Master J refused to go to school yesterday.
After one almighty melt down yesterday, and some pretty uncharacteristic behaviour, we managed to get out of him that a new boy had come to the school and decided that Master J would be the target of his new stomping ground.
Master J has difficulty tying his tie. Every morning, we run through the process of how to do it, but it is proving elusive for him to do it on his own. There is a lot of dexterity that goes into tying a tie.
This boy, much bigger than Master J, was astute enough to work out that this tie tying thing was a problem. So he started to pull the tie so hard that Master J would be forced to fix it. Of course, he struggled and so the big boy and others – Master J’s friends of four years – would laugh.
And then for good measure : “Hey Master J, I fucked your mother.”
For any child to be bullied in this fashion is excruciating, but for a child on the spectrum it is a fate worse than death. They are not equipped with the language skills to fight back – they feel like they are swimming against the tide as it is and with bullying, it is like someone is holding their heads under water. Their world spins out of control and the only way they can cope is to withdraw to where it is safe, never to emerge again.
I was furious. Mr C was furious.
We have fought 4 long years to get Master J to the point where he believes in himself, believes he can hope to have a future of fulfilled independence. And there is no way I’m letting this boy ruin it for him.
Mr C was tempted to go to school pickup, walk up to the boy and say “I believe you’re fucking my wife”. But, as tempting as that is, confronting a 16 year old in this fashion is definitely not the way to go.
I went down to school. I’m always going down to school.
They were shocked, horrified at what the boy had said. I was not so concerned with what he had said, as I was with what he was doing – manhandling and belittling my son, eroding his already cut glass fragile self esteem.
They would deal with it they said.
Master J had specifically asked to be consulted as to what should happen. He is petrified that he will be targeted even more. Bullies rely on that fear. It is how they operate, it is how they gain strength.
But this bully did not count on me.
I used to be bullied at school. A girl relentlessly bullied me in primary school. I would tell my mom and, in her naiveté, she believed that children were just mean to each other and it would pass. Perhaps she even believed that it would toughen me up since I was so sensitive. The bullying was methodical and relentless. Once the girl ran up behind me just as I left the school grounds, hit me so hard that I fell to the floor. I cried, my knee grazed and bleeding. She laughed and not one person, not one adult person, of which there were many, came to my aid. My bag and all its contents were strewn across the road. I had to dodge cars to pick it all up since I knew that we had no more money to replace them.
My parents opted to send me to a private school for my secondary schooling – a school well out of our catchment area. There are no words to describe the relief I felt, only to have that feeling dashed on the first day of school when I discovered her parents had done the same thing. The bullying continued. It culminated in her hitting me so hard in the locker room that I fell to the floor and pee’d myself. I was 14 and rather than face the entire locker room with my pool of piss, I pretended I had fainted. Except my acting skills were clearly not that great, since everyone just stepped over me and I remember someone yelling at me to move out of the way of their locker. They all left and I got up from the floor. It was only the kindness of an older girl, and a subsequent rugby playing boyfriend, that made the following two years bearable.
It is safe to say I have little time for bullies. It is also safe to say that I strongly believe as parents we have a responsibility to protect our children. I never leave the process to the school alone. They do prefer that the parents don’t get involved, but the reality is that they need the support of the parents. And if they don’t get results, then I wouldn’t hesitate to move my son or get the police involved, I just wouldn’t.
It is also important for my son to know that he is not alone. It is the kids that feel alone that feel they need to take their lives in these bullying incidents. The kids, of course, are not alone, but they believe they are. It is really really important that my son knows he is not alone, that we are in his corner, that we believe him and believe IN him.
As it stands, the bullying hasn’t reached critical mass. It is some manhandling and insults. Nevertheless, it cannot be allowed to continue, or worse, escalate. I trust the school will do what it can and I trust that come the end of this week, my son will once again feel safe at school. This boy, I am hoping, just needs a bit of guidance, a bit of gentle persuasion to go in another, less violating direction.
Master J has agreed to go to school today. I’m not sure the school knows how brave and courageous that is of him. To have Anxiety Disorder on top of his Autism and still face the bully. He feels sick, like a lamb going to be slaughtered.
The school will talk to Master J and together they will decide on a strategy that will involve no threat to Master J. And I will be waiting in the wings, via phone calls and emails, so that Master J knows he is not alone. Because there is strength in numbers. And no one should have to face bullying alone.
If you are being bullied, at school, in the work place, or anywhere, please speak up. Please don’t put up with it. Please make a change that means that you are safe. At the very least, we should feel safe in our own existence. And know that in this space, you are safe.
Until next time,