Friday, May 22, 2009

When Is It Bullying?

At the IEP meeting this week for my 16 year old son, Corey, a comment shared by one of Corey’s teachers was that Corey had a hard time knowing when his peers were joking around. Corey would take the joking personally and get upset and frustrated.

Corey is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and peer relationships have always been a bit of an issue for him. But, I was seeing a few red flags this time.

The day before the IEP meeting, Corey came up to me as soon as I arrived home from work, and in his typical ‘Corey style’, asked me, “Is it considered assault if someone comes up from behind, pulls back on your throat, and covers your mouth?” I told him yes, that could be considered assault in certain circumstances. He turned and left and appeared not to want to share anymore information.

The IEP meeting comment coming so close to Corey’s question, made me start thinking about bullying. I know most of our school systems are hypersensitive to the issue of bullying, and Corey’s IEP team was very responsive when I broached the subject. But, it just made me wonder. How do you know when joking around becomes bullying?

Normally, I would rely on how my child is feeling – does it feel like joking around or worse than that? But with Corey, and his often inaccurate reading of emotions, I just don’t know.

What are some of the warnings I should be on the lookout for? Have any of you had to deal with bullying and your child with disabilities, and if so, what tipped you off to the fact that it was happening?


mommy~dearest said...

Oooh. At the "bad school" I had a snitch. I had a kid-snitch, and a teacher-snitch.

At our current school, the "good school", there is a program set up (called LINKS) that aims to aid in socialization and acceptance. The LINKS are peer volunteers, so they're usually kids who have empathy, and generally feel good about doing something to help someone else.

The LINKS kids look out for the SpEd kids, but peer pressure is difficult. Although they may witness bullying, often the kids don't want to confront their peers.

The school Social Worker meets with the LINKS frequently, and very non-threateningly finds out how their Link is doing, what they talk about, how they interact, and if anyone is treating them unfairly.

At one of these meetings, the SW asked the LINKS if they see anyone being "not so nice" to Jaysen- they all turned to this one boy and pointed at him. And he was a LINK! Just shows how powerful some of these kids can be- that they liked being a LINK so much, that they ratted out one of their own when he was acting less than LINK-ish.

It is a serious subject, and I do hope Corey will eventually shed some more details on the topic with you.

MMC said...

There's something to be said for your own personal snitch. Mine is my youngest; they are both in the same school last year and this year and the Kit Kat is pretty good at telling me when something is up.

The amusing part (NOT) is that when I sit down in an IPP meeting the teachers are so sure that all the kids are so good to the Blue Jay and things like the Kit Kat tells me never happen. That's because the bullies are smart enough not to bully when the teachers and staff are around, of course. It takes me talking to the Blue Jay based on what her sister told me and the Blue Jay going to speak to the guidance counsellor before anything happens. And next year the Blue Jay is off to high school while her sister stays behind at middle school. UHG

DES said...

Our difficulty is in that my son would 'report' to his teachers about teasing and shoving and they would throw it back on him...he needs to learn NOT to react to everything. His 'over-reacting' *their words* causes kids to pick on him more...just for the reaction. He has HFA and does not read motive either....but does that make the bullying HIS fault?

I think anyone who lays hands on someone in a threatening manner (in a joking way or not) has issues with personal space. Even if the schools decide its not necessarily bullying...they should hold them accountable for physical boundries.

Hope your little guy can find a way to confide in you the that you can properly address it with the school. My son has gotten from school that you shouldn't 'tattle' which ends up being taken that he shouldn't share (even with me). Not good!

Good luck!

Terri said...

It is a very tricky line because kids-especially guys-really do act that way a lot when it isn't bullying... it is definitely bullying if he has said "stop it" and it continues. But it can definitely be bullying in other cases as well. Is there a trustworthy kid he knows that he could ask? Spies are really helpful too, if you have them.