After the Fixing

Long-time readers of this blog know that Nigel unfortunately has a history of being bullied (click here and scroll down). So far, at his new school, he has not encountered any bullying or harassment, which is a welcome relief for both of us. But I am not one to sit back and take things for granted. No, not I. I am a planner, a preparer. A what-if-it-happens-againer.

And so, last week I attended a seminar on bullying intervention strategies hosted by ORPTI. They are a fantastic organization that presents parent training workshops throughout the state of Oregon. Last year, I attended their incredibly helpful and informative Autism & Puberty seminar. Other workshop topics include IEPs, early intervention, transitions, behavior, and many more. I highly encourage any Oregon residents to sign up for ORPTI’s e-mail mailing list, and you will receive notifications of upcoming workshops in your area, which is exactly how I found out about the one on bullying.

Being the seasoned parent of a child who’s experienced every type of bullying known to bullydom, the information in the first half of the seminar was not new to me. But parents of younger special needs kids would definitely benefit from the topics that had been presented, including how to recognize the different types of bullying, the difference between teasing and bullying and when teasing is not teasing, the myths surrounding bullying, the causes, how to help your child to not be a target, how to talk to your child about bullying, school policies on bullying, dealing with parent reactions to bullying, how to decide appropriate strategies to address bullying, and being involved at school. These are all things that I have years of experience in doing, unfortunately.

But what I don’t know enough about – and the main reason why I attended this seminar – is what to do when you’ve tried every single strategy and your child is still being bullied and the school is doing nothing about it. I can tell you this – it does not feel good. That much I know. I’ve been there. Like a cornered cat, I hissed for a while and then summoned all my strength and jumped the wall behind me to get out of that situation, and I took my son with me. That was when we started homeschooling, which was almost two years ago. I knew that it would be temporary (thank God – as a single parent, my bank account couldn’t take it for very long), but it was what we both needed. My son begged for help, I could no longer fight the school, and I didn’t know what else to do. Now, after attending the bullying seminar, I do.

In my opinion, schools focus far too much on “fixing” the ASD kid and not enough, if any, on the bullies. They put the ASD kids in social skills class, role-play with them, and teach them how to respond when bullied. But do they teach disability awareness to their peers? They teach Internet safety, birth control, recycling, and other non-academic subjects. So why not awareness? I kept asking and pleading for the school to teach my son’s peers about autism, the Regional Autism Consultant was more than willing to do it, and the school never scheduled it. At the seminar I attended last week, I learned how to make that happen: you write it into the IEP. “Where?” I asked, wondering why I hadn’t thought of that before. In the “related services” section. Just like that.

Of course, it’s rarely that simple. So I was very glad when the workshop presented some helpful forms on taking things to the next level – notifying school administrators and then the district offices, higher if you need to. I found the online versions of information that all special needs parents should have. Click here for 10 Steps to Notifying School Administrators of Harassment Concerns, scroll down to the Handouts section, and click “Notifying School Administrators” to get the PDF. For another helpful PDF on disabilities and harassment, click here and scroll down to the Special Education section. Click “What Can You Do If Your Child with a Disability Is Being Harassed by Other Students?” for the PDF.

The bottom line is that when bullying is targeted at someone with a disability, it’s not only mean, it’s discrimination. And the more we know about what we can do, the better we will be able to advocate for our kids.

19 thoughts on “After the Fixing

  1. mama edge

    Excellent timing for me. Long story, but yesterday a bullying situation came to a head at school, and this morning I am escorting Taz into the building to see the principal befpre classes start. I’ll be bringing you and your information with me. Thanks!

  2. Meg

    Wow, thank you for this! I’m signing up for that newsletter now and you’d better believe disability awareness will be in our next IEP. Though, like goodfountain, I pray I never need it.

  3. Kim

    This is why I just LOVE our little blogging world! THANK YOU for sharing this information. The Roc is in kindergarten now but I can see that this information may be needed in the future. I hope I don’t need it, but fully understand the nature of children and the pack mentality.

    You are correct that when bullying targets someone with a disability it is discrimination–I’ve never thought of it that way.

    Thanks again

  4. CorrieHwe

    Wow! Thanks, Tanya. I hope I don’t need it. So far our school system has a “zero tolerance” for any kind of bullying. I found out with my older son who got injured in a “boys will be boys” kind-a-way. I brought it to the principal’s attention, just an FYI. As soon as I left both boys were called into the office and the one boy sent to in school suspension for two weeks.

    The entire 5th grade at Jonathan’s school lost recess privileges for a few weeks when administration found out about a game they were playing singling out certain students.

    Yesterday Faith told me about learning about disabilities in school and making posters in art.

    It sounds like this might be the exception from what I’m reading in the blogging world.

  5. Nicki

    It definitely makes sense that, instead of just trying to train kids with special needs to deal with others who may tease them, they should also focus on teaching all children that bullying is certainly not okay in any way.
    Also, as far as social skills training for kids with special needs, it seems to me that some social skills training programs do more harm than good, at least for the “short run.” A lot of times they focus on teaching kids social skills that would be used by, say, a business man, instead of on social skills that would be used by a typical kid. For instance, teaching kids to shake hands with each other and say, “Hello, how are you,” would not help a 10-year-old as much as teaching him things like, “Whats up” doesn’t mean look up at the ceiling and that slapping five isn’t a violent gesture. Ya know?

  6. Casdok

    Really good idea to write it into the IEP. But so sad that it should have to come to that.
    Fingers crossed that Nigel’s new school continues to be positive.

  7. pixiemama

    You are so right – fix the child with ASD’s behavior but not the bully’s? Wrong messages going every direction there.

    I’m glad Nigel is doing better.

    xo

  8. kyra

    i hate that nigel was ever bullied. hate it.

    thank you for this link. i hope to never need it for fluffy’s sake. but i’m glad the information is out there for all ‘our’ other kids in the school system.

  9. Gavin Bollard

    Great post and some really interesting points.

    I personally didn’t have too much trouble with bullying at school because I tended to;

    a. Keep out of the way of bullies
    b. Be less reactive
    c. “Sacrifice” my personality to be amusing instead.

    I think I was relatively sheltered at school.

    I was stunned when my son first started school and was required to sign (every year) an anti-bullying contract. All children at my son’s school are required to sign it.

    Thus far, he has not been bullied (well, not badly enough to tell us about it) but if I ever discovered it was happening, I’d be up at the school and talking to them about the “contract” immediately.

    I just can’t fathom how bullying of any kind could be tolerated in modern schools. It certainly isn’t in my son’s school.

  10. Carol

    Oh boy, too bad I didn’t have this information a year ago or so; J was verbally bullied–not by his peers, but by a borderline sadistic aide! We did everything we could – talked with the teacher, sent e-mails, etc., but never went any further. Nothing ever got resolved, so we pulled J out of school. I will always regret not doing more.

  11. Jen

    Thanks so much for the information and the links. My little girl has Autism but is mainstreamed in Kindergarten. She is having a very hard time dealing with a boy in her class that is constantly picking on her. The teacher has moved her but it has now escalated to the point where my daughter does not even want to be anywhere near this little boy. I will also be looking into adding some type of ‘disablility awareness’ to her IEP. That is a terrific idea and other children would definitely benefit from a class like this! So glad the school year is almost out though!

  12. ellie

    hey, i read your blog about children with autism being bullied.
    over the past few years, (im in year 12) i have been bullied by a boy with autism, he was new at our school and people did pick on him and i became friends with him, and a few months later he had a crush on me, i didnt know and we talked a bit and i told him about this boy that i liked (not him) and he started abusing me, calling me names, he also did the same thing to my sister, he posted abusive blogs about me and my sister, including death threats. We took it to the school principle, with all the printed pages of abuse. nothing was done because of his autism,
    we took it to the police because the abuse became physical and we were getting pushed over, thrown to the ground, into walls, he even kicked one of my friends right infront of a teacher and they did nothing.
    he posted our personal information on a web site that millions of people use every day, his main was of abuse was through the internet but it soon changed to upfront and personal, a few months after all this had passed and we had just left it, i was talking to one of my friends and he stormed over and grabbed me by the neck and strangled me then spat on me. The school finally kicked him out for strangling me. its been a year since that happened, but the emails, the blogs and the harrasment on the new site formspring. it carries on. this boy is older than me, what he has done to me, he never got punished for what he did to me, he has his sisters abusing me calling me a slut, calling me a liar, he has tricked people into believing that he never did any of the stuff and his family believe him.
    i was wondering if you could help me understand from your side being a parent with a child with it, and also just saying that its not only them getting bullied, they bully to.

  13. Tanya Savko Post author

    Hi Ellie,

    Thanks for stopping by. I am sorry to hear about your terrible experience with the boy you had befriended. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable, whether autism is involved or not. If the boy has an official diagnosis of autism, here in the US he would have what’s called an IEP – Individual Education Plan – which is written by his teachers, parents, and any therapists who work with him. Any behavioral problems would be addressed within the IEP, and that would encompass the bullying, which would certainly be dealt with. I’m not familiar with how such issues would be handled in other countries, but I sincerely hope that something can and will be done about your situation.

    Best wishes,

    Tanya Savko

  14. katie rhodes

    I am writing through tears only a parent who has been through this could know. My 13 year old son has been a target for years. After our public school not acting we moved him to a privat,”Christian” school,where the bullying is worse! Here is the tricky part,we haven;t told the school of his diagnosis of PDD for many reasons. Is there a way with private school to get them to respond properly to the bullies without outing our son disability? We are at the end of our rope. My son just told me he is hopeless. He is too young to feel hopeless!

  15. Tanya Savko Post author

    I’m so sorry to hear that you’re going through this. Unfortunately I’m not sure what to suggest outside of the public school district. I’m certain you have compelling reasons for not disclosing your son’s diagnosis to the school, but I did want to say that when I was finally, finally able to get my son’s school to talk to the kids who were bullying him and tell them about autism, everything changed for the better. It made a huge difference for the kids to know the reason for my son’s differences, and they started helping him instead of taunting him. I’m not saying we never had any other incidents after that, but the bullying vastly decreased after the kids had some awareness of autism. Disclosure made a positive difference, and I would encourage you to consider it, if you can. I know it’s hard to make that leap and to trust, and of course you know your son’s situation and only you can make that decision.

    Best wishes,

    Tanya

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