Last night I went to see the movie Bully.
I haven’t been able to get it off my mind since.
I keep seeing scenes replayed in my head. I keep hearing the taunts, seeing the violence, seeing the parents crying over their lost children.
And in every child they profiled, I see Connor.
And it terrifies me.
I remember middle school clearly. Though I was never bullied, either physically or verbally, I remember the defeated looks of the kids who were. I remember their hunched shoulders as they hurried to class. I remember the way they tried to laugh it off on the playground. I stepped in when I could, but all too often these bullies tormented their victims out of sight or were cruel in such a nonchalant way as to escape the notice of everyone except the target. Perhaps I didn’t step in often enough.
High school was different. I’m sure there were students being bullied but I never witnessed it the way I had in middle school. My private Catholic high school was such a different environment from my over-crowded, underfunded public middle school that it couldn’t help but have a different tenor of the relationships between the students.
But I don’t know what the future will hold for Connor. Autism creates a target on him like I never experienced. When I read this article I felt like my lungs were suddenly collapsing. Identifying that children with autism are more likely to be bullied than average kids is something I already knew, but not something I consciously wanted to deal with.
Instead I’ve been making lists in my head of why Connor won’t be bullied:
He’s tall for his age.
His quick and physically adept, so he’ll probably be good at sports.
He’s doing so well in therapy that we all hope he can be mainstreamed in early elementary.
He’ll learn how to make friends through his many cousins.
What the documentary forced me to face was that none of those reasons will stop a bully from targeting my son.
God, it makes me physically ill just to think about that.
I’ve been trying to come up with a plan on how to combat a bullying situation. I can teach Connor how to socialize correctly, how to avoid bullies, how to report abuse. I can educate him on how to defend himself or get him involved with sports or other activities that might form a protective barrier around him. I can ask the children of friends and family to keep an eye out for him at school.
I can do all that and ultimately still have no control over what happens.
The only true solutions I can think of to avoid the bullying situation all together are to either send him to a school for autistic or similarly “different” children, or I can home-school him.
So why does that feel like a cop-out to me? Neither of those solutions are going to prepare him for a world in which he will have to deal with “normal” people every day.
It frustrates the heck out of me knowing there is nothing I can do but my best and to pray.
And spread the message to end bullying: