This year I am so thankful for you and all of the hard work that you have put in with LINKS. I see true friendships forming, and that is so special not only to you and I, but to your peers and their families. Thank you for your compassion, empathy, patience and love for these boys.
For your blog this week I want to focus on a very hard and sad topic. Bullying and the R-word. I wish we had more time to discuss this in class, but unfortunately we most likely will not be able to fit it in. We are beginning our Temple Grandin movie next week and that will definitely take up a few weeks of our time. (P.S. I am BEYOND excited for you to see this movie! It is amazing!)
Here is some information about the bullying and harassment of students with autism and disabilities. I think those of us working with kids with autism have a different type of challenge before us. One thing you have learned about people with autism is that social and communication cues are very difficult. Therefore, when you think about someone mocking or teasing a person with autism, a lot of times it goes right over that person's head. This can be a good thing because often they do not realize, but that can also make it a harder thing to combat.
I remember sitting at a lunch table a few years ago and watching a large group of popular boys tease and mock a student with very high functioning autism. Of course I stood up for the boy, but it was very difficult for me to get through to that boy that the other boys were making fun of him. All he knew is that they were popular, they were talking to him and they were laughing (which in his mind meant he was funny). This is why it is so important (in my eyes) for people to know and understand this about autism and to be willing to stick up for their peers. This is one reason why LINKS is SO important in this school.
This is taken from AutismSpeaks.org on the subject of bullying and harassment:
"Children with special needs face unique challenges for dealing with bullying. They often stand out from their peers in ways that make them targets for bullying, and children who have difficulty with social interactions have an even higher risk of being bullied.
Bullying certainly isn't a new problem; it has existed for generations. Historically, many have seen it as a rite of passage, a type of de facto hazing. According to Dr. Peter Raffalli, a pediatric neurologist at the Children's Hospital in Boston, Mass., this attitude is, in many cases, more dangerous than the bullies themselves. "No matter how you look at it, bullying is a form of abuse victimization, plain and simple," said Dr. Raffailli. "It's a case of the strong - or at least the stronger - preying on the weak. It says volumes about where we are as a culture and race."
Bullying has negative effects on all its victims, but kids with special needs are especially vulnerable, according to Nancy A. Murphy, M.D., FAAP and chair of the AAP Council on Children with Disabilities Executive Committee. "Since these children already struggle with self-esteem issues," said Dr. Murphy, "bullying has a greater impact and they desire to fit in, and are less likely to stand up for themselves.""
The following article is also a great informational piece about why bullying is so harmful to students with disabilities and how to best combat it.
Ainslee did an amazing speech over morning announcements last week about how the word is being used inappropriately. It was like she snuck into my computer and read one of my most favorite blog posts on the subject!
Please read the following blog post written by a mom about her daughter and the use of the r-word:
I think she shares such a powerful message here. I felt empowered after reading this post for the first time, because I truly understood why it was such a terrible word to use.
Confession time: I used to use that word all.the.freaking.time. Finally, when I started taking my college classes for my special education degree, I "got it" and thought, "Enough is enough. I need to stop." With the help of some friends, I was able to finally get myself to stop using that word.
After reading that blog post for the first time, I remember thinking "thank goodness I no longer use that word!". I felt as though I would be a total disappointment of a special education teacher if I still did. Then, as stated before, I felt empowered. I had co-workers who still used that word regularly, and totally out of context! I wanted it to stop!
I found that the best way for me to approach the subject was in a one-on-one or small group situation, explaining how much it bothered me when they used that word. Then, you know what I did? I sent them the link to that blog post! How much more powerful that message is from the mother of a girl with disabilities than from me!
And, you know what? Those people stopped using that word in front of me. Notice how I say "in front of me". I have NO idea if they still use that word in other areas of their life, and it isn't my job to police that. But, they do not use it in front of me, and I appreciate that. I just hope that I helped to make enough of a difference in their life that they see that word in a totally different way.
Want more information or to sign the pledge to stop using the r-word? Go to www.r-word.org to help "spread the word to end the word". It's a great website with tons of information and videos on the topic!
Whew! Heavy and long topic for the week. I hope you got a lot out of it though! Please go and check the homework tab for what I want you to do with this information.
Finally, enjoy one of my favorite videos to promote the end of the r-word. And... have a WONDERFUL 5-day break! I know we all need it this time of year!