Friday, March 25, 2011

Article: "Help! IEP Time" on Aspergers: A Mom's Eye View

Just wanted to draw your attention to an excellent series of articles about the IEP (Individualised Education Programme) on Aspergers: A Mom's Eye View (http://asdhelp.wordpress.com/)



This is a very detailed article which covers;
  1. Does your child need an IEP.
  2. Three major steps for Preparation for an IEP
It's well worth a read!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making yourself less of a target for Bullying

So far we've looked at the different ways in which bullying can manifest itself and discussed some options for damage control once it starts. Some people however present more of a target to bullies than others. In this post, we'll look at some things you can do to reduce your chances of being bullied.

Being Different
Like many aggressors, bullies often have an intense "dislike for the unlike". This means that if there is something about you that is different, they will seize upon it as an excuse to bully.

If you're an aspie, you'll already be fighting an "uphill battle" because NTs can somehow sense our differences within minutes of meeting us. It's mostly to do with our body language and while it's possible to learn how to hide it from others in occasional conversation, there's very little that you can do when you're in constant daily contact with a potential bully.

This means that you'll have to work all the harder to blend in. You shouldn't work against yourself by "trying to be different". I know that it seems to be a matter of expressing your individuality and basic freedoms but you need to set sensible limits. For example; a guy who regularly wears pink shirts in a homophobic school is really "asking for trouble". The same goes for people who regularly have "branded accessories" marked with special interests which aren't necessarily age appropriate.

Having a star wars lunchbox in primary school is cool. It's not so cool to have one in secondary school. You may think that spongebob is the height of culture but constantly talking about him or wearing spongebob apparel is going to get you noticed. Save that stuff for home.

Do your best to blend in and appear "one of the crowd" and you'll attract a lot less attention from bullies.


Don't Lose Your Temper
Bullies love getting a reaction and there's no reaction that thrills them more than a meltdown or a temper-tantrum.

Once a bully has seen that kind of reaction from you, they'll keep trying to provoke "bigger and better" ones and in front of progressively larger groups. As the victim's reputation for outbursts grows, they will attract greater numbers of bullies. Even kids who normally wouldn't be bullies themselves will try to get a reaction.

If you're an aspie, then social anxiety and meltdowns are a part of normal life for you. You probably won't be able to control them entirely but you should be able to detect your triggers and remove yourself from situations. If you're at school, you'll probably need to get your parents to talk to your teachers about the issue to establish a protocol for you to signal an overload and withdrawal condition without drawing undue attention to yourself.

Keep your head. Know your triggers and remove yourself from situations immediately if you feel a meltdown is imminent.


Don't Provoke Bullies
We've all heard the saying; "it won't bite you if you don't annoy it". That's not exactly true of bullies. They'll find you and they'll attack without warning regardless of what you do. What is true however is that if a bully isn't currently attacking you, then stirring them up will certainly cause them to focus on you.

Occasionally, you may find that your bully ends up in a situation where the tables are turned. Perhaps they've had a bad day or something embarrassing has happened to them. You may be burning for revenge but try to resist the urge to get involved. Bullies have good memories and when they're back on top, they're bound to come looking for you.

Just leave the bullies alone. Stay out of their life and you'll significantly reduce their incursions into yours.


Don't Just Defend Yourself - Attack!
I've often heard parents giving their children advice to "hit the bully back" and indeed, assuming you're strong enough to win a physical fight, that often does the trick. Of course, in these situations, you can't hit first or you'll be seen as the agressor.

Bullying usually goes on for a long, long time before it becomes physical and by the time it does, a lot of damage has already been done. For this reason, establishing a good verbal defense is critical.

It's not enough to simply "block" negative comments. You also need to strike back.

Consider this conversation (note: for clarity I've added points in brackets);

Bully: Hey moron! you've got a fat head! (3 points)
Victim: No I haven't (0 points)
Bully: Man, your head is so fat you probably can't get it in the gate. (1 Point)
Victim: I can, I came in the gate this morning (0 points)
Bully: Aw gee, for someone with such a big fat head, you're so dumb. (3 points).

I've allocated points on the following basis;
1 Point for unexpected attack.
1 Point per attack word

You'll notice that the victim has wasted his lines by simply defending himself (denying allegations). The bully hasn't been attacked at all.

Now, consider a different exchange.

Bully: Hey moron! you've got a fat head! (3 points)
Victim: Aw shut up you stupid clown, go bother someone who cares (3 points)
Bully: Man, your head is so fat you probably can't get it in the gate. (1 point)
Victim: Yeah well at least I don't have an ugly mug like yours or a pathetic and stupid personality to go with it. (3 points)
Bully: Well, your head is fat. (1 point)
Victim: Oh quit it with the stupid head fixation and grow up you sad little sack of camel dung (5 points)

If your exchanges go this way, the bully will soon leave you alone.

Parents; If your child is being bullied at school, you might want to role-play these sorts of comebacks until they're natural responses.

A neutral defence is useless against bullies. Always make your verbal responses count.


Be Less Visible
There's an old saying "Out of sight, out of mind" which means simply that if the bully doesn't see you, they'll find some other victim instead. I'm not suggesting that you hide from the bully but simply that you try to reduce your interactions and ensure that you're not near the bully when they have free time.


Become part of a group
Another good saying; "There's safety in numbers". Bullies prefer to attack when the odds are in their favour. Find a group, any group - a nerd group is fine - and stick with it. If you've got other people with you, the bully is more likely to decide that the risk is too great and leave you alone.


Believe in yourself
Bullies will say lots of hurtful things but they're usually just lies aimed at throwing you off balance. The bully wants to destroy your self esteem. You need to spend time thinking about your good points and work hard to boost your own self esteem. This will only happen if you can believe in yourself. Talk to people who care about you and ask them for their opinions - don't just take the bully's lying words to heart.

Don't believe anything a bully says.


Get help when necessary
There may come a time when you feel that "you simply can't take it any more". Don't let things get to this point. Seek help and stand up for your rights. If you've reported a bullying incident and nothing has been done to correct it, then go to a higher authority. If you're a child and your parents don't seem to understand then see the school social worker or refuse to go to school. You need to ensure that they understand how serious the problem is.

Don't bottle your feelings up. That's how people explode.

If you find yourself contemplating self-harm or taking weapons to school then you need to get your support network involved.


Don't stay at inappropriate places
Some places are home to large numbers of bullies. Some schools not only tolerate bullies but seem to actively encourage it. The same goes for some sports teams and social clubs. These places won't react well to allegations of bullying and may even react by making life harder for the victim. Don't try to fight a losing battle. There are other schools, other clubs and other workplaces. Look after number one (yourself) and protect your valuable self-esteem.

Don't put up with it, just leave - and if you still want to take action, do it from outside the group. This could be in the form of a letter to a newspaper about a school which encourages bullying or it could be as simple as joining another sports team and delivering a crushing defeat to your ex-bully team.

If you can't seem to get anything done about bullying, then get out. Don't stay in a harmful environment.


Next time
We'll look at the bullies side of the story and conclude this series.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Taking a Vacation with Special Needs Children

This is a "Best of the Best" Post.

Is there such a thing as "taking a vacation" when special needs children are involved? I know many people whose whole idea of a vacation is "any time without the kids" but aside from the respite services that some parents can take advantage of, there's little chance of that sort of holiday. Even my own parents who take the kids for a "holiday" during their school breaks have stipulated that they can only look after one child at a time. Breaks away from the kids are very rare for us.

So, if a break away from the kids isn't possible, then what happens when you take them with you?


Driving Vacations
These are cheap and easy holidays - sometimes. One of the problems that many special needs children have is that they can't stay still for very long. A driving holiday can quickly turn from a peaceful trip into a nightmare if your child decides to continually unbuckle their seatbelt, annoy their siblings or pitch a "sensory fit" because they're too hot, numb, cramped or otherwise bothered. Driving holidays can work with very young (ie: aged two or younger) or significantly older (aged 15+) special needs children but between the ages of about 3-14, they're usually not a good idea.

On one driving holiday, my son, then aged about 3, refused to get back in the car and would cry whenever we tried to take him near it. We also discovered that he'd desperately needed to use the toilet but had quietly held onto it for several hours. Unfortunately, he exploded before he reached a toilet only minutes after leaving the car at our destination. Another driving holiday became a total ruin when our son developed a middle ear infection along the way.

These days however, just driving our kids to school is an experience. They have enough fights in the 10 minute drive to school to push all thoughts of driving holidays out of our heads.


Flying Vacations
These are more successful with the 3-14 age group but obviously they're also much more expensive. That's not to say that they're without issues. There's the plane noise and vibration and even worse, there's the sudden changes in air pressure. These don't sound like much but they're usually enough to set off any sensory issues your children may have. Then of course, there's the airport with the array of anti-terrorist and anti-smuggler devices.

Do yourself a favour. Don't wait for the problems to start - declare your children upfront and you'll find that the airport staff are a whole lot more accomodating.

The best thing about flying vacations is that you're only being transported for a short while. After that, you can be settled at your destination.


Cruising Vacations
We've just learned the hard way that cruises aren't exactly suited to special needs children. In fact, the whole thing was so frightening to my 10 year old that he led my wife on a merry chase all around then inside of the terminal. He went on the boat but he went on kicking and screaming.

There are some great things about cruising, particularly the fact that they have a kids club and set routines. Unfortuantely, they also have unpredictable and/or dangerous things. In particular, they can have wild weather, large crowds, unsafe areas (low rails) and playgroup bullies. If your child suddenly decides that they don't like being on the boat, too bad. You're stuck there.


Resorts
Personally, I've found that resorts (and cosy family holidays) are the best types of holiday destinations for special needs children. Resorts have the advantage of kids clubs but obviously these areas carry the risk of bullying, unsuitable supervision and infectious disease. Check the kids club out carefully before leaving your child there.

Some resorts even have well trained special needs staff - or super-enthusiastic staff who are eager for new challenges.

Resorts with buffet are better than restaurant-only resorts because if your child is a very picky eater, they at least get a chance to try things without the obligation to eat.

The other great thing about resorts is that you don't have to keep travelling. You can stay put and allow the kids to settle into a routine - and if for some reason they dislike the resort, you can easily go visiting other places of interest instead.


Save the big trips for later.

When your special needs kids are small, the best holidays are those which provide minimal travel hassles while walking the fine line between stability of routine and the opportunity for new experiences.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bullying in the Workplace

If you think that bullying is just something that kids do, think again. Bullying occurs quite frequently in the workplace and unlike school bullying, there is often no evidence to back your claims up and no higher authority to turn to for help.

The targets for workplace bullying are often different to those of schoolyard bullying although many people, particularly "natural targets" such as aspies, will find themselves victims in both scenarios.


The Corporate Hierarchy
If you're the boss at work, you probably don't need to worry about being bullied but if you notice an unusually high staff turnover or if you notice that there are a lot of complaints both by and about specific individuals, you should probably investigate (quietly).

CEOs themselves generally aren't bullies because if they antagonise all of their staff, the company profits will suffer.

Bullies aren't usually to be found in the lower levels of the corporate hierarchy either. Unlike schoolyard bullies, workplace bullies generally don't use greater size or strength advantages (except perhaps in blue-collar roles). Instead, their machinations are primarily political. They can't bring a lot of pressure to bear from the bottom of the organisation, so they're more likely to "suck up" to bosses at this level until they get to a position of relative power.

What can be found in the lower levels of the organisation however are the primary targets of workplace bullying.

Middle and upper management tends to be the natural home of the workplace bully and the greater the control over staff, the better. Bullies tend to be a natural fit in people-centric roles such as human resources, project and office management.


The Tricks of the Trade
Workplace bullying tends to take the following forms;
  • Appearance and Manner
    Picking on someone because of their dress, jewelery, tattoos, hairstyle or their general manner, such as telephone or meeting conduct. This tends to be an area dominated by female bullies and the aim of the bully is to make the victim feel insecure about themselves and perhaps, to force more conservative trends. This helps older female bullies to retain attention which may otherwise be lost to younger staff.

  • Ethical Questions
    This style of bullying calls the ethics of the victim into question. It's usually targeted on a perceived "weak point" and may question religious beliefs, sexual preferences, business practices, decisions and even parenting abilities.

    Bullies attacking someone's ethics will attempt to make their victims feel uneasy (or even resign) by loudly dropping hints that their ethics are somehow wrong. For example; they may suggest in general discussion, that mothers who return to work while their kids are still very young are the worst kind of people. They may pretend to be totally oblivious to the fact that their words are hurting a mother in the office. These parents have enough self-doubt about leaving their babies in the care of strangers without being called out on it by bullies.

  • Attacks on Knowledge
    Many of the most common forms of workplace bullying take place around the idea of knowledge. Workers are accused of being unskilled or otherwise unable to perform their duties. The bully "accidentally" withholds or delays key knowledge, such as reports, emails or system passwords.

    In one case from my past, we had a female IT worker who wasn't particularly well accepted by her peers. A male colleague kept reducing her access rights to the point where she would frequently find herself locked out of systems and unable to do her job. Since she was supposed to be an IT support person, this bullying made her seem incompetent.

    Bullies who attempt to use knowledge as a weapon will often try to make it seem that the office cannot function without them. They will set things up to fail when they are not around or will redirect phones and email to ensure that they are the only ones who get a chance to operate certain systems. They will complain bitterly about other people not giving them training, documentation or access while resisting efforts to allow others to be trained.

    If someone does any part of their job during an absence, they will complain bitterly about the quality of work - even if there was nothing wrong with it - as soon as they return.

  • Credit Takers
    Credit taking bullies are those who attempt to take credit for the work of others while complaining bitterly that they "had to do all of the work themselves". These sorts of bullies will take issue with any reports you submit to upper management without having gone through them first. They will exclude their victims from meetings and will present their victim's documents as their own.

Dealing with Workplace Bullying
There's not a lot you can do about workplace bullying, particularly if the bully either has the CEO's ear or works in the human resources department. In both of these cases, the bully may have high levels of access to your file and will attempt to suppress complaints about themselves. If anything, you'll simply draw attention to yourself.

If the bullying is not impacting you too greatly, then you can continue working and just keep copious, unpublished notes about issues. Save the notes for a time when they are really needed.

If, on the other hand, the bullying is affecting you, then start looking for another job. It's worthwhile reporting it but there's little chance you can win.


A Good Read
While not simply on workplace bullying, the following book is a very interesting read on the subject.

Working with Monsters: How to Identify and Protect Yourself from the Workplace Psychopath
by John Clarke
Published by: Random House Australia
ISBN-13: 9781740511544
Year Published: 2005


Other Posts in this Series

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Rise of Cyberbullying

Most people seem to think that Cyber-bullying is simply "internet bullying" but the issue is much older than that. Simply put, cyber-bullying means bullying via electronic means. It's already a widespread problem now but the plethora of personal devices becoming available means that unless checked, it may eventually overtake most other forms of bullying.

Not Just an Internet Issue
Cyber-bullying existed long before most people got their hands on the internet. It began life as prank and threatening telephone calls, moved to nasty SMS messages and now has a thriving life on social networking sites. Make no mistake, it's a growing and credible threat. Like other types of bullying, cyber-bullying can have fatal consequences. People have murdered or committed suicide after being cyberbullied.

Note: There's nothing particularly special about the two incidents I linked above. They were just the first two I found. There are hundreds of similar cases reported online.


Different Forms
Just as there are many different forms of normal bullying including physical violence, name calling, pranks, engineering degrading situations, dobbing and rumour-mongering; cyberbullying also takes many forms.

  • Comment, Chat and Forum Abuse
    In this form of cyber-bullying, the bullies post degrading comments on the victim's web sites or blogs. They will also post negative comments on forums directly after (or simply referencing) the victim's posts.

    For example; someone may have a blog which is all about cats. A cyber-bully will post off-topic personal comments on their blog. On forum sites, the cyber-bully will repeatedly attack posts by a particular person but not simply because they disagree.

    The language of cyber-bullying is extremely negative and targeted. They will attempt to highlight the victims personal weaknesses or sensitivities. In many instances they will bring the victims race or religious or sexual preferences into the the discussion.

    Comment spam can often be reduced by having filters on your blog (if you own the blog) and forum spam can often be dealt with by contacting the moderator (person in control) of a given forum. Of course, not all platforms support these anti-bullying measures. Facebook for instance does not screen comments made "friends".

  • Stalking and Threats using Personal Information
    Unlike real-life bullying, cyber-bullying can be initiated by anyone - even people you've never met. It can be quite frightening to find that an unknown person has managed to dig up your personal information and is able to make threats about dropping in for an unscheduled visit.

    There's an even more frightening disclosure of information trend that has been building recently where bullies attempt to attract sexual predators to their victims by posting personal details in online wanted advertisements. This is similar to writing "for a good time call ......" on a toilet wall except that there's a much greater chance of repercussions in real life when personal details are exposed on the internet in places where such predators hang out.

    There's not a lot you can do to prevent this kind of bullying.

    If you can, try to reduce the amount of personal information that you put online but don't forget, it usually only take a little bit of social engineering (ie: a few awkward questions to your friends) to get hold of the obvious details.


  • Photo and Video Abuse
    This is by far the widespread form of internet bullying and it is very much on the rise thanks to the video cameras which are built into all modern smartphones and other devices. Even worse, many of these devices, the Nintendo DS and iPhone for instance, have built-in caricature applications which allow bullies to take photos and then manipulate them to enhance the victim's worst features before posting them online.

    Sadly, many people who wouldn't otherwise bully participate in photo and internet bullying without realizing that they're contributing to the problem. The Star Wars kid is a perfect example of this and the despite the heavy involvement of the law, the videos starring him are still available on YouTube today. Remember, once a degrading photo of you is posted online, it will stay there because someone, somewhere would have downloaded a copy. The internet truly is "forever".

    Then there are web sites which "specialize" in posting damaging images. (For example; http://www.uglypeople.se/ and http://failblog.org/) not to mention all of those chain letter emails and powerpoint presentations which regularly assault everyone's mailboxes. These things are funny - until they're a picture of you.

    There's very little that you can do about photo and video abuse because once you're captured online, these shots spread like wildfire and can be impossible to stop.


  • Character Assassination
    Character assassination occurs when a bully goes all out and creates a page dedicated to destroying your character. Facebook hate pages are probably the best example of this.

    Luckily, these types of sites are very easy to take down - simply complain to the ISP or hosting site. They're easily identified and the law is clear about this kind of bullying.


  • Blocking/Exclusion
    The last type of cyber-bullying that I want to cover is "blocking". This is where someone refuses to let you into a moderated online group. In most cases, this is simply a refusal to allow the victim to read or participate in online discussions and activities. This is often combined with "hate-discussions" about the victim.

    This is the electronic equivalent of "trash talking someone behind their back".

    Again, there's not a lot you can do about this but if nothing else, it's easy to say that anyone else who participates in that group isn't good enough to be your friend.

What can you do about Cyber-bullying?
For a start, don't be tempted to "hit back". Don't play the bullies game because so long as you don't break the law, it will give you some protection.
  • If you're not an adult, then make sure that your parents know that you're being bullied and that it is affecting you. Many parents have difficulty understanding that certain behaviour is bullying. If your parents have this problem, persevere until they get the message.

  • Contact the police if the bullies are in your country.

  • Visit the Stop Cyber-bullying website (http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/) and follow the instructions there.

Other Articles in this series;
Next Time: I want to look at bullying in the workplace.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bullying Outside of School

Links to Previous entries in this Series:
So far in this series, I've been concentrating on bullying in school but it's important to note that bullying occurs in all kinds of places where people gather including sporting fields, clubs and bars, tertiary education institutes, social and community groups and even virtual (online) groups.


Bullying in Tertiary Institutes
The chances of bullying in universities,TAFES and other further education institutes rises significantly with exposure. If you're attending tertiary education and staying on campus you have a much higher chance of being bullied than someone who only attends part-time.

Even more importantly though, people who study part-time tend to be more professional, more academic and more inclined to want to complete their education in the shortest time possible. They don't have time to "muck up" and they don't have time for anti-social behaviours such as bullying.

I talked earlier in this series about how certain types of people attract bullies and how it doesn't matter if you change schools, the bullies will still find you. This holds true for tetiary education too. If you were bullied at school, the odds are very high that you will be bullied while in tertiary education. Be prepared. Get a job and do tertiary education part-time.


Bullying on the Social Scene
As a general rule, bullying won't occur in social scenarios if;
  • You aren't a regular
  • You don't draw attention to yourself
  • You don't already know people there
Don't be a regular
If you go to the same bar/club regularly or if you return to a place where you've been bullied before, you will be bullied again. It's certain. There are lots of places to hang out. Go for variety and you'll significantly reduce your chances of being bullied.

Don't draw attention to yourself
If the bullies don't notice you, they won't bully you. Don't try to fit in with a bully crowd. You won't. Instead, leave them alone and keep to yourself (and any friends you've pre-arranged to meet).

Wear non-descript clothing. The more outrageous your clothing or your hairstyle, the greater the chances are of you being noticed and bullied. For example; don't turn up in costume unless you are attending a costume party. If you're male, wearing a pink suit is just "asking for trouble".

If you're female, remember that female clothing is often designed to attract attention. Dress appropriately; for example wearing a long flowing dress to a place where everyone else is wearing jeans will attract unwanted attention. Similarly, if you're often picked on because of your figure, then be aware that even though certain clothing is considered fashionable, it may draw the wrong kinds of attention.

Then there's the matter of behavior. The louder you are, the more likely you are to attract attention. If you try to take over anything that is in short supply, such as a billiards/pool table, you may attract attention and if you're attempt to pick up partners, particularly if it's the bully's girlfriend, you're likely to turn the focus onto yourself.

Similar rules apply for "outrageous table behaviour". For example, a male who buys fancy cocktail drinks with various fruit slices straws and other gadgets sticking out of them will draw a lot of attention. I know these drinks seem very tempting but there's a time and place for them. If you want to try one, do it in a dark bar where you're less likely to be noticed.

Don't hang out with known bullies
The people who bullied you in school usually won't suddenly grow up and become friends when school finishes. If they see you outside of school, they're more likely to resume their bullying. For this reason, if you know that there's a particular place where those bullies like to hang out, then don't go there. There are plenty of other clubs and places that you can go to instead.

Unlike school where bullying usually only occurs when teachers aren't looking, social scene bullying can take place anytime. You can't complain to the bartender or bouncers that you are being bullied. They won't take it seriously and they're more inclined to ask you to leave than the bully. Even worse, bar staff will often tell you and the bully to "take it outside", which is an open invitation for the bullies to become physical. On the social scene, the only way to have authorities stop a bully is to call the police - and even then, they won't do anything unless there is already severe and obvious physical damage. In other words, they won't act until it's too late.

The best defense against social bullying is to not be bullied at all. Remember the three rules and your life will be much better.


Bullying in Formal Social Groups
There are two kinds of formal social groups; moderated and unmoderated ones. Groups which involve kids, such as scouts and guides, youth football teams and other youth sporting groups are usually moderated. This means that they have an adult in charge.

Unless the adult is the bully (which does sometimes happen) moderated social groups operate similarly to school groups. Bullying will usually happen away from the sight of the adults. If you report it, you'll probably be brushed off - and the best way to have it dealt with is to either create a scene or ensure that a caring adult sees the bully in action.

Bullying in unmoderated social groups is a different issue entirely. Unmoderated social groups include adult sports clubs (tennis, football etc), Mother's groups and subject orientated groups such as cooking classes, fan clubs and craft clubs.

Once you begin to attract bullies in an unmoderated social group, you have no choice but to leave the group as quickly as possible in order to avoid further damage to your self-esteem. There is nobody to report the bullying to and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop it.

The biggest problem with unmoderated social groups is that the victim often doesn't realize that they are being bullied until they've taken a whole lot of damage. In particular, mother's groups are often sources of rumor-mongering and exclusion. (see this article for more information).

If if feels wrong... get out.


Next Time
I'll be looking at online (internet) bullying.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The High School bully

Links:
There are massive differences between the primary school bully and the high school bully and in fact the whole nature of teasing and bullying changes drastically. None of the methods which worked with the primary school bully will work here.


Physical Abuse
High School bullies are generally more verbal and less physical than their primary school counterparts but some bullies become physical within minutes of provocation. The age, and usually greater size, of these bullies means that when they do decide to become physical, they can do a lot of damage. It also doesn't help that bullies are usually not alone.

High school physical abuse moves from having the potential to injure in primary schools to having a slim but increased chance of fatality.


Verbal Abuse
In male bullies, verbal abuse in high school tends to move away from the obvious physical features such as nose size or skin colour which were the target in primary school. Instead, bullying moves into more damaging psychological territory, questioning sexual orientation, intelligence and fashion sense.

That's not to suggest that physical appearance based bullying disappears. It doesn't - and in fact, it may become more intense. The difference is that bullying becomes much more targeted in the teen years and bullies seem to know exactly where their victim's self esteem weak points are.


Female Abuse
Female verbal abuse is far worse than male abuse. Females tend to form cliques (tightly knit social groups with singular communication). The cliques effectively transform a group of taunting voices into a single, much more powerful one. Cliques also tend to last for the remaining years of school and often continue into adulthood.

Typical female categories range from appearance to sexual behaviour and while it's uncommon for physical abuse, it's not unheard of.

Arguably the worst two female bullying techniques are exclusion and rumour-mongering. In exclusion, a female is excluded from various activities, parties, sports and outings. Various excuses are given but most center around the victim's incompatibility with a specific ideal. Appearance, voice, social status and even simply the brand name of their clothing is attacked.

There's no point in rushing around trying to purchase the right brand of clothing in these instances. Once you're a target, you tend to stay a target. Even if you manage to satisfy one criteria, the bullies will quickly find another standard that you fail to measure up to.


Rumour-Mongering
This is a usually speciality of female abuse but one of the signs that a "new age of male sensitivity" is upon us is the increasing incidence of this amongst males. Rumour-mongering occurs when a clique makes up a particularly nasty rumour about an individual. For example; that they have slept with half of the boys in the school, that they have a particular STD or that they have some unseen deformity. The clique then ensure that the rumour reaches the widest audience possible before they begin teasing their victim.

One of the worst things about rumour-mongering is that it has the potential to turn non-bullies into bullies. When people hear strange rumours they often can't help their reaction and depending on how they internalise it, they may not look at a person in the same way again. By doing this, they become bullies whether they mean to or not.

It often starts with a week or so of "funny looks", gestures and comments from people which will make the victim feel very uncomfortable but won't provide any framework. The victim won't know why they are suddenly a target of the whole school. When the teasing really starts, it comes from all sides at once and as victim is usually the only one who is completely oblivious to their supposed actions, they are unable to defend themselves or deny the allegations.

Some of the most important lessons that parents can teach their children are;
Don't believe everything you hear
Don't pass judgement on others

Rumour-mongering is one of the worst and most destructive forms of bullying. Unfortunately, it's usually also the one kind of bullying which slips under everyone's "radar" and isn't addressed until it is too late.


The Risks of Non-Physical Abuse
One of the greatest things about physical abuse is that it leaves cuts and bruises. If your child comes home from school with physical evidence on them, you can question them about bullying. You can present that evidence to the school and you can have it dealt with.

Non-Physical abuse is so much worse simply because there are often no visible scars. You may have a "sullen child" who retreats to their room after school and doesn't talk much at the table. Unfortuantely, this doesn't distinguish them much from normal teenagers. Unless you talk to your children in depth about their day, you simply won't know that there is a problem.

As you can imagine, injuries need to be treated. You know what would happen if you didn't deal with the physical trauma which comes from bullying. Those wounds would become infected and wouldn't heal. Similarly, if you don't deal with the bullying itself, then those wounds are going to be continually re-opened with each new bout of bullying.

The same thing happens with non-physical trauma. Each instance of bullying creates a mental wound which if untreated will be continually re-opened and will eventually scar the individual for life. Non-physical abuse is far, far more dangerous than physical abuse and at its extremes it results in suicide or in major lashouts such as some of the revenge-based shooting incidents at schools in the past few years.

Even at the less extreme end of the scale, physical based abuse can turn otherwise good members of society into vengeful and angry people. It can create individuals with major self esteem problems and it can start a chain of abuse that may perpetuate itself for generations.

Non-physical abuse must be dealt with at least as severely as physical abuse.


Dealing with High School Bullying
It's much harder to deal with high-school bullying than primary school bullying because those bullies are older, are less easily intimidated and are usually more careful about hiding their involvement. The victims are also often less inclined to speak out because by then they know that the system affords them little protection.

Some of the best methods for dealing with High School Bullying include;

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind
    Get out of the playground and the cafeteria. Spend your time in quieter, safer surroundings such as libraries. You can do this by becoming a library monitor.

  • Safety in Numbers
    You don't have to be super-smart to join a nerd clique. They're not always about people who love mathematics. Sometimes you just need to like Sci-Fi and sometimes all you need to do is be nice to them and hang out with them. Bullies prefer to pick on individuals and will usually ignore a nerd clique.

  • Backup Friends
    Have backup friends who don't go to your school. Scouts are a good example of this. If things turn ugly at school then at least you'll have a group to fall back on.

  • Parental Involvement
    This point is for parents. Don't go to the school to "sort the bullying out" and don't try to give your child crazy advice about making friends, sucking it up or hitting back. Instead, you need to simply try to be there for your child. Take them out alone, listen to them, treat them like adults and help them to build up their self esteem. There are times when you might just be their only friends in the world so don't let them down.


Next Time
Next time I want to look at bullying outside the school and particularly online.