Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bullies and Skanks and Mind Punches, Oh My

One of my biggest fears for Little Dude is that he will be bullied.  According to one ABC News report, 90 percent of children with Asperger's report being bullied on a daily basis.  The thought of that makes me positively nauseous.

Not that special needs kids are the only ones being bullied, but they are perhaps less able to defend themselves.  Kids on the autism spectrum, in particular, are less likely to be able to read social cues and can often end up being the odd one out.  But bullies know no bounds.  A couple years ago one of my daughters was being bullied, and I swear I just wanted to punch that mean little girl in the throat. 

Do you all find that? If another kid is mean to one of your kids, do you go from being really nice homeroom mom to seething psychotic in 2.3 seconds? The Pork Lo Maniac kept having problems with another girl in her class. The girl would make comments about how slowly the PLM writes (she has a fine motor delay), until the PLM cried. Then, at recess, she would make fun of the PLM for crying in school.

That kind of stuff turns me into Drew Barrymore from Firestarter. Isn't that awful? Some little punk trash-talks my kid and I'm ready to go all pyrokinetic on them? What kind of person am I?

The kind that makes little kids go *poof* when they mess with my babies. The mommy kind.

I think it's because I know what it feels like.  When I was eleven, my family moved to a new school on the first day of seventh grade.  Literally, we left a house in one town, my mother drove me to a new school, and at the end of the day I went home to a new house.  Seventh grade is already a delightfully awkward time, but of course I couldn't be at least half-normal walking in the door of a new school.  Oh, no. 

The weekend prior, I had been at my dad's house.  My sister's kitten had treed itself, and (not out of love for animals, mind you, but to impress my little sister with my tree-climbing abilities) I rescued the kitten out of the tree.  The poison-ivy laden tree.

Sweet.

So I wasn't just the new girl at school.  I was the new girl with that stuff on her face.  What a lovely, lovely time in my life that was.  My new school was tougher, and the seventh grade girls girls wore a lot of makeup, and heels with jeans, and feathered hair.  You know how at the end of Grease, Olivia Newtown-John is all skankified and whorey?  That was kind of the "in" look at my new middle school.  Also, Marshall's didn't sell Benneton shirts.  I was screwed.

Once, in the locker room, I was cornered by one of the meaner girls.  Her confidence bolstered by her shiny new parachute pants, she made fun of me for being a "prep" and said something brilliantly incisive like, "we don't want no preps in this locker room."  Because I have always had this mouth on me, I commented that at least I wasn't wearing plastic pants.  I can't believe she didn't deck me on the spot.  I think she would have, but that's about when the gym teacher strolled in. 

Basically, I lived in terror after that.  Eventually, my luck ran out and there she was, in the girls' room.  Finally, years of battling with my brother paid off.  She threw a punch and I blocked it.  She grabbed my arms and I twisted free, which surprised her long enough for me to land a punch on her shoulder.  I didn't really hurt her, but I shocked the hell out of everyone in the bathroom.  She never physically threatened me again.

Doesn't it seem like one of those wonderful moments in the movies?  In Hollywood, after someone has a triumph over a bully, they become instantly popular.  That did not happen in my case.  Also, I was still terrified of Ms. Parachute Pants.  Fortunately, her electric blue eyeshadow and made her easy to spot in a crowd.  She couldn't sneak up on me because the parachute pants made that helpful zip-zip-zip sound, and I swear I could smell her Cover Girl liquid foundation from a mile away.

Even some of the girls who weren't expressly mean girls seemed happy to target me.  I was new, I had poison ivy on my face, and my clothes were wrong.  At the time, I lumped them in with all the other mean girls.  Later, in high school, I realized they were basically nice kids who were probably relieved and thrilled there was someone new to deflect Ms. Parachute Pants off of them.

It's possible that I am hyper-aware of the bullying issue with my kids.  Particularly with Little Dude.  I brought it up during the IEP and was reassured that bullying doesn't happen.  Yeah ... I'm hard-pressed to believe that bullying isn't happening in that school right now.

One of my wise readers suggested that I can punch bullies in the throat with my mind.  In fact, she suggested that I could start calling idiots "Mind Punch" instead of other obscenities I might be thinking.  This seems like an excellent idea.  Here are some suggested usages. To an irritating bully: "Hey, Mind Punch, leave my boy alone."  To the principal, "If you think autistic kids aren't being bullied, you're a bigger Mind Punch than I thought."  Out loud in the car, while you're driving with the kids: "That Mind Punch just cut me off!"

Little Dude can probably actually punch people in the throat with his mind, because, you know, he's a Jedi Master.  I don't know what else to do right now, while bullying weighs on my mind.  But at least now when I talk to the principal, I am buoyed by the thought: "Mind Punch."

31 comments:

  1. You know what is almost worse than them being bullied and picked on? When they don't know other kids are making fun of them or picking on it. We've had several incidences and it breaks my heart. He thinks they are playing games or being funny. Sigh.

    Mind Punches. I like that.

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  2. Even as a kid, I was very aware of bullies and didn't like them. Being the smallest kid in the class, I didn't carry much authority in telling the bigger kids to leave the ones who couldn't defend themselves alone... however, I did finally get my "hollywood movie" moment when the bully was picking on the special needs kid in our class. I had had enough, I walked over and bodied slamed the bully (who was atleast twice my size) in front of all his bully friends.. after that, where I showed up, the bully made a quick exit as it's not fun being the bully beat up by the smallest girl in the class. I still thank my older cousins (who were both high school wrestlers), for teaching me how to slam someone twice my size.

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  3. We put our kids in a small private Christian school, the bullies extended beyond the kids, to a few Mom's and my eldest's teacher who thought she too 'smart' for her own good. After three years of being room mom, teaching Sunday school since had no comfort level even at a church class and serving on the school board - we came home to school - best decision I ever made :)
    and would never have thought it was something I would do.

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  4. Every mom has a breaking point. I thought if I taught my kids to ignore people and not give them the reaction they are looking for, then the bullies would give up and find a new target. This is really hard for my kids because they are all hyper sensitive and have major OCD issues, but it worked fairly well until my husband was deployed and we moved back to my hometown to be close to my parents. First week of school a boy says to my son, who has very real fears of never seeing his dad again, "I hope your dad dies, that what he gets for joining the army." He didn't stop there, he slammed my son into walls when the teacher wasn't looking and taunted him on the playground. I wanted to take this kid down! I was ready to go to the teacher, the principle, and have the parents brought in. My son surprised me by saying he would rather deal with it. And he did. He talked to his teacher, he talked to the boy, and they ended up good friends. (I still got plenty of mind punches in first.)

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  5. My ASD kid is in a pre-k program. And, compared to all the neurotypical kids, he's wierd. No doubt about it. But strangely . . . he likes them -- and they like him. Despite his strange communication skills. Despite the fact that sometimes he acts like a puppy for no reason. Despite it all. My husband went to drop him off, and was met at the door by another child, ecstatic to see our child, and wanting to give my child a big hug. Sometimes kids who are different do get bullied. Sometimes not. I'd be ready to deal with it, but don't assume it will happen before it actually does. It's pre-k . . . they're all a little wierd. : )

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  6. My ASD son just turned 7 and while he's gotten sporadic points and giggles and looks and whispers from other kids over the years, it's starting to pick up now. The poor guy doesn't even know..or at least I don't think he does. It's my husband and I who become infuriated...I really don't know if I'll always be able to control myself. I'm worried that I really will lash out at a kid. My husband already did. He screamed...I mean SCREAMED...at a bully once. Which was totally uncool, and he regretted it, but we were both raw and new to this. So I cut him a break and hope it won't happen again.

    Good luck to Little Dude...we're in this together. Sigh.

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  7. Too many teachers "are not" looking.... If you ignore something does it make it go away? If I ignore the dishes will they go away? I've tried doesn't happen!
    You must challenge these teachers, these principals and make them accountable for the safety of all children. Bullying happens on a daily basis and it cannot be ignored. I love that one child's experience was constructive and is now friends with the child that bullied him/her. Let that be a good example. Bullys are bully because they know there are no consequences. So why don't we make some. Why don't the schools hold them accountable for their behavior? If they behaved this way towards a teacher, do you think it would be ignored as kids being kids?

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  8. "That Mind Punch just cut me off"...HILarious!! My son, who's two, repeats everything I say. But not at that exact moment. no. He has to wait until we are around the most prominent people we know. Like, the Pastor. OR worse, the Pastor's other pastor friends. (I have to admit, it is stinkin' hilarious) So, thanks for the new material. For me, and my kid. haha!
    But seriously, I totally get the turning into Drew Barrymore from Firestarter. My kid already experiences bullying at only 2 years old!! (I just now, in my head, called that little kid a 'Mind Punch' ...this is great satisfaction.)

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  9. I am VERY sensitive to this. I had terrible buck teeth, got boobs early and was the only girl in 6th grade gym who had her period. I spend about 2 years of my life (4th-6th grade) crying every day after school. And I didn't tell my mom because I didn't want to burden her.
    Last year a 2nd grader was really nasty to my kindergartener at the bus stop. RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! I so wanted to knock her to the ground!!!!

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  10. Now I'm completely freaked out about switching my Girl Child to a new school.

    Why do kids do this? People can tell me until they're blue in the face about how "the bully is hurting too" blah blah blah yada yada yada, but the fact is - it hurts, and it changes your child on a fundamental level.

    We're leaving a "button pusher" whose mother calls her "just spirited" and blames her eight year old daughter's "hormones." I wish I was kidding. Mind Punch is right.

    My sweet, shy girl with a hearing aid and prosthetic ear. Mind Punch.

    I'm really sensitive to this, too, because I dealt with Mean Girl syndrome in 7th grade. In fact, I've often said that my own personal version of hell would be to have to repeat 7th grade exactly as it happened for eternity.

    How did any of us survive childhood?

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  11. I love the "Mind Punch!" I'll have to remember that for future reference - they've told us kids with hydrocephalus [that would be on the other side of the little man's brain] have the same issues with social cues.

    And it totally would have helped when my "normal" daughter was being picked on in 1st grade - oh how I wanted to hurt that little girl...

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  12. My oldest's Aspy-ness is a double-edged sword. At least while he's not "getting" people, he's not "getting" he's being made fun of.

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  13. I just wanted to say that if wanting to go all balistic on the kids that are mean to your kids means you are a horrible person, then put me on that list too. My oldest has had a bully for three years now. I see that kid walking at school and I swear I want to rip his hair out from the roots...and that would just be my *first* move. I will try the mind punch and see if that helps me remain the semi-sane person I know I am. :)

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  14. My "typical/average" 9 yr old (sorry, I do NOT want to offend anyone, but don't know what else to say) had a bad rash as a result of an antibiotic...even at her small, private school she's getting flack from a few kids. This is the 1st year they have to change clothes for PE, but I sent an email to the PE teacher & asked if DD could change somewhere privately this week b/c she's so sensitive. I really feel for the largely overweight girl in the class, & I'm using this as a teaching moment for all of my kids who are old enough to understand: Everyone has feelings. Everyone is different in some way. Be kind to everyone, b/c you never know when it'll be your turn!

    Thanks for the Mind Punch idea!!

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  15. I really worry about this, and when I read your blog, it struck a cord. My son will be 6 in a week, & on Monday last week he began his year long career as a kindergartner. I had him in a pre~k special education class last year, only half day, to help him adjust to the pressures of "real" school. I have to say I was glad I got him the help he needed as for him to attend a "normal" classroom setting, though I am terrified of how the other kids will treat him due to his eccentricities. We've also got him involved in youth football & after practice the other night, I noticed my son walking next to two boys and overheard their conversation. One boy said to the other "something's wrong with that kid. Like really wrong." Boy oh boy how that hurt!! I just simply responded to the boys saying it wasn't nice to talk about other people (hoping that calling them out on it would embarass them enough not to do so). I went home that night & thought to myself boy, oh boy....if he weren't so big I'd really be scared. (My son is 63 pds, and already stands @ 4 ft tall) and then I thought to myself those things that those kids think are "wrong" about my son are what make him so endearing to me. My only hope is that they see the sweetness in his oddities & decide to befriend him rather than bully.

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  16. @Laura -- "Typically developing" is the term you're looking for! And I appreciate your sensitivity. That was sweet.

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  17. I wanted to say that I, as a teacher, DO pay attention to what is going on with my students in social situations. I feel that one of my most important responsibilities is to do my best to teach tolerance and acceptance of the differences in people. As I'm teaching a small group, I try to have one eye on the interactions among my other students, and have become skilled at reading body language and facial expressions that clue me in about what's going on in my classroom, and I try to have an "eagle eye" out at recess. If I see something that is a cause for concern, I will intervene, if necessary, and then will take the time out of a very busy instructonal day to address it, through conversations, role playing, or some other appropriate method. Our school has an "anti-bullying pledge" that is recited in the morning immediately following the pledge of allegiance, and the teachers in our school do our best to stay on top of these situations. I have witnessed kindness and acceptance in my first and second grade students that would bring tears to your eyes, and know that it is the result of conscious effort and commitment on the part of the staff at our school to actively teach and demonstrate the idea that every person is equally deserving of our respect and kindness.

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  18. @Liz -- I believe that most teachers, and most administrators, ARE like you and are doing their best to teach children kindness and respect. As a parent, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for what you do.

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  19. @SRMM - You're welcome! :-) I know that schools vary in how well they handle these issues. I would like every school district to work at developing policies to address diversity, tolerance, acceptance -- and now I'm off my soapbox.

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  20. I am a diagnosed aspie and have been assesed with ODD. I always got the last laugh with the bullies. Always. Something would snap in the mind and look out. Imagine your sons lego obsession, but instead of legos I would angrily fixate on revenge. It was obsessive.
    Now that I am the father, I'm not sure whether I worry more about my son or the bullies.

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  21. My oldest daughter was bullied by my previous babysitter's kid, who was a year younger. She would cave into what she thought the sitter's kid wanted, just so she could be included. The little monster would also try to get Skylar in trouble for things she did, and she'd take Sky's favorite toys and hide them. She was AWFUL.

    One day I came home from work, and heard Skylar shrieking. The sitter's kid and Claire (my youngest) didn't want to include Sky in a game with their dolls. Claire got frustrated, and smacked Skylar across the face with her doll. I yelled at BOTH little girls, spanked Claire, sent her to her room, and told the sitter's kid that if she couldn't include Skylar in her games, then all the dolls were GONE. After that incident? Anytime I was around and she was tempted to do something wrong, I would just have to look at her, and she'd literally go run and hide behind her mom.

    Anyway. My point. I'm very worried about Skylar being an easy target for bullies, because she likes to please people so much. She just started kindergarten last week. And I am definitely a pitbull mommy - I'll get on the little sucker and not let go.

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  22. @SRMM - Know your concerns, from the other end. (As I kid, I was the fat girl / smart girl combo...double bullying- yeah.) My Spud (4 years old and 2nd year in Pre K so he can get the SLT and OT he needs to address Apraxia issues) "loses words" when he is overwhelmed / in a confrontation - and lashes out physically. I worry that since he is big for his age, and has great gross motor (punching, kicking and love the biting) that he will be labeled the bully / the violent kid.

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  23. Thanks so much for this posting. I am also the stepmom of a "typically developing" 10 year old who is a little bigger than most of the stick girls of her age group, and also the mom of 16 month old b-g twins, and my son has some delays that I hope we can work out before school, but we may not be able to work out all of them. My 10 year old is a really great kid, good student, talented in her music, and has several really good friends that she pals around with at school. I'm not super worried about bullying, although my stepdaughter has dealt with some jokes about her size...she probably wouldn't look "obese" to the general observer, but she's gotten the "that shirt makes you look pregnant" and "when's your baby due" remarks. I know that in some ways "kids will be kids" and there's always going to be a mean kid, but I worry about how these kind of remarks progress to hurtful and spiteful actions. Another thing that I'm worried about is a role play that my girl and some of her friends play during recess. They call it "Colonial" and each gal plays a role. Resa's role for the last two years, though, has been "the indentured servant." She "serves" and does whatever the others in the game tell her to do. I've spoken to my stepdaughter about this, asking, wouldn't you like to play the home owner or his wife, or one of their kids? My stepdaughter says no, she likes playing the servant. I don't know what to do about this...she is really good at ignoring those that make fun of her, and she has a pretty good sense of her own self worth, but with this game, she's keeping herself in a situation where she's seen as second class. Am I making too much of this? Any advice would be great. Also, Liz here had said that her students recite an anti-bullying pledge right after the pledge of allegiance. Any chance that she could share the anti-bullying pledge with us? I'd love to propose it at our elementary school. Thanks!

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  24. Here is the anti-bullying pledge used at our school. It is said every morning by the entire school. (After the Pledge of Allegiance AND the Pledge to the Texas Flag.)

    I will not bully others.
    I will not stand by while others are bullied.
    I will report bullying whenever I see it.
    Because I have the power of ONE.

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  25. @Erica, That game is verrrry disturbing. It sounds like those girls could use a history lesson. Playing "indentured servant" is a little too close to playing "slavery." It doesn't sound like something nice girls or good friends would ask her to be. xoxo, stark. raving. mad. mommy.

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  26. The fear of my son (5 year old with PDD-NOS) being bullied was one of several reasons why we decided to pull him out of public school and homeschool him this year. Their "best" placement for him was a kindy class with 18 kids, 1 teacher, and no aide. He is in no way ready to handle being in a class that size, and with his quirks/issues/stimming/etc, I could just see him being a prime target...and with that many kids in the class, could a teacher really protect him??

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  27. So let's do something positive to make a difference nationwide. We can help kids everywhere. Jan 1st we hope to kick-off a nationwide anti-bully challenge to Rock It Across America. To let parents, educators and kids know bullying will not be tolerated and is not acceptable. www.rockingitforlife.com

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  28. I remember my little sister coming home from Kindergarten sad because some boys had been making fun of her eyes (she's Chinese). She said "Big Sister, can I hit them?"

    I was 21 at the time, and I said "No, honey, you can't hit them. But if you point them out the next time I get you off the bus, I'll do it." just as my grandmother piped up with "No, I'll do it! I can plead dementia after or some other old person thing!" My sister was all "Great! Thanks!" as my mother scolded me and Gramma for being thugs.

    I remember a few years later, her telling me that some girl told her she didn't dress girly enough. I got into full on Tiger Sister mode then. I was all "Oh yeah...where does she live?".

    That second thing wasn't bullying, but it really sucks that so many kids are taught that there's only one (or a select few) right ways to be.

    Now, of course, my sister is in the 10th grade, a fantastic soccer player, and the high school seniors on the Varsity Team think she's amazing, so that little bitch can kiss her ass!

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  29. I was picked on *so* much at school. My kidlet, Stomp, has had some trouble with "friends" of his whose parents are apparently incapable of discipline. He has several run ins wiht a particular boy who hits him, screams in his face, bites him and calls him names. I mentioned to Stomp that we might be moving and his first reaction was to say "Maybe if we move there won't be any mean little boys like Sean". Obviously, I haven't just let this go, I've talked with him about playing with other kids, talked to the teacher repeatedly and this demon child has been in trouble so much with the principal he's being held back for the year. The end of this debacle is near for us, at least. So, I guess what I'm saying is that I totally get it. Because every time I see that little monster I want to put him through a brick wall.

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  30. Well, a few weeks into another school year. Time to re-post this.

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  31. Clearly I'm late to this party, but if this is at all comforting: I've worked the last several years as a 1:1 para in a high school special needs classroom. The students all have varying levels of autism, aspergers, physical challanges, learning difficulties, ppd-nos, Down Syndrome, etc. In my years there, I have never seen any neurotypical student be anything but polite and patient with "our" kids. Throughout the day, we have many that come in on their study halls to be assistants and "buddies" to work as peer mentors so our class isn't stuck with just adults all day. This is very much a school-wide attitude, and it's the same with administration and staff. They are as much a part of the school community as the kids in honors physics 2. So whatever strategies are being used in the lower grades towards patience and acceptance, it's working.

    I hope this helps alleviate some fears.

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