Happy belated Valentines Day! Not such a big deal for us – we went out for supper, but no chocolates and no flowers (my request). It got me reminiscing about when Kaitlyn was little – Valentines Day was a major event. The kids would decorate a large envelope to use as a mailbox for their valentines cards, and a lot of thought went into which card would go to which friend. We always had a rule – she had to give everyone in her classroom a card.
There was a recent story on the Global News website about a Michigan Mom who started a birthday wish Facebook page for her son – Colin. He suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome (on the Autism Spectrum) – and told his Mom that there was no sense planning a party for his upcoming 11th birthday, because he “has no friends”. He eats lunch everyday by himself. His mother started the page so that Colin would get positive messages for his birthday. You can read the story HERE.
The response to the Facebook page has been overwhelming, but still I was upset by the article – thinking of Colin eating alone everyday because no one wants to sit with him. I am also troubled – do the adults at Colin’s school not realize that exclusion is a form of bullying? Why are the teachers not trying to encourage some positive integration strategies for this child who struggles with social interaction?
Research shows that one in seven Canadian children between ages 11 and 16 are victims of bullying. Children with disabilities are twice as likely to be bullied. Early intervention to stop bullying is important because of the negative long-term effects on the victim’s self-worth, which can result in anxiety and depression.
A couple of week ago, I read a blog post about an amazing teacher. Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to write down the names of the students that they want to sit with the following week (she doesn’t guarantee anything). She also asked them to write down the name of the student they think should be “Student of the Week”. She collects the papers, and spends a couple of hours going over them. Not just to make seating arrangements – but to analyze which students weren’t on anyone’s list. Which students might be having a tough time making friends in the classroom, and who might be a victim of bullying. This teacher realizes that some children struggle with peer relationships and that a facilitated social environment might be required. When asked how long she had been doing this Friday exercise – she explained since Columbine (1999).