Today’s blogpost is something special. I was asked by family fund to write a piece for National Anti-Bullying Week 2019. It runs from 11th-15th November. Bullying can be a particular problem for autistic children, as they can be “easy targets,” standing out as different from their peers. Furthermore, they may have behavioural quirks, sensory issues, or struggle to understand social cues.
Thankfully, as a family, we haven’t had a lot of experience with bullying; my son is at a good special school which deals with incidents very quickly. However, when he was at primary school he did have some problems. It was a mainstream school and he found it hard to fit in. I’d like to share some snapshots from my previous blog to show how difficult school days could be:
“…things came to a head yesterday. He said that the boy had twisted a paperclip open and had been trying to stab him with it. He also said that the boy had picked his nose and tried to wipe it on my son’s top. When my son goes into the corridor to get his coat, the bully blocks his way.”
“Yesterday, My son said that the bullying had started again. The boy had been taunting my son with a bag of Monster Munch (snacks with a very strong flavour and scent). Kids with autism are hypersensitive to smells, and the smell of Monster Munch makes my son feel sick. When the boy realized this, he kept putting the bag near his face and then eventually threw the bag of snacks in my son’s face. Of course, my son did not think to mention any of this to a staff member.
In the playground, my son plays by himself. He is happy in his own world. During break, a kid kicked a football in my son’s face. He said it was an accident, but the child involved was a child who had been previously bullying him.”
Or course, these incidents also affected me as a mum:
“He was pretty miserable about going in today. I had to fight back the tears when I sent him in…felt like I was sending him to his doom. I’m in tears typing this.”
One of the big problems we had was that my son wouldn’t think to report these incidents or tell me about them. Therefore I’m aware that there were probably many other incidents of bullying that I never knew about.
Having an autistic child in the family caused another type of bullying too. One day I went to the school to watch the children singing in a concert. My oldest son was sitting in the middle row with all of the other children enthusiastically singing around him. However, my son wasn’t singing. He was crying. In the audience, I felt helpless. I didn’t know what was the matter. I didn’t know how to help him. After school, I asked him why he’d been upset and couldn’t sing. He explained that just as the concert had started, the boy behind him laughed and whispered in his ear “Your brother is disabled.”
From the stories that I’ve shared, it’s easy to see how bullying can affect each member of the family. Moreover, my examples aren’t even extreme. Imagine how tough it must be for those who experience physical beatings, cruel cyber bullying and death threats.
The theme of Anti-Bullying week 2019 is “Change Starts With Us.” It emphasises how we can all work together to stop bullying. We have a collective responsibility to do something and to speak out. Change starts with us…