This is the first post in a new category called Tips from the Trenches. I’ll try making lists like these of various topics on a regular basis to contribute to that category.
1. Communicate with your child. Often kids will not elect to tell parents about bullying, for whatever reason. Nigel said he didn’t want me to worry, so he didn’t tell me until I started noticing his classic stress symptoms: bald spots from pulling out his own hair and badly chapped lips and mouth area. Pick up on any non-verbal cues your child has to indicate stress and then ask them if someone has been bothering them. Sometimes you have to drag it out of them, as I did with Nigel.
2. Remind your child how smart he/she is and how much you love him/her. Bolster his/her self-esteem as much as you can. Assure your child that you’ll do everything you can to get the bullying to stop.
3. Contact your child’s teacher(s). Diplomatically state what is happening and offer any suggestions you may have for stopping it.
4. Within a week check in with your child to see if there are any changes in the situation. Check in with the teacher(s) to see what has been done and report to them what your child has indicated about the situation now.
5. If the situation has not improved within two weeks, contact the dean or principal. It is a good idea to be familiar with them anyway, because they need to know all of their special needs kids, and they like to be aware of how involved you are as a parent.
6. Keep tabs on the situation. Keep checking in with your child. I made the mistake of assuming that things were okay and not asking. We must be vigilant advocates. If we don’t advocate for our children, who will?
7. Be the squeaky wheel. If necessary, have the dean or principal schedule a meeting with the bully’s parents (with the dean or principal in attendance). Do not accept bullying. Unfortunately we can’t all homeschool our children. But what we can do is send a very strong message to the schools that we parents of autistic kids will not tolerate bullying or any form of harassment. Don’t accept “Kids will be kids” or “This is a difficult age group” as excuses for bullying. It’s discrimination against someone with a disability. And it needs to stop.