The Friend 2 Friend Play Centre in Autism Parent Magazine
The Friend 2 Friend Play Centre, A Safe Haven Where Children With Autism and Their Peers Find The support They Need To Play and Make Friends
Friend 2 Friend Play Centre Lights It Up Blue for International Autism Awareness Month!
5 BC Communities to Receive Free F2F Program
BC Communities Capacity Building Program is designed to provide school districts and community organizations throughout British Columbia, Canada with the materials and training to implement the Can I Play Too?: Autism Demystification Puppet Packaged Program to children ages 3-11 in their local area.
This programs is completely free to the first five community organizations to register with Friend 2 Friend. Services must be provided on or before December 2013.
Contact our office for details at email@example.com
Friend 2 Friend on ET Canada!
Watch the full interview with Vancouver housewife Ronnie Negus on Entertainment Tonight Canada where she mentions the great work of Friend 2 Friend and what that has meant to her family.
Facing the Community: Strategies for the Bullied Parents of Children with Autism
“Bullying is a relationship problem.” (Pepler 2009). Bullying regardless of its form, usually stems from a lack of understanding, acceptance and empathy. As parents of children on the autism spectrum, we worry about our children being bullied. We protect them from this in every way possible. The truth is, all of us are bullied by someone else at some point in our lives, and here’s what’s worse, all of us have or will bully someone else at some point in our lives.
All three of my children have been bullied. My oldest daughter was the target of the “mean girls” in grades 6 and 7. As a very sensitive child she was the perfect target and these girls took a shot at her every chance they got. My son (who has autism) has been bullied by adults his entire school life because of their lack of understanding of his unique characteristics. The worst case was when he was physically assaulted by his grade one teacher, verbally bullied by his primary principal (needless to say, we removed him this school). My youngest daughter was bullied (physically and emotionally) by a group of boys in grade 7. The bullying became so bad that we finally removed her from the school and she still deals with the emotional damage inflicted upon her today – she is wearing her pink shirt proudly. And finally, I have been bullied over and over again as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum.
Parents of children with autism often suffer bullying in silence. Perhaps it is because they have so many other more important things to deal with, or perhaps it is because it is one of the side effects of raising children that we just expect to have to deal with bullying.
The other day, a parent of a child aged two and a half and newly diagnosed with autism, came to the Friend 2 Friend Play Centre for a transition visit before her child begins play group. She sat across from me describing her experiences at the preschool program she had been taking her son to, she said, “I know I should take him, that it is good for him to be with the other children, but it’s so hard. The other parents stare at me, give me dirty looks, and talk about my son and me. It is not worth it – it’s so hard.” The other parents were bullying this mother because they have no understanding and no empathy for her or her son.
I think what was so upsetting to me personally is that her experiences are just as mine were – 18 years ago. Wait, you mean to tell me that 18 years ago parents of children with autism were bullied by other parents (and professionals) and they are still being bullied today – yup!
Here’s the good news – we can work together to make this bullying stop. Here are a few simple steps that parents and professionals can take to reduce bullying directed towards children with and without autism and their parents in inclusive community settings:
Write an introductory letter or email to other parents. This letter will introduce you, your family and your child to the other parents. If you are comfortable including the label of autism, do so. If you are not, you can simply say “my child has the kind of mind that struggles with…”
Support your child to create an “all about me book”. Or better yet, ask the teacher if they could have all the children in the class create “all about me” books and have them share the books with their classmates and parents. Even if your child is very young, you can assist them in making this book, using photos, etc.
Demystify, Demystify, Demystify. Request the school bring in the Friend 2 Friend Autism Demystification Program or learn to use our packaged programs to demystify the children and their families about characteristics associated with autism. The Friend 2 Friend programs also provide prosocial communication strategies, which are known to reduce bullying (Pepler, 2009).
Join a parent group where you can find the support of other parents who understand what you are going through. Families of children with autism speak a language that is uniquely our own – therefore it is EXTREMELY important that parents connect.
Always have an exit strategy. My exit strategy for facing the community is simply this - when I feel bullied by parents or professionals in the community I ask myself, “Do I really care about this person’s opinion of me or my child?” People in our lives can be put into 1 of 5 categories. 1 being family members and people we are very close to, and 5 being strangers. The truth is, most people who bully us are in categories 4 or 5. So the bottom line is – I don’t care about what their opinion is. Once I realize that, I always feel a lot better.
These few simple steps will not stop bullying, but they will help to minimize it and they will help you and your family be proactive in fighting bullying – regardless of its form.
On this International Stand Up to Bullying Day, think about all the people who have bullied you and all the people you have bullied. No one is above this harmful act. And the next time you see a child fall to the floor screaming while taking of all his clothes in the middle of a department store, think this – perhaps that child has the kind of mind that has autism, and perhaps that parent is doing the very best they can.
“Become the change you seek.”