Not sure if this is a familiar situation or not?
My 7 year old son has suffered from bullying at school the worst of which was dealt with but he has suffered verbal bullying and things like boys shaking their wet hands at his trousers after washing them and laughing, sort of low level less obvious bullying if you like. The other day he came home and said that while queuing outside the classroom an older boy who has picked on my son before, had pulled his ears and stamped on his foot and he had pushed this boy away from another younger boy when he'd turned on him. However the Head teacher said she spoke to the 3 boys involved including my son, and all had a different story. So she viewed the CCTV and it showed our son pushing the other younger boy because he had threatened to pull our sons ears, while the older boy was bouncing around and trod on his foot. Our son is extremely honest and very rule abiding, but as with our older son who is also AS, it takes a lot of careful questioning to get to the actual facts. Unfortunately what has added to his anxiety is his class teacher telling him off for lying and that she is disappointed in him. He now thinks it's better not to tell teachers anything 'incase he's lying'. I guess my question is, how do I make sure he can say something if he is being bullied but cope with being able to sort out the sequence of events and get his story straight before saying anything? I feel like just telling him to keep his head down and don't say anything as I feel like the teachers don't understand that he struggles to communicate his concerns.
I hope this makes sense as its kind of hard to explain.
I‘m really sorry to hear about your son’s experiences; it’s brought back memories for me—either being accused of lying, which, like your son, I was cognitively not capable of, or being accused of “turning on the water works” for sympathy when actually I was incredibly distressed about something.
Irrespective of their qualifications and training, neurotypicals really struggle to see the world from any perspective other than their own, despite the fact they should have the capacity to at least part-empathise with your autistic 7 year old, and not expect him to perform to their standards.
I’m not comfortable with the idea of telling him to just keep his head down, and I doubt you are either, but compl
etely understand where you’re coming from out of exasperation. Are you in contact with the school’s SEN coordinator? I imagine they would be a good place to start. Regardless of disability, your son should have a voice if he is being bullied and be helped by specialist staff to develop this accordingly. While all kids have to learn to stick up for themselves, as you say your son is at a distinct disadvantage because of his impaired executive functioning and communication from his autism, which I imagine is more pronounced when stressed or anxious (such as when called in front of the head teacher).
Sorry, not sure I’ve been particularly helpful there? Others here may have more recent experience or better knowledge of where to get appropriate help for this.
All good wishes,
thank you for your kind thoughts and practical advice, it is very reassuring.
There is no SENCO at his school at the moment and I'm not sure when they are getting one. So I think I'll have to meet with the class teacher and try and get across to her about Autism and cognitive processing though I have a feeling it will fall on deaf ears. While talking to my son about the incident the Head asked him to look at her and took his lack of eye contact as him lying. He also pushes his tongue round his mouth and wells up when someone is or he perceives that someone is cross with him an obvious sign to us that he is super anxious but not seen as the same by his teacher's.
I want to be able to go in with some coping strategies they could use with him as well as talking to them about how autism effects children and not be seen as a precious, fussing Mummy or for them to take it as criticism and then get annoyed which could make life harder.
You are right to know that I don't really want him to just keep his head down, but when no one is really listening and willing to empathize it is frustrating and lonely.
Thank you again.
Aww, babe. Hugs! You're welcome. I do so feel for you both.
How awful. Yes, NTs do mistake lack of eye contact for lying, and I can understand you not wanting to get labelled as an "overbearing mother". People's ignorance is so frustrating it leaves me utterly speechless sometimes.
I'm not sure where you're based and you may feel this is a little drastic, but if the school has no plans to have a SENCO, then maybe it's worth considering transferring to one that does? You may find that the entire culture of another school is different—from the head right down to the kids—in terms of how they view pupils with difficulties and, subsequently, how they treat them. Just a thought.
Really hope you find a way through. Take good care. Xx
Hello, I’m sorry to hear about your son’s problems. The following article has some interesting observations to make. The idea of a chart or colour code with which your son can indicate the seriousness of the bullying, sounds a good idea to me.
Nessie said:Irrespective of their qualifications and training, neurotypicals really struggle to see the world from any perspective other than their own, despite the fact they should have the capacity to at least part-empathise with your autistic 7 year old
How do we know she's a NT and even if she thinks she is one this might not be true. I qualified as a teacher many years before I even suspected I was autistic. At the time, I often copied other's behaviour, such as acting how I'd seen them approach a situation, as this is how I coped. Autism didn't come one my radar until I attended a training course about it when I was 35. Rather than making assumptions about the head and the teacher, if the OP keeps an open mind these members of staff might surprise her and you never know the OP could change their lives too. I wish one of my students' mums were able to raise my awareness of autism in females much earlier on in my career.
Being able to communicate clearly is a key life skill so as difficult as it maybe it's definitely worth persevering with your son.
If I was talking to my daughter about this I'd explain if a situation isn't life-threatening communicating clearly and effectively is much more important than communicating quickly. As such, she might want to come home and talk through the situation then bullet point all of the information she wants to get across. Depending on what she wanted we'd either turn this info into a letter to give to the teacher or we'd practice how to explain this effectively. If needed, I'd also be willing to arrange a meeting with the school, then sit behind my daughter whilst she lead the conversation but I added support/clarified points when needed. The meeting would enable me to model effective communication for my daughter to learn from.
For a Head teacher not to know that autistic people - particularly 7 year olds - can find eye contact difficult to impossible, is a sad comment on her lack of professionalism.
I wasn’t diagnosed until 61. I don’t blame this on my Mother or anyone else’s Mother. It wasn’t known about to any great extent.
These days one would expect a Head teacher to at least acquaint him/herself with a basic knowledge of autism, particularly before they accuse a young autistic child of lying.
Thank you so much for all your kind words and wisdom. It's nice to have the reassurance that this is an issue worth discussing further with the class teacher and Head.
Graham, I'm interested to find out more about why you think this?
Teaching is a very difficult profession, as such the headteacher is likely to come in every morning and spend a lot of time firefighting, such as looking after frazzled staff, coping with parents who may be making a mountain out of a molehill (my mother did), supporting parents with genuine issues, arranging cover for staff who are ill, preparing for meetings inc those with social services, interviewing new staff etc. I know many headteachers who are working 60+ hours just to stay afloat and many teachers are leaving the profession in droves. Much of this is due to the attitude that teaching staff must know everything and be everything to everyone. It is estimated only affects 1% of the population are autistic, as such autism training doesn't make it to the top of the list of priorities as there are so many more demands on these staff, such as looking after the MH of children, knowing how to spot the signs of abuse, teaching them numeracy and literacy skills etc. It wrong to prioritise what needs coping with now and leaving other things to look after your own well-being, such as having a bit of time in front of the tv occasionally.
Rather than playing the blame game, I'd much prefer it if these hard-working individuals were treated with the compassion others would like to be treated with themselves. If a student is autistic and they regularly need to see the head, it is likely only then that looking into this subject will come on their radar. Even then, just like our NT counterparts, autistics individuals are all different as such, incorrect assumptions will sometimes be made and parents will often have to fill in the detail of the individual needs of their child.
Rather than putting the head down it would likely be more effective to acknowledge the things she does well and then support her to develop the knowledge she needs to support this child?
I don’t doubt teaching is a very demanding job.
One of my sisters works at a local, village primary school. Of the 80 pupils, 3 are autistic. Statistically high, I appreciate. Each of the three expresses their autism in different ways. All staff know the problems and virtues of each child. There are procedures in place should a problem arise.
I don’t think autism is any less of a “genuine issue” than any other issue. Eye contact is a well known issue for many autistic children and adults. If, as a teacher, you will allow me the luxury of turning a noun into an adjective, I regard the head teacher’s comment that the child in question wasn’t being honest as he wouldn’t look her in the eye, as rather Trumpian in its ignorance. If she knows absolutely nothing about autism, then it would be better if she requested that someone who does should be present.
I understand that financial constraints and a heavy work load are a problem in today’s educational establishments. However, I am rather concerned that someone may reach the position of head teacher without even a basic understanding of autism. Whether this a question of training, I don’t have the information to know. I am surprised that there isn’t at least an online resource for teachers to access, so they may learn how to approach and tackle any problems they encounter with regards to autistic children. In fact, I wouldn’t be too astonished to learn that it is a statutory duty to have procedures in place to help autistic children navigate what is a problematic time for them.
I suspect we both want the same outcome, better resourced schools and better training for teacher/autistic pupil relationships.
Graham Slight Return said:I am surprised that there isn’t at least an online resource for teachers to access, so they may learn how to approach and tackle any problems they encounter with regards to autistic children. In fact, I wouldn’t be too astonished to learn that it is a statutory duty to have procedures in place to help autistic children navigate what is a problematic time for them.
There isn't. The only training I received on my PGCE for students are labelled as disabled by society was 1/2 morning on dyslexia. My PGCE class specialised in teaching basic skills and courses for disabled students in FE. The majority of our training was based around academic theory and how to write a lesson plan. I now work alongside the autism mentors in HE and the government (who fund this support) only require them to undertake a one-day training course and a lot of these providers only cover general autism awareness and provide no information on how to help autistic students navigate their higher education experience.
A friend, whose a primary school teacher, has had no autism awareness training too. As I previously mentioned, even as an autistic person autism only came on my radar after I attended a training session when I moved to work in HE. This focused on general info and didn't discuss at all how a student may react in certain situations, such as discussing any perceived behaviour issues. The case of your sister is the expectation rather than the norm. I've been teaching since 2007 unqualified and 2011 qualified. Last year is the first time I've ever had an autistic student and that is because I specifically asked for some due to my personal interest. The primary school teacher I know has been qualified the same amount of time and as never had an autistic student. This isn't surprising as she teaches yr1 and 2 and as these board show a diagnosis often comes much later than this age.
Graham Slight Return said:I suspect we both want the same outcome, better resourced schools and better training for teacher/autistic pupil relationships
What I want to see is greater understanding and more realistic expectations from autistic individuals and their parents, around the workload of teachers and how unrealistic it is to expect someone to be an expert in a neurology they may never work with. Most of the teaching profession are willing to learn if autistic individuals and those involved in their care will take the time to tactfully point out any genuine mistakes and to teach those members of staff why their behaviour has been perceived as an error and how they'd have prefered the situation to be handled.