Thursday, July 10, 2014

Special Needs = Special Targets; The Bullying No One Talks About

Some of my long time readers may know that I am a parent to a special needs kid. My son is a happy, healthy, very active, 7 year old ‘all boy’ kinda kid. He is also non-verbal and on the autism spectrum. Because he’s non-verbal, some people like to take advantage of it, thinking he can’t tell on them if they’re mean to him or if he sees them being mean to other kids. WRONG!

What they don’t know is that both my husband and I have run into enough fucktards that think that way, that we watch for the warning signs.  In the past, we’ve made sure that the facility that our son was in had video monitoring equipment. This helped us turn in a child care facility in Florida to the Department of Child Protective Services after our son kept coming home with unexplainable bruises and in a depressed state of mind. This is not usual for him. At all. It turned out that several of the staff members where bullying our son; pushing him around, locking him in a room by himself (he was 6), screaming in his face til he cried, etc.

Fast forward to today: We recently moved to Phoenix to enroll him into a brand new Autism Charter School. It’s a little slice of heaven. Except for the company that they contracted to provide the summer camp located on their campus. I would call the service provider out, but at this time, we are dealing with an issue.

See, my husband, Mike, works part-time at the charter school, performing maintenance and trying to get it ready for the grand opening in August. He’s there at odd hours. Our son attends the summer program, so while Mike is doing work around the school, our son gets to play and interact with other kids. It’s a win-win.

Today, as Mike was replacing hardware on doors, he was in one of the hallways that has a one way mirror on it. He was watching the kids and summer camp staff interacting while installing a door handle. What he witnessed pissed him off to the point he stopped work and went to find the director of the school and the head of the summer camp program.

Our son was told to sit down. He didn’t want to, preferring to continue playing. He inherited his stubbornness from his parents. We know this and we own it. Instead of the staff member firmly telling him it was time to sit down, they yanked the chair out of his hands and yelled at him to sit down. Now, I have lost my temper before. And I’ve yelled before. But I’ll be damned if I’ve ever done it at another person’s kid. Or gotten physical with another person’s kid, let alone my own. It’s not a parenting skill and it sure as fuck isn’t a teaching skill. Especially with kids dealing with special needs.

Before shit could escalate, Mike entered the room and stunned the staff. He smiled and quietly asked to see the head of the school program out in the hall. Then he found the school’s director and explained to them what he’d just witnessed. Then he gave the summer camp notice that if anything like that happened again, he’d push the director to cancel the contract with the service provider on the grounds of abusive staff.

As a side note, the director is looking for an excuse to cancel the contract. The first day of the summer camp, the service provider showed up with three staff members to facilitate 30 special needs kids. If you have ever swam in the world of special needs, you know that is insanity and out of the realm of safe for the kids. It was sheer chaos. Some of the kids were wandering off, while others were having hour long melt-downs. (Some melt-downs result in self-inflicted injuries). The school director and staff where beside themselves and had to stop their day of training to take care of the kids. Which, they see as ‘their’ kids. They know each one by name, know their personalities, and would jump in front of a bus for them. They don’t take kindly to strangers mistreating ‘their’ kids.

After Mike explained what he’d seen, the director was furious and the summer camp director started damage control (for the second time this week). The offensive staff member was reprimanded and reminded that these are kids and to treat them accordingly.

Tomorrow, Mike has to confront them to find out how the back of our son’s hand was injured. Kind of a weird place to get ‘road rash.’

So, I have to wonder, do people really thing that just because a kid is special needs, that they can be targeted for abuse and bullying? Do they think that no one will take offense? It’s a subject that I know a lot of people don’t like to talk about or think about. Maybe because it doesn’t affect them. But it’s the same kind of story as the abuse that goes on in nursing homes every day.

A bully is a bully. It doesn’t matter if it’s a punk kid on a playground somewhere or a corporate executive throwing his imagined weight around. There should be a reserved level of hell for bullies that go after the defenseless like old folks, animals, and special needs kids.

I know a lot of readers probably think that bullying can’t or won’t affect them. I used to think the same thing. I encourage everyone to take a moment and check out the site You never know where it might cross your path.


  1. Forget reprimand. If it were my kid who was bullied and mistreated like that the person who yelled at him would be fired. I'd make sure of it. The people being hired to care for these children should know better. Pisses me off to see this goes on. Good for Mike for taking care of business!

    1. I couldn't agree with you more, Kim. It happens far too often, and no one talks about it. I say throw the doors open and show the ugliness. Then maybe it'll stop and these kids will be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Just because they're special needs doesn't mean they shouldn't be treated like any other kid.

      We always give them one chance. But it boggles my mind that people that are supposed to be trained in the therapy of special needs kids would even consider acting like that. The contract with this group to provide the after school program once school starts is in serious jeopardy if shit doesn't straighten up with a quickness.

      I was ready to jump in the truck and drive to the school to stomp a mudhole in someone's ass and walk it dry, but Mike said he was on it. He was being a lot nicer than I would have been. lol

  2. Well, I'm almost without words- almost. People are the WORST kind of animals. Once, in High School, a friend and I taught swimming to a small group of mildly mentally challenged kids. We all showed up at the public pool and they wouldn't let us in, SO, we returned to the school, and later that afternoon, Molly and I returned to the public pool and went skinny dipping in front of everyone. Turns out WE were much more controversial then the kids, and we all returned the next day- no problem. Now, I must stop the top of my head from exploding as a result of your son's situation, and book a flight to have a talk with a certain camp director. IDIOTS.

    1. I. Love. You. on SO many levels! One, for volunteering your time to work with such awesome kids. But to make a public display like that?! Awesomeness to the moon and back! If I were to do something like that, I'd blind them with my whiteness and hurt them with my fat rolls. ;)

      Amazing how bullying has that affect on people. My first instinct was to grab my head because I thought I was going to explode, too. I really wanted to go pay that staff member a little 'special' kind of retribution.

      I'm hoping by talking about it, getting it out there that it IS a problem in a majority of schools, that these bullies will begin to realize that we are watching and we won't be silent.

    2. Why do bullies exist? I guess they feel inadequate and have much self-loathing. That's half the world I'm afraid. Your son is lucky to have you. XXOOO

  3. No. Simply no. That staff member would be telling their story from inside a jail cell. That isn't just bullying , it's abuse. This is a zero tolerance situation and I give your husband credit because had it been me, I'd be the one in jail....for assault. Y'all push on and know if you need voices to help you shout from the rooftops, you just let me know.

  4. Horrendous to hear about the abuse your son had to endure. Totally unacceptable. I believe that the key to preventing this kind of bullying culture is leadership. Any unit caring/providing services for people (particularly vulnerable people) must have the appropriate messages streaming down from the top. If leadership is found wanting, quality quickly declines and the abusers run ramok. Credit to Mike for highlighting what he had seen.

  5. Having my Autistic Step son who is also a Non Verbal Autistic we look for these signs all the time. Fortunately, if bullying is happening it is either not affecting our son or B...just not happening. He comes home from school happy go lucky.