Thursday, October 04, 2012

Teasing vs. Bullying

Today I am pondering when teasing becomes bullying . . . I think it may be a more difficult question when the child being teased has disabilities. I’m also not sure if I am more or less reactive to it because my child has disabilities.

I feel like Thane doesn’t fully realize he is being teased. On some level, I am really thankful for that. Growing up as the “Ugly, fat and stupid” one in my family, I think being oblivious to other children mocking you might be a blessing of some sort. I bet someone, somewhere will say something hateful about that statement, but sometimes how a person feels just is . . . and I feel like it would be nice not to be hurt, even if that comes from not understanding.

I talked to Thane and he definitely feels he doesn’t get along with this child and he is hyper-focused on an incident that took place a couple of weeks ago with LEGOs. I get the impression that this child sees Thane’s vulnerabilities and uses them to his own advantage. That really hurts me. I also understand that he mocks Thane’s gestures – Thane does some hand-flapping (which is something I do not consider to be within his control), is prone to stomping or slamming things if he is frustrated, and he does some visual stims. To me, mocking these actions is bullying because it targets things directly related to his disabilities.

From what I understand, this behavior is also impacting others in the classroom – particularly a couple of girls who have taken it upon themselves to either stand up for my son, or console him. While I am totally thankful that there are young people stepping in, I have to say that it concerns me that while it is obviously and opportunity for them to nurture and grow, it is also a sense of innocence lost because they have to witness an autistic child being teased. Moreover they have seen some behaviors and reported them to teachers and felt that their concerns were ignored. What kind of message is that? Is it that it doesn’t matter if a child is teased? Or maybe that it doesn’t matter if a child who doesn’t really get it is mocked?

Deep down I know that most likely there is something at home that makes this child behave negatively toward mine, and I think there is a limit to what schools can do – unless you have someone watching everything every single child is doing every second, you cannot see nor address every infraction that occurs. This is where the full beauty of homeschooling comes in I guess because you can control the environment so much more, but with a child with autism I feel like at least while he is little he needs to try to assimilate. In general, I have felt that the children in his grade are so much more exposed to autism than most of society that these wonderful little sponges have learned to be exceptionally understanding and supporting peers. But I guess there is usually at least one bad seed.

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