Advocacy and Social Action

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Professor Peter Wildeman Introduction: In this paper I will discuss how I can use advocacy and social action in my field placement. I will detail whom I consider to be a population at risk, and how I can empower them to achieve an equal status the rest of society, according to the guidelines provided by the book Generalist Practice with Organizations and Communities. The populations at risk in my field placement Populations at risk are defined (Kirst-Ashman Hull, 2012) as “those groups in society most likely to suffer the consequences of, or be at risk for, discrimination, economic hardship, and oppression. ” During the time that I spent in my field placement – which is at Yeshiva Avir Yakov – I identified that children with learning disabilities and children who have difficulty with social skills are populations at risk in our school.

The reason why they are at risk is, because of the preconceptions of these children’s competence and ability to interact with pears in an effective manner, as well as preconceptions about their ability to perform normally academically. When one group in society is perceived as less competent and weak, this really makes them at risk to suffer from discrimination and oppression. My task as a Social Worker is to advocate for these populations, and to empower them. Advocacy is “representing, championing, or defending the rights of others. Empowerment is “ensuring that others have the right to power, ability, and authority to achieve self-determination. ” (Kirst-Ashman Hull, 2012) In the next few pages I will explain in what areas these children are at risk, and what I will do to empower them. There are many areas in which I consider these children to be at risk, but the main risk for them is that they are vulnerable to bullying. Because these children are perceived as weak by their classmates, others take advantage of them, and try to tease them. The terrible effect of bullying is well known, but to put more emphasis on the subject I will quote from recent esearch on the rate of bullying among children with learning disabilities, and about the fatal consequences that bullying has on children. What is bullying? “Bullying has been defined as repeated, intentional, harmful, and aggressive behavior inflicted by a person or group with seemingly more power on a person or group with lesser power. ” (Nansel et al. , 2001) Research on children with learning disabilities being bullied Mencap is an organization that helps children with learning disabilities to live their lives as normally as possible.

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They advocate for the rights of learning disabled children, and counsel their parents on many issues, from what school is best for their child, to helping these children and adolescents find work. In 2007 they did a study on bullying, it included 507 children with learning disabilities, here I will quote their findings: 82% of children and young people with a learning disability have experienced bullying. They are twice as likely to be bullied as other children. Children with a learning disability are more likely to be targeted by bullies because of their disability.

They are seen as ‘different’. They may be doing different work at school, or they may find it hard to make friends or join in play activities. Other children can see them as ‘easy targets’ because they can be made to get into trouble, or because they may not understand that what is happening to them is bullying. Like racist and homophobic bullying, disables bullying is particularly harmful as it is based on prejudice. Bullying of children with a learning disability discriminates against children who find it hard to understand bullying, to tell people about it, and to be listened to and supported.

It damages children’s self-esteem and has a huge impact on the way children and young people with a learning disability see themselves. (Mencap, 2007) The fatal consequences of bullying The government website stopbullying. gov (2012) writes about the fatal effects of bullying: Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience: Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.

These issues may persist into adulthood. Health complaints, Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied. A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Media reports often link bullying with suicide. However, most youth who are bullied do not have thoughts of suicide or engage in suicidal behaviors. Although kids who are bullied are at risk of suicide, bullying alone is not the cause. Many issues contribute to suicide risk, including depression, problems at home, and trauma history. Additionally, specific groups have an increased risk of suicide, including American Indian and Alaskan Native, Asian American, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth. This risk can be increased further when these kids are not supported by parents, peers, and schools.

Bullying can make an unsupportive situation worse. From this government article, we can see how dangerous it is when the discrimination and oppression of these children are not stopped. Also, research suggests that children with learning disabilities are twice more likely to be bullied than regular children. From my own experience I saw the same thing, I noticed that these children are very vulnerable to being bullied, and they are not able to protect themselves the way ordinary children protect themselves.

Therefore, I came to the conclusion that I have to advocate for the rights of these children, and I have to work on macro change, which is a change in the school’s policy regarding bullying of children with learning disabilities. The definition of macro change is: helping an underserved group of people, through change in policy of a government, organization, agency, etc. In this case, I will help the oppressed group of learning disabled children, through change in the school’s policy against bullying them. My suggestion for an anti bullying school program The solution that I propose has 3 steps, education, observation and a token economy.

I’ll describe each step and elaborate on it.


The most important thing is, to educate our children about the severe consequences that bullying has on the child being bullied. Sometimes children think that it’s acceptable to have fun even if another child is being hurt, and it’s not so wrong. Teachers have to make it clear to them, that such behavior is totally unacceptable, because it can destroy a child’s life.


The school has to make it the duty of every teacher, to observe the children at play time at least a few times a week. In order to see how the children interact with one another, and to observe if any child is mistreated. Observation will give them the opportunity to see if anybody is being bullied or left out.

A Token Economy

After identifying which of the children need help, as well as which of the children bully others, the teacher should work with the class through a system of a token economy. That means, the teacher will monitor every child in the classroom if they bully or not, and those who interact with others nicely will be rewarded, and the children who do bully should get a consequence.

That will encourage them to interact adequately with one another and not to bully. When we follow these 3 steps, we have accomplished the following: first, we educated the children about the consequences of bullying, which will very likely help reduce the rate of bullying, because it will make clear to the children that bullying is wrong and unacceptable. Second, we have a way to identify which of the children need help and support, and who has to be taken care of to make sure he does not bully others. Third, we have a method to encourage them to follow the right way.

There is one more intervention that is very important, and it will certainly help these learning disabled children; that is a program to teach them social skills. Professionals have come to realize the critical fact that a child’s social life is immeasurably important to his happiness, health, and development. Most school systems now recognize that it is in the child’s best interest-and, ultimately in the community’s best interest-to provide social skill instruction and remediation for school-age children who are not adjusting appropriately.

Numerous formal studies have confirmed the wisdom of this. (Lavoie, 2005) Dr. Richard Levoy – who is one of the most well known experts on learning disabled children – states here clearly that it is vital for these children to get social skills training. Therefore, I think that it is my duty to advocate to the school board to provide funding and hire trained professionals to teach social skills to the learning disabled children. Conclusion:

In the school of my field placement, the group of learning disabled children is a population at risk; they are discriminated against because of their problems with academic performance and their lack of social skills. As the school social worker, I will advocate to the school board for the rights of this group. I will work on macro change, to help this group by changing the schools policy towards them. The change will be in the following areas: the introduction of an anti bullying program to the school system, hiring trained professionals to teach social skills to the learning disabled children. These interventions will empower them to get the rights that they are entitled to, and will hopefully make their lives easier and more productive.

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