If I look out at my garden now it is starting to fill with the promise of life; the pink blossom on the cherry tree, the yellow daffodils, the tulips peeping through the soil, the catkins drooping on the twisted hazel and the birds flirting with their prospective partners. Ordinarily I would love all this and the business of looking forward with anticipation to some better weather and the chance to spend the evenings pottering in the garden. But I am now starting to dread the promise of longer and warmer days because this usually means that the children in my neighbourhood come out to play along the road that I live. I dread it because it means that my son’s bully makes an appearance and once again targets my son.
It started about eighteen months ago while my son was unwell and out of school; somehow the community got wind of it and my son (already vulnerable and excluded) became the target of one particular boy who attends the local secondary school. It started with verbal taunts and insults, mainly about my son’s autism, but then it spread to include more physical forms of intimidation and harassment. The bully, backed up by his crowd of followers, would lure my son out of the house on the pretence of being his friend and then blame him should they get caught out for any unruly behaviour. I would often find myself confronted by angry neighbours asking for explanations. I tried to explain what these kids were doing and whilst they would calm down they had little sympathy for our situation. I tried to explain to my son what these bullies were doing but he couldn’t understand their deceptiveness mainly because he is not able to understand social communication or social behaviour. If someone said they were his friend, he would believe them regardless of whether they had hurt him, swore at him or even damaged his beloved bike, the bike that we bought him for Christmas. And after such events, I would often have to go out and collect my distraught and disorientated child who would often descend into a meltdown soon after. I told my son to avoid this boy but often this boy and his followers would hunt him out or stand in front of our house, swearing and guesturing.
Not surprisingly, my son stopped going out along our road and I have to admit that I was relieved that he didn’t go out for who wants to see their own child treated like this? I was not happy with this though; it was not right that my son felt denied of the freedom to walk down his own road without fear of being intimidated or harassed in this way. We tried to take action. We approached the school about this boy because many of these incidents happened as the bully walked home from school. We spoke to the child’s family too. I even spoke to the bully himself and for a while things seemed to improve and my son started to find a little bit of confidence to go outside our house once again. However his fragile confidence is now under threat as the bullying has returned in the past few weeks with my son having experienced two physical attacks, the latest just a few hours ago. It has now got to the point where we will have to take further action.