Bullying…where is the breaking point?

May 21, 2012

Image from Scholastic.comIt is quite the buzzword these days.  Heck, even our Republican Presidential candidate has been accused of it.  He called it “hijinx” and to some extent, I can see his point.  You see, I was a small kid and being picked on was a daily ritual.  Almost part of growing up.   I remember a kid that would just torment me.  Little stuff like calling me names or holding me down on the ground but It was just little stuff.  For the most part, I could handle it.  But, being small, I was forced to find ways other than being physical to handle these problems. Being Autistic and a target for bullying, I am not sure how Zak will be able to handle it.

As the father of a autistic child whose biggest problem is the meltdowns that he has in front of other children, it is a big concern of ours.  Sadly, the impression he gives off is is he is weak thus making him a target.  And, to some extent he is.  He is not as physically developed as most kids his age.  He is smaller anyway (thanks mom and dad).  Plus, the general “being different” makes him a target.  We have dodged a big bullet until this year.  For the most part, the kids in Zak’s class have been consistent through his 4 years in school and they have grown not only to understand but most go out of their way to help or want to help Zak when he struggles.  However, THERE IS ALWAYS ONE!!!

Most of it seems to be boys being boys but also, the intent seems a bit on the troublesome scale.  Not to get into details but lets just say some comments have crossed the line for any child let alone one with Autism.  Of course, bullying must stop but we also must define bullying.  I can honestly say, looking back of course, it made me a different person.  I am bit funnier (no comedian but witty enough), a bit more of a problem solver and more patient than most.  So it is tough for me to say, “end all bullying and do it now!” because I think I am a little bit better because of it.  I could handle it,  however, there is a breaking point and it makes me wonder if Zak could ever find his breaking point.

Like I said, I was picked on and for the most part, I had to just find other ways to handle it.  But, even I had a breaking point.  On one occasion, while playing whiffle ball, I was being tormented so badly that I finally snapped.  I took the whiffle ball bat and just started whacking the kid. Do I recommend assault?  Not really but I can say that getting picked on stopped, at least for awhile.  It was not talked about outside of the group of kids.  No parents ever knew and certainly, I was not going home to tell mom that I just beat the hell out of a kid with a plastic bat.  There is something to be said about taking it into your own hands.  Things are different today, however, and kids who take things into their own hands are going to even greater extremes.  At some point, the breaking point became deadly.

I worry about this – I worry about it a lot.  No, I do not think Zak has this capability which in itself is an issue.  As a dad, one who was picked on, I do not want to see him rollover either.  No child should ever get picked on or bullied.  We should be in a place where kids today do not have to worry about it but no matter what restrictions you put in place or punishments you apply for the offenders, the strong(er) will always pick on the supposed weak(er).  I worry every day for Zak.  I worry that if we move, he will come across kids in another school that are not as understanding.  I worry that he will go to school where I cannot protect him and just get beaten down on a daily basis. I worry that he may have to take matters into his own hands and who knows what could happen.  I am a, lets say different – not better, person because of being picked on in school so I am on the fence a bit.  I think it helped me be the person I am today.  I am not sure Zak can handle it and I will need to work with him on strategies to handle it.  So far, he has handled this kid fairly well but not sure where it will go next.  We will see if Zak can handle it next year and who knows, maybe it will stop.

However, if that kid picks on my kid again, I might punch him square in the neck!  I also have a whiffle ball bat just waiting to be broken in!

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