Monday, October 10, 2011

When teasing happens

My daughter, earlier this school year, had mentioned an unkind comment that another child said to her. I won't repeat the comment. It took me some time (months) for me to calm down inside and write this. I'm sure other parents can identify with me here...when mean things are done to our children it breaks our hearts. I was misguided in thinking that kinders were young enough to be shielded from the cruel realities of school, but obviously it bothered her enough to ask me if the comment was true, and then repeat the question the next day three times with a sad frowny face, pondering what it meant. I could see her little wheels spinning.

She does have an awareness and a deep caring about what others think of her. So...what should we do when we see, hear, or suspect teasing or bullying?
Talk to teacher, talk to the other parents? What do we say to our daughter? Of course, on the spot, I told my daughter that what the child said was not true. But I really was at a loss for words. We talked to her teacher to alert her to what happened. She said she would keep an eye out. The school district has an anti-bullying policy, but the training is only being rolled out in a few schools.

My husband and I needed to hear something inspirational. We needed to learn some proactive things that we can do and teach our child.

So, I started doing some research. I researched bullying. I wouldn't necessarily call this bullying, because I don't want to label a small child as a bully and it was an isolated incident to our knowledge. But what happened did make me think about ways to help her deal with teasing and unkind comments. In turn, we must work to ensure that our daughter doesn't tease other kids. When she has said unkind things to other children, we have spoken with her trying to explain not to hurt others' feelings.

I read a couple of articles. A summary is provided:
  • Children with disabilities are at risk of being bullied. Children who are perceived as "different" may be targeted more than others. (e.g., physical, neurological, speech, etc.)
  • What is bullying:  It is aggressive behavior against another person or group, which can include physical acts as well as verbal teasing, and exclusion.
  • Some ways children/youth may feel when bullied: sick, depressed, lonely, low self-esteem, avoidance of school or activity, suicide.
  • Is bullying illegal?  "Bullying behavior may cross the line to become "disability harassment," which is illegal under Section 504 of the Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990."
  • What can I do if I think my child is being bullied?  Tell your child they are not to blame. Be supportive and try to get your child to describe the who, what, where, and why. Sometimes children won't realize they are being made fun of. They might think they have a new friend and don't understand they are bullying them. Ask questions to see if there are any signs of bullying. Role play to think of ways to respond. Let your child come up with ideas. Speak with the teacher or care provider right away and see how they can help this stop. If the problem isn't remedied, write your concerns to the principal. Keep written documentation of all discussions. Schedule an IEP of 504 plan meeting and discuss what the school will do to end the harrassment and support your child.
  • What if the bullying doesn't stop:  The district may be violating federal, state, and local laws. Contact the following to find out your legal rights. 
Articles:
"Bullying Among Children and Youth with Disabilities and Special Needs"from education.com: http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Bullying_Among/
I especially like this one: great strategies!
"Teasing is No Joke, Words Can Hurt Just as Much as Sticks and Stones" from Gillette Children's Speciality Healthcare, Family Focus, http://www.gillettechildrens.org/fileUpload/Spring03.pdf

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