Updated: Apr 6, 2019
Ah, another day, another group of children taking the piss out of my boy. Every time he tells me that something has happened, I grill him on the details in the hope that I can discern whether this is bullying or whether it is just kids being arses, which, lets be honest, they often are.
He was lucky in Lower School. He grew up with a class of children who, by the time they realised he was different, realised at precisely the same moment that they didn’t give a hoot. He was who he was and, in the words of a very wise 7 year old at the time, ‘he is exactly who he is meant to be’.
Things are different now. He is no longer protected by staff who care deeply for him or children who would be absolutely mystified as to why he would be a target.
Three weeks ago there was a big incident and I dealt with it as firmly as I could, receiving a shamefully poor response from the school who appear to have forgotten that in their anti-bullying policy they are duty bound to work with the parents. The issue rolls on as I cannot let it drop until it has been satisfactorily resolved. Equally, I cannot afford to run to the school with every incident lest they start ignoring the serious ones. My son now starts the conversation by saying ‘ Mummy, don’t send an email or go aaaaarrrrggghhhh or anything, but…’ and then his face goes deadly serious and he tells me about how groups of older children crowd around him, asking him questions that don’t make sense and then laughing at his answers.
He is, of course, a brilliant target. When, last year, there were so many older children ganging up on him that they had to call a special assembly, all the children had to do was run up behind him and repeat his name over and over which made him feel as if his head was going to explode. He froze, trying to block his ears, and screamed. He could not move away. How rewarding for those children. What larks.
Tonight he has told me of two incidents in one day, involving several other children. At lunchtime he was singled out again and under such pressure that, in the words of a boy who stuck up for him, he begged them to leave him alone. He begged them.
I’ll tell you why bullying is worse for children who think differently. Every day for the last fortnight kids have called my son a turtle. I admit, I laughed too. It seemed so ridiculous that I tried to make him see it was too silly to worry about. My son’s reaction soon wiped the smile off my face. He tried to explain to them why he wasn’t a turtle. ‘ I told them, Mummy, that I am not a turtle. I don’t have flippers, I don’t have a shell, I don’t live in the sea and I don’t lay eggs’. Logic. He believed that they would realise their mistake and move on. And that is the problem. A neuro-typical child would move away, would call them knobs, do something back. My boy tries to politely explain their mistake. My heart is absolutely broken.
So, Middle School, when you blithely tell me that the school has dealt with the previous incident in line with your anti-bullying policy, I will tell you that you are fucking liars. That while you place your tick in the box that says ‘dealt with’, I will tell you, clearly, that your abject complacency, your arrogance in believing that this stuff doesn’t happen in your school, means that you have let my son down so profoundly that I will not stop banging on your door until you get this. ‘Children must be allowed to make mistakes’ you said last year. Not on my fucking watch. Have a restful weekend because there is a shitstorm coming your way.
Martha Smith Parent Advocate is a supportive blog focusing on the challenges and wins of parenting children with additional needs. Based in Hampshire Martha runs workshops for schools and other education providers in Surrey, London & Hampshire on how to encourage children with additional needs to thrive in education.