By now we’ve all heard about the bullying epidemic in our schools and communities, but one segment of the population tends to get overlooked when discussing these issues.

In a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the biggest predictor of depression symptoms in special needs children was being bulled or feeling left out by other children.

This study collected the data from questionnaires completed by special needs children ages 8-17 and their parents or guardians about bullying and exclusion from their peers. The results showed that bullying and being left out were the main indicators of increased symptoms of depression or anxiety, not their disability.

“What is notable about these findings is that despite all the many challenges these children face in relation to their chronic medical or developmental diagnosis, being bullied or excluded by their peers were the factors most likely to predict whether or not they reported symptoms of depression,” the study’s lead researcher Margaret Ellis McKenna, M.D., said.

Parents and teachers need to sit down with special needs children and explain what bullying is and how to describe an incident if it happens to them so it can be reported and taken care of. It is also important to ask how the child is feeling emotionally and looking out for signs of depression and anxiety.

Bullying is a big problem in this country, and to stamp it out, we need to make sure that we are working to solve the bully problem for everyone.