Do you live in fear of when the next shoe will drop? If things go along smoothly for too long, do you just sit back and wait for something bad to happen? Many children with Asperger Syndrome and their parents have expressed living in this state of “waiting for the next bad thing to happen.” One thing we have in common with our kids with Asperger Syndrome is that we get “knocked down” at regular intervals. We get bullied often!
Living in this state of anticipation for bad things to happen, changes all of us in many ways. Just like many of our children, we live in a state of constant low-grade anxiety. We become isolated with our children trying to avoid the next meltdown or the next mean comment or action by those who don’t understand. We become cautious, fearing taking risks. We become glum and pessimistic about the intrinsic good in others because we see the rotten side of people so often.
So, the question is how to live in a positive state of mind when so many bad things keep happening to us. I have adopted the point of view that one of the great truths of life is there will always be one in every crowd! There will always be one person who will pick on my child or me; one person who will irritate my child or me; one person who will not understand or even want to understand my child or me; one person who is always the bully. We all know that one person who takes it upon himself to make our life a living hell.
For all the years I have worked with students with AS, this is one of the first things I teach them. THERE IS ALWAYS ONE IN EVERY CROWD.
Children with Asperger Syndrome seem to be particularly susceptible to these bullies. Parents of these children also seem to be particularly susceptible to these bullies, as we feel we must “fight” for our kids. It is critically important for us to learn strategies to deal with these people.
The lesson goes like this. If you know there will be one in every crowd, then you must learn how to deal with this person, as there will never be time when you won’t be encountering him or her. The first step in this process is for the person with AS to learn that who they are and how they think is just as OK as how others think and learn. Families also have to learn that is OK for their children to be different. This is huge! In trying to “help” our children we often give subtle and not-so-subtle messages about what is and is not acceptable. We must learn to support our children’s differences while teaching them how to survive in a world that thinks differently from them. This message of acceptance and support must come in loud and clear to our children. If we as parents are invested in making them” look” more normal, our children will pick up on this!
So, the first step in learning to deal with bullies is acceptance of self and feeling like there is a core team of people (or at least one person) who support this child’s unique view of life. This core team of people must also exist for the family unit. Don’t get confused, I am NOT talking about unacceptable behavior. There is a way to teach acceptable behavior while accepting and supporting the individual with AS. Families also have to learn acceptable behavior in the face of bullying.
The next step is forming a unique family strategy for dealing with the “one in every crowd.” This strategy will be unique to your family. Before I discuss this further, I want to recommend that you DO NOT take the approach that the person with AS should “beat up the kid.” This approach has tragic results when applied to a person with AS. Generally, the kids with AS will end up in trouble and the bully will get off with little or no punishment. The other problem with this approach is that it might also get applied out of context to adults and then law enforcement will be involved.
Here is one family’s strategy for helping their child with AS:
Dealing With One in Every Crowd
I acknowledge there will be one in every crowd. I am OK. I do not need for others to say that I’m OK. I’m just fine. My family loves me and will always help me. I can always talk to them about anything or anyone who is bothering me. Ms. (safe person at school) will always help me. I can talk to her about anything or anyone who is bothering me.
I am important. The bully has a problem. I want to stay out of his problems. I am the boss of me. My teacher is the boss of the classroom. Here is what I’ll do:
1. Ignore the bully if he’s just using mean words. I don’t care about the mean words. I’m OK.
2. Report the bully to my parents and safe person at school, is he’s threatening to hurt me or anyone else.
3. Ask my parents and safe person EXACTLY what I am supposed to do to stay away from the bully.
4. I will do my best to follow the plan to stay away from the bully.
Bullies come in all forms: adults, children, male and female. THERE IS ONE IN EVERY CROWD! I can deal with bullies and stay safe and strong.
There is always one in every crowd. How we, as families, handle this one in every crowd is the best influence possible on how our loved one with AS will handle bullies and life’s other adversities.