Project Gratitude 4

Today I am grateful for so many things.  My son, who was home sick earlier this week, is well and no one else in the family is ill.  My husband returned safely from a business trip.  I live in the state with the best weather in the nation, and humpback whales visit us every winter.  I have two wonderful dogs.  I got to participate in a whimsical blog hop yesterday and I still get to read more fun responses from my blog friends this weekend.  

I hope all of my wonderful friends both in and out of blogland have a wonderful weekend!

Protecting Victims of Bullying 8

School Pencils

Created using Swift Publisher 3. All rights reserved.

I dedicate today’s post to all of the young people who have been senselessly bullied especially to those who died because they were “bullied to death.”

Asperger’s, which is a high form of autism spectrum and an “invisible” diagnosis started me on this journey, but over the last year I have become even more horrified over the way others are treating young people with any difference. I want to help put a stop to these senseless acts of cruelty. However, we also have to help those who have survived these cruel acts to heal as we try to make the world a better place.

Therefore, this is a continuation of yesterday’s topic. You can read it here.

You have done everything you can to “bully proof” your child and they are still a victim, now what?

First and foremost as their parent your job is to protect them and to help them to heal when they are hurt, so refuse to allow anyone to tell you anything differently. I know many bully prevention programs and books tell you to let your child handle things because as parents we sometimes make things worse. You can try to let your child handle things, but if this causes more problems for your child or your child cannot handle it, Don’t listen to them.

I am telling you this because most authors of the books and programs are talking about children who develop typically, otherwise known as “neurotypical” children. Once our children are emotionally wounded they cannot be expected to handle things themselves or if they do try to handle it, they may give up and internalize negative emotions when the teacher, counselor, or principal listens to the other side and decides our child needs to change to fit in better.

Created using Swift Publisher 3. All rights reserved.

Created using Swift Publisher 3. All rights reserved.

Think about this for a moment.  You have a vulnerable child who has been repeatedly abused emotionally and even sometimes physically by his or her classmates.  The school reacts by giving the abuser detention or at the most expels the abuser for a short duration. Now the abuser comes back and tells everyone the victim is mean and got him or her in trouble. He or she does not touch the child physically and seems to no longer be bullying that child, but is that true? In the meanwhile the victim is having to meet with the counselor to learn skills to “fit-in” better. The rest of the school sees this child is different. They are fearful of being abused by the bully too and they decide to avoid the child who is different to avoid becoming the victim themselves.  No amount of role-playing or counseling is going to help the victim in this case. 

What do you do?

You can pull your child out of the school and either home school them or find another school, or you can decide to stay and work to change an ineffective system. If you decide to stay and fight, read on. If you are not staying, that is okay and you can still read further to see other options. We all have to do what is best for us and for our child.

Okay you are staying! First ask to see the school’s bully prevention policy. Next, research your local laws to see if your state has an anti-bullying law. If they don’t, check the laws that pertain to harassment, defamation of character, privacy, and to disabilities. Now contact an organization like Bully Police or a similar organization. You can find them by clicking on the link above, and they have a state-by-state contact list. They can offer suggestions and support about what your next options are. Once you arm yourself with this information go back to the school and try to get them to help.

So how do you help those who experience bullying and the ones who do the bullying?

  1. First, I know this is going to sound wrong to some people, but do not expel the bully if this is their first known episode of bullying. Instead of detention, educate them about why their behavior is wrong. Make them do presentations to others who bully to teach them about how wrong it is.
  2. Talk to the victim to make sure the bully is really changing. Enlist at least two model citizens to act as a mentor for the victim and make sure at least one of them is with the victim at all times.
  3. Reward those who report bullying including the victim. Start a rewards program where random acts of kindness are given points and a certain number of points equates to a tangible reward. The size of the reward does not matter as much as the need to reward good behavior. Simple rewards like a homework pass or ice cream are easy to do.

Bullying might not go completely away overnight, but if we all work together and encourage kindness and support the victims, it will get better while they are in school.  Let’s not make them wait until graduation for it to get better.  That is too late! 

 

Protecting Your Children From Bullies 13

©DelightfullyDifferentLife

©DelightfullyDifferentLife

Your child starting kindergarten is scary. You have heard all the horror stories about mean children. Children as young as nine have committed suicide and children as young as kindergarten were expelled at some schools. How do you protect your child and make sure they do not become the bully at the same time?

I wish I had known so many things that I know now when my children were in kindergarten. I want to share with you what I learned from trial and error and from studying other’s recommendations. First do not panic! There are still some good children and good parents. The best way to find them is to volunteer as much as possible, but a word of warning, the parents of the bullies volunteer too.

How do you recognize the good children and the good parents at this age?

This is not always easy, but one thing I learned is that children act more like their true selves’ in two places at school. The two places are on the play ground and in the lunch room. This is when the teacher’s eyes are not as focused on them and they let their guard down more.

Recess/ Lunch

©D. S. Walker

Therefore, volunteer to help at recess or in the lunch room one day a week if you can or even one day a month if this is your only option. Figure out which children need some guidance regarding how to treat others and which ones will not listen no matter what you say. There is hope for the ones who just need some guidance or who have trouble focusing, but if you observe a child being blatantly mean or disrespectful to you, talk to the teacher about them. Maybe there is a reason or maybe they are the future bullies.

Do not discount the child who is very polite to you and the teachers. Observe them from afar when they are unaware you are there. Are they polite to the other children or are they telling another child, “Go away! You can’t sit here!” and laughing at them? Believe me I have seen this happen. Sometimes these are the children of the heads of parent committees. They have learned to put their best foot forward in front of adults by watching their parents.

Do not assume their parents will listen if you tell them about their child.

Some will and some will not. The parents who never believe their child does anything wrong or who tell your child to just tell their child to knock it off are the very parents you need to avoid. They are either totally clueless or they are master manipulators themselves. If they are just clueless there is hope for them. The manipulators are a bigger problem that will take more than you to resolve. Use their behavior as a teaching tool for your children of how not to act and enlist the help of school officials.

Invite children to your house to play so you can see how they behave away from school. Get-togethers outside of school are also a good way to really get to know the other parents. If your child has sensory issues and gets overloaded easily, invite only one child and limit the time of the play dates. You can also limit the time spent at birthday parties without totally avoiding them. R.S.V.P. for part of the party explaining that there is a family event that the child must attend, so they will not be able to stay for the whole party. That way your child does not look so different, but does not have to stay longer than they can tolerate.

Realize that if your child avoids birthday parties, they may have more trouble maintaining friendships at school. Believe me you want your child to have at least two other children they can call their friends. This will help protect them as they move into the tween and middle school years. Help them develop and nurture these friendships now while they are young enough for you to be in charge.

By third to fourth grade children may already start to form cliques.

I know this seems young, but this was the age they started forming at both of my children’s schools. Try to encourage your child to remain friends with children outside of the clique, but realize that the clique may try to force them to stop being friends with others. This is especially true of the girls.

©D. S. Walker

©D. S. Walker

This may also be the age girls and boys get cellular phones and start really wanting to e-mail their friends. Some will even want to text or instant message. My children did both receive phones at age ten, but they were not permitted to text at that age and their initial e-mail accounts had to be open to my monitoring. They were taught not to answer calls from numbers they did not know. All important family numbers were programmed into their phones so they knew when it was one of us. They knew that if the rules were not followed they would lose phone privileges. They did not have camera phones at this age either.

They are older now, but there are still rules. So many others have written information about cyberbullying, but the biggest rule is teach your children that phone numbers can be traced and that there are laws that protect people’s privacy and using technology to say mean things to others is illegal. Teach them to be kind in all areas of their life and this will help prevent problems on their end. Also, make them aware of laws that protect them from others who try to use technology to bully them or to harm them in anyway.

 

Middle School and Beyond

Middle school is the age children with high functioning forms of autism may find themselves excluded from a group for not conforming to the rules. There are books that suggest teaching them to conform, but I do not recommend this. Instead, I suggest you help your child to maintain those two best friendships from kindergarten and hope they will protect your child from the abuse.

Girl Scouts and other organized clubs may also help, but if she joins these be sure to volunteer to help, so you can be sure she is not being excluded by any of the girls in the troop or other group she joins. Scouting is supposed to be about all the troop members supporting each other, but again it depends on the troop leader and other volunteers. Know the adults that help the troop.

Boys might also join Boy Scouts or similar organizations. Again make sure you know the adults helping the troop and volunteer as much as possible.

Some boys and girls may also try sports. It is best to let them try at age five or six if they show an interest as at that age everyone is fairly equal and your child is more likely to feel accepted. Once they advance to the higher levels in sports many children on the spectrum lose interest because of the noise of parents shouting at the children and because their teammates become very competitive and they may not feel they can compete at that level especially with the added noise levels.

Middle school may also be the time your child can join orchestra which can be an excellent place for those on the spectrum to find kindred spirits. Drama is another option. Specialty clubs may also be available or your child might be able to start their own club. Certainly by high school any of these options can help our children to find friends that accept them for who they are.

Having friends helps protect our children. Children who are alone are more likely to be victims of bullying, but what if you have done everything right and your child is still a victim of bullying? That will be my next blog.

Blogging for a Mission 22

I have been reading others’ posts about the reason they started blogging.  Blogging is not without risks since it involves sharing with the world.  The risks for my family are even greater because a few years ago my daughter was targeted by people she knew shortly after she was diagnosed.

That is when my mission started.  I quit work, I read every book on sensory sensitivity and Asperger’s that I could find.  I bought books on bullying that I read cover to cover, and I talked to the local contact at BullyPolice.org.  I explored the local bookstores to see what tween girls were reading.  I set my TiVo wish list to include autism, bullying, and Asperger’s Syndrome.  I attended conferences and I googled and read more.

Next, I wrote our true story, and then reality hit me like a ton of bricks.  I couldn’t use our story!  The story had to be fiction to protect my daughter and to protect those who harmed her too ironically.  Still, I did not want to trivialize the facts, so it is fiction with all events and all characters changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.   The feelings from the misunderstandings, the love shared between the characters, and the effects of the bullying are real.

I will never knowingly do anything to hurt my family or anyone else for that matter.  Yet, I ultimately want this story disseminated to more people; therefore, my publisher suggested that I start a blog.  Previously, public forums were off-limits to me.  However, getting the message out that the world needs to change to a place of tolerance of differences and hopefully to acceptance of differences is my mission.  The question of how to do this while remaining anonymous came up from the day I took on this task.  Not an easy thing to do in this age of technology as I am sure many of you know.

Ultimately, my daughter agreed to my writing a blog, as long as I am careful about sharing too many personal stories about her.  She and I have come to the decision that it is not possible to remain completely anonymous and promote the message.  Still, I am very protective of her and of the rest of my family, and I will not apologize for this.  If this makes me appear untrustworthy to some, so be it.  If including information about my book, written to promote this message, makes others think this blog is just about self promotion, so be it.

Blogging has brought me to even more information and greater understanding, as I have read many of your thoughts and stories and I have commented on some.  Many of you have welcomed me into this blogging community, and I am so grateful to you.  I hope you know who you are even if I do not always comment on your blogs.  Others are not as welcoming to those they consider to be outsiders, but I cannot waste time worrying about them.

I have made a decision.  I will no longer allow other people to define who I am or who my daughter is.  I am her mother and she is my amazing, talented, brave daughter who I will fight to the death to protect.  I will do the same for my son, my husband, my close friends, and all of my family.

How about you?  What steps do you take to protect your family?  What would you do if someone targeted your loved one?