It doesn't go away, does it. No matter how many reports you hear about, how many movies of the month, or how many bully-sides, our kids are being victimized. The "mean girls" who tease your daughter about her hand me downs, and the cruel kids who persuade your Aspie child to do something stupid for their amusement, are still around. No matter how many "Character Counts" programs are adopted, bullies are a reality that simply must be recognized.
I have written a full series about what to do about bullying but yesterday got a post on a list serve on which I participate and took the time to respond. Candidly, I had forgotten about my blogs (sorry, I have been remiss) and re-invented the wheel. Some of what I said, however, is worthy of reprint.
When a child with special needs is bullied, an IEP meeting needs to be set and supports need to be added to help the child develop the skills that he or she needs to ward off bullies. I have spoken about some strategies - goals to teach self-advocacy skills, increased aide supervision, school wide tolerance programming. But, I had a few additional ones to add.
Social skills instruction is critical and programs like Social Thinking from Michelle Garcia Winner are great programs that can be implemented. With the advent of iPads, video modeling will be helpful for most of our kids who need direct instruction, scripting and practice. Talk to the head of the drama department at the high school and see if he or she has some kids who want to help act out scenarios that can be videotaped. Look up Autism Ambassadors on line http://autismambassadors.org/ started by an amazing teen named Zak Kukoff. His handbook is available on line at Barnes and Noble.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-autism-ambassadors-handbook-zak-kukoff/1114333293?ean=9781452235257&itm=1&usri=9781452235257 Zak started this peer mentoring program and has curriculum for different scenarios including things like finding friends at lunch, cafeteria etiquette, school dances. I don't know if he has bullying materials but his program uses typical peers to model how to do typical things and to practice with children with autism so that they learn how to do typical things. The model of the program can be used for any activity, including how to respond to a bully, how to say no, how to self advocate, how to report (and not tattle), etc.
One of the other ideas is to talk directly to general education teacher (whether your child is included or not) and see what they are doing to integrate tolerance/acceptance curriculum into their regular curriculum. All teachers read to students at younger grades. In older grades, they do journal writing, blog posts, etc. There are many books that they could recommend or topics they could use that would get kids talking about these issues. At the 4th or 5th grade level, Consider the book Rules by Cynthia Lord. My daughter read it when she was in 4th grade and then recommended it to her teacher who read it to the entire class. It is about a 12 year old girl with a brother who has autism and a family that seems to revolve around his disability. She feels burdened by having to help care for her brother and annoyed at his need for rules to live by to conform his behavior. She learns much about herself after meeting a non verbal teenager in the occupational therapy waiting room (she has to take her little brother to therapy). She becomes his voice by creating cards for his communication book. It is a great read and would open up lots of discussion avenues for a caring and creative teacher.
At the second or third grade level, consider The Bully Blockers, by Celeste Shally. This book is about THIRD GRADE BOY who witnesses a classmate with autism being bullied and organizes a club to help defend the victim. It is only 32 pages and probably below 3rd grade level but is about a 3rd grader. Maybe some third grade teacher wants to read this to her class. Better yet, maybe all third grade teachers want to read this to their classes. Maybe the elementary school principal who takes the honor students and lets them be crossing guards wants to start a Bully Blocker club and those kids can have hats or sashes and walk around at recess and make sure kids are treating each other well.
Bullying starts at a young age. We need to start teaching about how to stop it and why it is wrong at a young age.
Here are some lists of books that include story lines that relate to bullying issues.
For your part, supporting a child who is being bullied and doesn't know it yet, or may just be beginning to understand it is difficult. You want to literally kill the bully, you want to go and talk to his parent, you want to tell your kid to just punch him in the face. The truth is that your child has to learn how to handle this on his own and that is a BIG UPHILL JOURNEY.. and a journey filled with self-discovery, awareness, and a lot of pain. Here is a section from an essay my son wrote about his own self-discovery - which began in second grade and continued for many years thereafter. I had removed him from a full inclusion general education public school to a private day school for children with learning differences. I provide this exceprt because when he did start figuring it how, he had a lot of issues and thankfully had a lot of counseling support. When they finally get that they are being abused, well, we all have seen bad things in the press about what happens. I provide this so you can feel what our kids go through, in the words of someone who survived (he is now 20, a senior in College!): :
The minute I started at that special school, I learned something important. I was different. I didn't put that label on it then. From my mind then, I discovered that there were other kids like me but that all of us were not like the kids at the "other" school. I came to hate that "other school?" I thought everyone hated me at that "other school". I made a friend at my new school and he was nice to me. At that "other school", I was not anyone's friend; I was more like a pet that the other kids tolerated at times and abused at others. I had been pushed around, ignored, and laughed at (not with). They put me on the wrong bus for fun. I didn't get it then; but when I finally got a friend and he was nice to me, I felt intense hatred for that "other place" and those "other kids". Later, when I worked with counselors and looked back, I realized that my differences had resulted in my ridicule and what I thought were friends were really bullies using me for their own enjoyment. The special school was safe.
DO NOT GIVE UP and DO NOT GIVE IN! Never accept that "bullying is a part of life", or "we survived, they will survive". No child should have to feel emotionally or physically unsafe when they go to school and any school who tells you that they don't have a problem is lying. They may not have reports because kids are too afraid to "tattle" but it exists. Your kids will tell you. Now, you be their voice and try to work towards a more productive solution.
November 1, 2013
IQ Testing: Should I Say No?
January 11, 2012
What's in a Label? When a Rose By Any Other Name May Not Be a Rose.