Dear Tali,

My child is in 3rd grade and is doing great overall- but there are some kids that bully and tease him.  He often will cry at school about being picked on- how do I handle bullying at school?

-Penina, Son-Rise Mom


Dear Penina,

Unfortunately bullying is a definite issue for many kids- and not just kids on the autism spectrum.  If your child is a little chubby, wears the wrong clothes or is slower than the rest- he might very well be a target for bullying.  There are two main ways to address bullying; addressing your child’s environment and equipping your child with the skills he needs.

*Address the environment- help create a ‘no bullying policy’ at school.

1. Involve the staff. Make sure that your children’s teachers are well aware of the issue.  It is important that all staff are included: the classroom teacher as well as the gym teacher and recess supervisor.

2. Identify the particular children. Let the staff know the particular child or children that are doing most of the bullying.  It is usually a single child or a core group.  This will help the staff identify quickly what is going on and address it.

3.Create a plan with the school staff. This would include a class discussion about not having to be friends with everybody but accepting those that are different.  It also includes creating clear consequences for bullying behavior and notifying and involving the parents of the particular children.  It needs to be clear that bullying is simply not tolerated in school and this needs to be reinforced by all teachers involved.

My 6 year old was coming home from school and telling me that one kid was hitting him, taking his stuff and drawing on his clothes.  I spoke to the teacher who handled it beautifully.  He spoke to the child, spoke to the parents, told my son that if there is ever an incident that he did not see to come tell him right away and he separated them (the bullying child was next to him in the class).  It has been a week now and the bullying has stopped.

*Equip your child with effective tools to deal with bullying.

I observed a child several weeks ago (Kevin) that demonstrated several excellent tools on dealing with bullying.

1. Attitude.  Help your child understand that a child who bullies is simply trying to feel in control or feel better about himself by making fun of others.  It says alot about the kid bullying and nothing about him.

2. Communicate clearly. Encourage your child to say ‘stop’ and move away.   This worked very well for the child I was watching in gym class.  He said stop and moved to the other end of the court.

3.Go to the teacher for help. If your child continues to get bullied and has tried to communicate, then direct him to go to the teacher.  It is important that he first tries to handle it himself (since most kids pick on tattle tales too) but this is necessary if the bullying child is not responding.

4. Make a game out of it. This can sometimes backfire, but I was amazed to see how Kevin put it into practice.  A child sat next to him, touched him and said “Ich- I have Kevin cooties”.  Kevin turned it into a game by touching him again- soon they were involved a chase game and both of them were laughing.

5. Stick to your crowd. Most kids who bully will tease when a child is by himself.  If there is a particular time that your child gets picked on (like recess) encourage him to stay in a group or to be with a couple of friends as much as possible.

I hope these guidelines are useful to you.  I am often amazed by how resilient children are and how capable they can be.  However, it is very important to  make sure the environment is supportive and that your child has all the tools he needs to stand up for himself.

Good luck and please let us know how it goes-

-Tali Field Berman, certified Son-Rise Program Teacher

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