Bullying has always been a problem. But for the cyber generation, with so much going on behind screens, bullying is THE problem. The facelessness of social media has become a breeding ground for bullies.
And kids with special needs make easy targets. Those with autism are especially vulnerable—four times as likely to be bullied as those without the disorder—because of the challenges they experience with social communication.
Case in point. When my 5 year old visited a playground this past week, he was brimming with pent-up energy, eager to join a game of Tag between a boy and girl around his age.
Instead of holding back, he immediately chased after them and invaded their space. Naturally the kids wondered who was this weird kid in their faces. I called my son over and reminded him of the 'rules' for joining in with peers.
Socially, he is keen, but clueless. Such is my son's innocence that he is often painfully oblivious to the unspoken social etiquette most people take for granted.
Typically kids observe before gradually engaging in joint play. My son, however, is blind to the dynamics of socialization. It's as though he's arrived at a 3D movie without glasses.
So I supervise and coach him from the sidelines, ruing the day when I won't be a few feet away to interpret the scene for him.
Boys like him are magnets for bullies—kids so insecure they must prey on someone unsuspecting and trusting. Like the teen insisting that the girls who ritualistically abused him and even held him at knife point were still his 'friends.'
As a parent, bullying terrifies me. We have to start young, instilling tolerance and acceptance in typically developing kids, and awareness in special kids.
We must define for them in no uncertain terms what a friend does and does not do. That means, among other things, developing a social story and drawing up an action plan before a situation presents itself.
Check out the a wealth of information about bullying prevention at PREVnet.ca.
What steps have you taken to bullyproof your child?
This teen recorded his bullies on his iPad. What happened next may surprise you.