the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, was held Thursday in the Toms River library branch. Many of those who attended the seminar had a chance to share how they were bullied.

“I was born with cerebral palsy,” said one young man. “It seems people have always made fun of me because I can’t walk.”

One adult woman told how someone in her group home harassed her. Another said her mother was overbearing and she said it felt like being bullied.

“Eighty percent of people with disabilities experience bullying,” said Latham. “Often people who are bullied did nothing to the person who bullies them.”

“Can comedy be a type of bullying?” a person asked.

“That depends,” said Latham, “it can. You have to ask if it was intentionally meant to harm you. If so, it absolutely is bullying.”

“We collectively have the power to make a difference and to change what happened into something that never happens again,” he said.

He recommends steps to deal overcome bullying.

  • Instill confidence in your disabilities and abilities. People with self-confidence and self-esteem are less likely to become victims.
  • Recognize the effects bullying can have on you: changes in mood, eating habits and sleeping patterns, along with signs of physical injury are markers that can be recognized.
  • Communicate with all parties involved in the incidents, including teachers and counselors. Document the bullying events. The bully and the victim are equally in need of education.
  • Seek support because no one should feel inferior or afraid, and there is no shame in asking for help. The better one understands about asking for help, the better one will be able to deal with bullying.

Disability harassment is illegal and New Jersey has some of the strongest laws in the country to protect people.

The program will be repeated 6 p.m. Tuesday Oct. 21 at the Little Egg Harbor branch, 290 Mathistown Road. The program is free but registration is required. To register telephone the branch 609-294-1197 or go to the library’s website www.theoceancountylibrary.org , click on the “Events & News” icon, then click on “Calendar of Events.”

What is bullying? Acts, words and behavior towards an individual that intends to be hurtful and includes an imbalance of power.
Four types of bullying: Verbal: teasing, gossip, name calling, embarrassing jokes or threats. Emotional/social: uses social power to cause emotional pain and can include group exclusion, intimidation and public ridicule. Physical: actual physical harm or pretending and threatening harm. Cyber bullying, is now the most common type of bullying and the most insidious because the bully does not have to be present. It includes harassment through electronics such as texts, email, social media and instant messaging.
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