October 29, 2008
When parents fail and kids prevail
Kids can be brutally honest, and sometimes they can be quite cruel. My seven year old son has autism. He is often a receiving end of blunt comments. He is teased and made fun of by other children, and it hurts to watch. I'm a pretty forgiving person, and sometimes when a child says something to my son that "isn't very nice", I like to give them the benefit of the doubt. But, sometimes it crosses the line.
We recently attended a birthday party where there was a mixture of children including a handful with special needs. My son struggles at birthday parties like this because he wants to play with other children, but seems to always land on the outside. As a parent, this is tough to watch. I don't want to be the looming parent always stepping in and tend to take a step back and watch. At this particular party my son managed to join in and was frolicking about with the other children. Things were looking up and then "it" happened.
The kids were all running around and in an attempt to keep up, my son fell down. He was crying and quite upset, with a skinned knee. He came to me for comfort and in an attempt to show me where he was hurt he pulled his pants down instead of merely lifting the pantleg to show me the wound on his knee. Because of his autism, he doesn't always do things that are appropriate - and we are working on teaching him that. Pulling your pants down in public, isn't acceptable - and I'm aware of that.
Unfortunately in that split second that his pants were down another child starting pointing at him and laughing. "He's stupid!" Then my son cried more, "He called me stupid! I want to go home." The child kept saying it over and over, "Look at him, he is a stupid boy".
I was boiling inside and in that moment, all I could do was console my child. I felt that I should have said something to the boy calling my son names and poking fun of him. In that moment, I was frozen and unable to come up with something positive and productive to say. The worst of it was that the child continued to debase my son and call him names and his mother stood right there and witnessed it. She made no attempt to correct her own child, as I would expect any parent should. All I can think now is perhaps she didn't know quite what to say either. But, it was all I could do to hold back my own tears witnessing my child be teased and focus on comforting him.
During that time, a quiet little girl was watching over what was happening. She knew that the other boy was saying things that hurt my son's feelings and she didn't like it. As he continued to tease, she stepped up to him and told the boy, "You shouldn't say things like that, that's mean - it isn't nice". She said it to the boy two times, and then he stopped.
As I think about it, I believe that hearing what he was doing was wrong from one of his peers was likely far more effective than anything that his mother or I could have said or done to stop the bullying. I'm so thankful that she stood up for son that day and put an end to the bullying.
Original New Jersey Moms Blog post by MaryTara. MT writes about Jersey Shore life with autism, special diets, and sibling issues at The Bon Bon Gazette.