Posts Tagged ‘ Bullying in schools ’

The Awful Prank On An Autistic Teen—And How We Can Prevent This

Monday, September 8th, 2014

The web has been buzzing over a vile incident involving a 15-year-old with autism in Bay Village, Ohio. A group of teens asked him over to their house, purportedly to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge geared toward raising money for the disease. Instead, as the teen stood in a driveway in his underwear, a bucket full of urine, fecal and spit was dumped onto him from the roof. The boy’s mother, Diane, discovered a video of what happened on her son’s cell phone. Police say that the group of teens who committed it could face delinquency chargers. The parents released the video, hoping to raise awareness about bullying.

People have been justifiably horrified, with many speaking out against bullying. Last Friday evening, his community held a rally with people holding signs such as “No room for hate.” Comedian Drew Carey has offered $10,000 in reward money to help find out who was behind the incident. All over social media, people have denounced what happened.

As horrific as this assault was for this teen and his family, as extra-upsetting as it is to those of us who have kids with special needs, the outpouring of support has been heartening. Still, it’s sad that it takes a shocking incident like this for people to spread the word that people with special needs deserve respect. If that were to occur regularly, though, events like this could be avoided. Not entirely, of course, because there will always be rotten apples. But if kids were raised to treat peers with special needs as their equals, children with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other special needs would be less subject to derision, exclusion and bullying.

This isn’t just about making sure kids with special needs are included in school’s anti-bullying messages; this is about parents talking with their kids about children and adults with special needs from a young age, so children grow up with that equality mindset.

Here’s a challenge for parents to take. It involves no icy water, just a willingness to help kids understand the diversity of people that exist in this world, and to talk about it with them.

• Explain to your child how everyone has differences, and that some kids and adults have ones that are more visible—and that different is OK.

• Point out even though a child may act, speak, walk or talk in a non-typical way,  in many ways they are like other children: ones who like to play, laugh, eat ice-cream, read bedtime stories…you know. That they feel happy and sad, just like they do. That they are kids.

• Help make kids aware of the ability in disability, and that everyone has their own kind of talents. If you do not have any kids or adults with special needs in your circle, google images of Special Olympics athletes—a good conversation starter. Or poke around blogs by parents of kids with special needs to help your child get a sense of what our children can do.

• Discourage the use of the words “retard” and “retarded,” which perpetuate negative stereotypes of people with disability. (If you don’t get what’s so wrong with them, watch this video.)

• Make this an ongoing conversation, just as parents regularly talk with kids throughout childhood about race, ethics and other all-important topics. Encourage them to ask you questions.

• Bridge the gap that can exist at parks, playgrounds, parties, when kids may be hesitant to approach a child with special needs. Encourage interaction. Tell them to just say “Hi,” as they would with any child.

I hope you’ll take this challenge. It’s not just for the sake of kids like my son—it’s for the benefit of your child, too. Teach your child to welcome and respect people with special needs and you will raise a better human being.

From my other blog:

30 ways to respect kids and adults with disabilities

If only everyone treated people with disability like this Starbucks barista did

Teaching a child with special needs to be his own champion


Image of ice bucket via Shutterstock 

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Teachers Caught On Tape Bullying A Child With Special Needs

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

There’s been a lot of attention paid in recent years to the bullying of kids by other kids. And now, another bullying problem has been thrust into the spotlight, one that is even more mind-boggling. It involves a teacher bullying a student, one who has special needs. And, yes, OMG.

When Cheyanne, a 14-year-old with disabilities then at Miami Trace Middle School in Ohio, started resisting going to school, her parents finally found out why: Her teacher, Christy Wilt, and her classroom aide, Kelly Chaffens, were bullying her. The school refused to believe them, so the father wired up his daughter with a mike to get proof. What got caught on tape: four days of verbal abuse and taunts. I’m warning you now, this video is upsetting and downright painful to watch.

“Are you that damn dumb?”

“No wonder you don’t have friends.”

“Don’t you want to do something to get rid of that belly? You don’t do anything at home…you sit.”

The aide, Kelly Chaffens, resigned; she’d been with Cheyanne for four years. The school required the teacher to complete eight hours of anti-bullying and child abuse training. Finally, on Monday, the school put Christy Wilt on unpaid leave until the end of the school year.

The parents are taking legal action to help ensure this teacher is never again around kids, let alone ones with special needs—and doing their best to help their daughter get past this.

As always, when something awful like this happens to a kid, you hope it will raise awareness and prevent it from recurring. It’s a reminder to all of us to make occasional visits to our kids’ classrooms and pay attention to our child’s signals about school, whether or not you have a child with special needs. If you have a child who is not able to verbally express thoughts, as I do, and you ever have any suspicions about abuse, do not hesitate to discuss them with the principal or other authority.

When we hand over our children to teachers, we trust them to educate them, nurture them and do them right. Teachers who are warped enough to treat a child this way need serious psychological help. But I also wish these two women would get jail time. Because treating a kid like that, any kid, is criminal.

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