I have a thirteen year old son with Asperger’s Disorder. Even though he is very smart academically, he is very naïve and comes across socially as very immature for his age. He is starting middle school next month at a new site where he will be fully included. I am terrified that he will be bullied. How can I help him not be victimized? Sean L., Sherman Oaks, CA.
Bullying is when someone repeatedly and intentionally says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending him/herself. The child who is bullied is picked out for some reason-it is not accidental mistreatment. Remember that bullying is not just a conflict or misunderstanding between two children, it is victimization where there is intentional, repetitive abuse within a power imbalance. The most effective way for a child/adolescent to stay safe in the face of bullying is:
*Find friends and/or supporters that he can hang out with as part of a group. Children who bully often look for loners-people who don’t have many friends who will step in to defend.
*Taekwondo lessons or working with someone who can help with self-esteem, encourages children to stand tall, use good eye contact and signal to bullies that they have the capability to stand up for themselves.
*Telling a child who is bullying to “stop it” may or may not work. Sometimes it back fires and kids may end up being harmed worse.
*It is not effective is to tell a child to “ignore” peer abuse.
*Help your child understand that “snitching” is not the same as “reporting”. If a child is concerned about his own safety-or the safety of another child-it is NOT snitching.
*When a child reports abuse, never ask him/her “what did you do to bring it on?” Always encourage your child to talk to you about this problem.
**Tell a trusted adult at school what is happening. If the person they talked to isn’t helping, then they need to keep telling other adults until they find someone who will help.
Bullying has become an epidemic issue in our school systems and administrations around the country are just beginning to teach children bullying prevention programming. Stay educated about the programs in your area, talk to your child’s teacher about your concerns and as the new academic semester approaches, let your child know that you are aware of the problem of peer abuse and that together you can work it out.