Aspergers Kids and Karate

Question

What's the best way to handle a bully whom the school has not disciplined effectively in past years? The father is very defensive and does not believe that the kid is bullying my kid. Are karate lessons the best defense? Do I talk to the youngster?

Answer

As you know from personal experience, bullying is a serious problem for kids with Aspergers (high-functioning autism). Some experts say that as many as 85% of children with Aspergers are subjected to bullying. Others place that number much closer to 100%. The very symptoms and characteristics of Aspergers are the cause. Since your youngster processes things a little differently, he has become a target for this other youngster.

Most schools have strict anti-bullying policies. These policies include children signing anti-bullying contracts, assemblies and classes by trained social workers, and strict discipline policies. Unfortunately, most schools continue to have a problem, in spite of the policies in place. Some children gloss over the behavior and no one wants to be a tattletale. Favored children, like the athletic and academic stars get away with poor behavior because teachers and coaches may look the other way.

The actions of your youngster’s bully may stem from peer pressure or even abuse. Since the mother is defensive, it is very possible that the family dynamics tend to lean in an aggressive manner. You are in a very difficult position since your youngster’s school has failed to handle the situation properly.

Here are some suggestions and words of encouragement for you:

• Dealing with bullying during school hours is the school’s responsibility. Request a meeting with your youngster’s teacher and the principal. Supply written information about your youngster’s bully. Be truthful about every incident of bullying your youngster has experienced. Firmly request that action be taken immediately.

• If the school fails to handle the issue, be prepared to file official reports with the school board and local authorities. Bullying is a form of harassment and can be treated as a legal grievance.

• Never should you approach the family of your youngster’s bully. It is understandable that you would like to resolve this issue. However, this could actually be dangerous. Most bullies learn their actions by observation. Approaching the family on your own may result in a very negative situation for you at that time and for your youngster as he continues to spend his days at school with this bully and his friends.

• Request an IEP or 504 plan review meeting to address the bullying issues. Request accommodations to protect and support your youngster through these bullying situations. A full time aide or even a transfer may be in order.

Karate lessons are a great idea for any youngster -- but especially for Aspergers kids. Your youngster with Aspergers will appreciate the strict routine and discipline of the sport. It will teach him confidence and build his strength. It should not be taught as a form of defense from bullies, however.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook

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