National Bullying Prevention Month
My son was a victim of bullying, rapidly morphing into an accidental bully himself. Is bullying a problem in your home? Have you experienced the profound sadness of watching your child deal with the effects of bullying? Or, perhaps equally torturous, watching your child bully others? Bullying was the main driver of our decision to homeschool. Today I share more of our story with you in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month and how homeschooling helped us. Read to the end for a special discount on my bullying resources and more.
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Before I jump in, a few quick Stats on bullying:
- As boys age, they are less and less likely to feel sympathy for victims of bullying. In fact, they are more likely to add to the problem than to solve it.
- Over 67% of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
- Children with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than typical children.
- Individuals with autism commonly struggle with suicidal thoughts. Victims of bullying are 2-9 times more likely to act on suicidal ideation than their peers.
So my son with autism started out as a very friendly, caring, and loving boy. He adored any and every kid. If any of those kids hated him or thought he was weird, he never realized it. He simply loved them relentlessly. I always said that I both longed for and dreaded the day that he would be more aware of peoples reactions towards him.
I thought that if he could at least realize when people were not liking his behavior, he could at least begin addressing it. Could that begin his progress towards true friendships, hopefully? Knowing what I now know, I think I could have waited a bit longer for his awareness of other peoples thoughts about him…
We made it until kindergarten
Until kindergarten, he was a happy and positive child. Mid-year, we moved out of state. The new age cutoff was different. He was placed into first grade all of a sudden. I did ask the student services coordinator beforehand whether he could just stay in kindergarten or should he really go to first? Academically he was so far ahead, but socially he was delayed. After some Q&A I was assured he should go to first grade.
I’m not sure whether the grade (development stage of his peers) had much to do with the start of bullying or if it was just his deficits, but that year everything became too much. All of a sudden he had multiple kids bullying him at school. Both their words and their physical actions abused my son on a daily basis. The bright, sweet, little child I had always had was fading quickly.
No support and blaming the victim
I tried working things out with the school; he repeatedly received bad reports sent homes, visits to the principal, and I even had to bring him home early on his last day of school because he was beginning to retaliate. He couldn’t control his impulses or find help, so he hit back from then on. I tried to teach him that when the kids throw things at him he needs to not throw things back but tell her teacher. It never stuck at that age though. He always panicked and reacted with an outburst followed by a meltdown. Always the one sent home. Yet we were denied aides or support of a special education class (where he had excellent social interactions just prior).
Having trouble obtaining services and supports with that school, we went to the expense of moving houses to another district for second grade. We thought maybe it was a matter of it being a low-enrollment school. Things were no better at the next school. They actually got worse. That class proved to have more bullies; braver bullies at that. These kids, a couple anyway, even had the audacity to pick on me. It was crazy.
Becoming a bully as a misguided means of self-defense
My once sweet boy now screamed at people, letting his fists fly in a fury at even a hint of disapproval from peers. Hyper-vigilance was now his regular mode of operation. I was at such a loss. It’s not uncommon for victims to become bullies themselves. This was my son’s survival mechanism.
Multiple friends suggested homeschooling. I was so resistant to the idea (one of my biggest regrets). A shocking wake-up call came when my son began fantasizing about causing severe harm towards his bullies. My mind went worst case scenario… what if this is a pivotal moment in our lives? Are we headed toward school shooting type violence one day? It’s not a pleasant thought, but it required careful consideration. So much of the time (if not all the time), we see these shooters profiled as loners and bullying victims.
That moment I picked up his picture, clearly depicting his revenge, my heart shattered. The memory is so vivid and I refer to it on our hard days. Radical change was clearly in order. Homeschool looked like my best option. I prayed and felt led there. I pushed back so hard against it. Homeschooling terrified me. After some experimenting and perseverance, we both came to love it. My sweet boy is coming back bit by bit!
Homeschool saved us
He had a severe social regression as a result of the bullying. At 7 years and 9 months old, his social-emotional age tested as 3 years and 0 months old. We had, and have, our work cut out for us. Social skills training has become a huge part of our homeschool life. He didn’t have the social support he needed in public school. At home, we can devote massive amounts of time to social skills in a low-pressure environment.
He’s made so much progress that he no longer qualified for ABA. Those who’ve known him from point A to point B are shocked with how much he has grown emotionally. That said, we’ve still got work ahead of us for certain. The effects of bullying are long lasting and problems run deep.
My hope and prayer are that you take bullying as seriously as I now do. What started as a simple concern has become life-altering. Please talk with your children about what it is and how they can handle it. Books are a great place to start, as well as Is it Bullying?! If you happened upon this page, and are not a homeschooler, please feel free to email me with any questions you have. Homeschool was a lifesaver for us. My son won’t be a victim or an accidental bully.
A sale on my resources
In honor of National Bullying Prevention Month, I’m sharing a discount code with you for 20% off my entire store: nobully17. This coupon code expires 15 Oct. Go grab what you need before you forget and time runs out!
Your Turn: Have you dealt with bullying in your home?
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