Sunday, April 13, 2008

Name Calling

One of the givens of growing up is that some kids are cruel to other kids. As Andrew’s disability makes him different from other children, my wife had I have long been concerned that some kids will make fun of him. Andrew’s main challenge is with speech. He is hard to understand. His sentence structure is mixed. And, because he processes things differently, he has trouble keeping up with a typical conversation. We've always known that his difficulties with speech would make him a target some day.

Unfortunately, that day has arrived. For some time, my wife and I have been working with Andrew to help him deal with two bullies at school. These kids make comments that suggest Andrew probably “acts” like a baby, since he talks like one. (One of the bullies has also made disparaging comments about my wife. This upset Andrew greatly.) Of the two bullies Andrew deals with, one lives in the neighborhood and catches the bus at the same stop that Andrew does. The other bully is in his class.

The kid from the neighborhood makes fun of Andrew on the bus. Andrew tries to ignore him by doing sudoku, one of his favorite hobbies. However, it does nothing to deter the kid. The bully from his class says things about Andrew during the lunch hour, even telling other kids that they shouldn't sit with Andrew. Andrew understands that these kids are making fun of him. His speech issues make it difficult for him to respond. Like any kid would be, Andrew’s feelings are hurt. We have taught Andrew some defensive strategies. We tell him to just say “whatever” and to blow it off. Ignore the bullies as best as you can.

My wife and I have also discussed how to deal with this, other than giving suggestions to Andrew. We sent notes to Andrew’s teacher; she has tried to make changes. The bus driver is supposed to address the situation on the bus, but nothing seems to happen. As much as we want to intervene more, we realize that Andrew needs to learn how to deal with bullies, just like any other kid. Unfortunately, because of his challenges, Andrew will probably face more than his share during his school years.

My wife and I are also asking ourselves a question: Do the parents know what’s going on? The kid from our neighborhood is a puzzle. One morning at the bus stop, my wife witnessed the bus bully's mom ripping another child for saying something mean to her child. If this is her reaction to people saying mean stuff to her kid, she probably would be horrified to learn that her child is guilty of similar actions. We do not know the parents of the bully from Andrew's class, though we hope they would also be upset if they knew what there son was doing.

I told my wife she should pay a visit to the mom of the kid in the neighborhood and have a mom-to-mom conversation. She will do so soon. I wish I knew the parents of the other bully. I could have a talk dad-to-dad. However, there is one further question to be asked. As parents, we are concerned with our children being bullied. Have we ever asked ourselves if our children could be doing the same thing to other kids?

I would love to hear suggestions, if anyone has them. Thanks.


Carol Burnside said...

Aw, man! I hate to hear about stuff like this. Unfortunately, it continues to happen.

I'm sorry all of you are having to deal with this. Sounds like Andrew is doing the best he can to cope with your help. Hopefully, you and your wife can make these other parents aware so that they can also have a meaningful conversation with their children.

Good luck!

riojo said...

I think that you and your wife are handling this perfectly by speaking to the other children's parents. I suspect (as you note) that this will not be the last time you encounter this type of bullying. The manner in which you address this with the parents will be a model of behavior that Andrew will identify with. Best of luck.

adriane said...

I'm already dreading those days with Roxanne, since I still remember going through them myself. I also have a little sister who is 12 and she sometimes gets teased, but has a very mature attitude about it. And oddly, the more confident she is, the less she gets teased.

I think you are handling things the best you can. Sometimes I think it helps to remind kids that bullies are bullies because they are insecure.

Good luck!