Do you ever try communicating with your child's school and find yourself feeling like you're speaking Chinese, while they're speaking French?
Quite confident that I am not the only parent to experience this, I must share language-clarifying information I recently came across in my daily reading.
We all know that our kids with special needs are more frequently subjected to bullying. Yet, discernment surrounding the situation can become complicated because our kids can lack the ability to put into words what they are experiencing, especially if they struggle with social deficits.
More than once, I have found myself repeatedly banging my head against the wall with our school when we have tried to resolve difficulties our daughter was having with other children. The school is very big on the theme of bullying, as many schools are these days. She would seek help, claiming to be bullied by other students, only to be dismissed by the adults in charge. This created frustration and mistrust of those on whom she should have been able to rely in the school setting.
However, a November, 2012 article by child and adolescent therapist, Signe Whitson, shed some light on why we might be having such miscommunication with our school. The word "bully" holds a very specific meaning in the academic setting. While in every day language it may hold a more general meaning of being picked on by others, Whitson defines it clearly as, "Intentionally aggressive behavior, repeated over time, that involves an imbalance of power." She goes on to distinguish between bean "mean" or just plain "rude".
These descriptions gave me a common language I could not only share with my school, but also my daughter. In fact, I actually created the image above and laminated it. Now, when my daughter faces a conflict, I go through the descriptive list with her. Being a very black-and-white thinker, it can be a challenge to talk her through these things. She tends to ascribe motives to others that may not really be there. Nevertheless, I am grateful that we have a tool to help us examine what has really happened.
My hope is that this specific, common terminology will help us have a better outcome the next time there is a peer conflict at school, which is bound to happen. I pray that it might do the same for you.
PRAY: Lord, You know that our intentions don't always come through clearly in our words. Thank You for the ability to find common ground and eliminate confusion. Guide our children through these difficult situations with their peers. Grow them into strong, confident people, all for Your glory.
~ Barb Dittrich
*For further reading: 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools