Today I wanted to write a little bit about bullying because October is Bullying Awareness Month. I want to give 3 important tips that you must know about bullying – and I’m saying this specifically for my autism moms, my special needs moms, but my regular parents can benefit from it also because I think we all need this information. A study that Autism Speaks did shows that 60% of children are more likely to be bullied when they have special needs as compared to 25% of children without special needs. So that means that there’s an increasing chance that our au-mazing gifts are going to be bullied sometime in their life. So what are three things that you must know to help protect them?
Tip Number 1:
You have to teach your child what bullying looks like. A lot of our kids don’t know what bullying looks like, they don’t understand the concept. So, you have to demonstrate it to them, you have to be the mean guy. You have to have pretend moments or acting time when you can show them what bullying looks like – it can be someone who wants to take your lunch from you and make you feel really bad. At the beginning of last school year Zachary came to me and said a student in his class told him that he needs to bring $5 to school and give it to him. I was like “What?? What do you mean?” He said yes, one of his friends from elementary school told him that he needs to get $5 tomorrow or else! And I said, “Or else what?” And he takes his hands and shows me that he’s going to take his hand and push him or push his face against something. So I sat down and explained to him that’s bullying, and if he does that you tell him no, that you are not going to bring him $5 tomorrow, and that your mom is going to call his mom. The key of it was letting him know that this isn’t a normal situation – you’re not supposed to bring someone money, and if someone makes you feel unsafe and if you don’t there’s a consequence, that’s a form of bullying. He didn’t know that because he’s never described this behavior before. So I had to sit down with him, and show him, and give him different scenarios.
Tip Number 2:
You want to communicate with your child. You want to keep that communication open. This is the time when you have to communicate with them and make sure they feel very comfortable coming to you to talk about it. You have to create a safe space for them because a lot of our kids aren’t sure how to say anything or what to say. So you’re gonna talk about it more often, you’re gonna show them what it looks like, and create a safe space for them. For my parents with children who are nonverbal, you still want show it to them. You still want to demonstrate that that’s not okay. Look at your child, they will be showing you discomfort with school. It’s going to be something uncomfortable for them. They may protest going to school, they may cry at certain times. They are gonna show you other signs that are saying something is going on. Stay on top of it.
Tip Number 3:
You want to make sure that you create a plan with the school. Sit and talk with the teachers and let them know “hey this is a time where other kids may want them to do something, and I want you guys to take time to either talk about it in class or take time to observe what’s happening with the students in your classroom.” Be aware when people are saying things their tone of voice, the way another child responds to things. When children are being bullied you will always see the response in their face, in their change of mood, in not being happy when it comes to school and it has nothing to do with academics. So this is a time when you have to create a plan with the school so that you can have that on going communication. Check in on them, I can’t say this enough. You gotta check in, you gotta keep communication open, you gotta make sure that you are a safe place they can come to speak to about. The next thing you want to do is make sure that you’re talking to the teachers. If they have a system in place that when bullying is occurring how will they respond to it? Is it a conversation that they’ll have? Are there regulations that they have in the school? Are there consequences that are going to happen as a result of it? Create it, because it differs every place you go. I can’t tell you one thing because every school and every system has different anti-bullying rules. But they key of it all that I’m always going to come back to is: communication. It’s making sure you have a safe space, and of course teaching the children what bullying looks like and doesn’t look like, and emphasizing how it makes a person feel. No one ever wants to feel uncomfortable or like their rights are being violated. The bully doesn’t want to feel it either, so they need to understand more about it. Our schools need to speak about it more so that our children are more comfortable identifying it and knowing what the system is, and what are the things we do when it does occur.
Has your au-mazing gift ever dealt with bullying? Feel free to share your stories in the comments below. It’s good to start conversations around this topic so we can help educate others so they can start having these conversations with their children.