Would Peer Mentors Deter Bullying?

February 28, 2008 Kyron No Comments

While Katherine was off of school this past week she got to have a big treat and spend some time with her my in-laws. This is something she truly enjoys. As with any child I think time with grandparents is a great thing but for Katherine and my in-laws (who are her step-grandparents for clarification purposes) I think it’s a special blessing.

My mother-in-law has had a diagnosed seizure disorder for years and my father-in-law has been physically disabled for a good portion of his life. Because of this they each have some incredibly useful – first hand knowledge of dealing with these issues in relationship to being a teen. The teenage years are difficult enough without being easily singled out as different. I always thought that between being in a self-contained classroom and the fact that Katherine showed so little sign of picking up on social cues such as that I felt she was fairly well insulated from this harsh fact of life. I was wrong. (for the record I know that I’ve been saying that more frequently than normal. I guess with age comes humility icon wink Would Peer Mentors Deter Bullying? )

When we came to pick Katherine up the other day, Felipe (my father-in-law) pulled me aside to let me know that Katherine had started a dialogue with them during the day. She wanted to know if when they were in school had kids ever laughed at them or teased them. A discussion followed where they described some mild instances of this in their past and tried to draw her out about why she was asking this question. Katherine backed off when they started to question her so they rightly backed off so that I could follow up later. I chose to wait until morning. I figured I stood a better chance with her well rested than getting all defensive and then agitated because she had just completed a long, stimulating day. I also figured I better get my head around exactly what I might find out and how the heck I was going to deal with it.

The next morning after feeding the kids I parked her brother in front of a Wiggles video and invited her to join me for a cup of iced coffee (a real treat in her book) at the kitchen table. I told her that Grandma and Grandpa had told me about the conversation and asked her to talk with me about what was going on. I assured her no one was in trouble and that I just wanted to understand what was going on.

Pulling teeth does not begin to describe the process we went through. She was really unwilling to give me information on what was going on. In a typical kid I’d think that they were afraid I’d go in and make the situation worse than it already was for them….with Katherine I don’t think that’s the case, but then again I thought she wouldn’t pick up on the social cues.

She went back to school at the beginning of this week and  I put in a message to the teacher to discuss this further but it really got me thinking about what exactly I might do to handle this situation. Aside from wanting to throttle any miserable child who was picking on my baby girl…no I’m not ACTUALLY one of those psycho parents that beats up on other children who I think did my baby wrong. I actually consider myself far more constructive than that.

I am pretty much the activist parent – I’d organize educational programs that the kids would attend on peer bullying and such and maybe even rally the school to start a peer mentoring program for typical peers to mentor and befriend a child from the special education program. Ok, so you can tell I’ve been thinking about this.

I guess my biggest question now is why wait. Not like I need another project heaven knows. Still and all why not get something like this started? Seems to me it should not even be that difficult to organize a club supported by the school which pairs mainstream students with a special needs “buddy”. This group of buddies could eat lunch together once a week maybe. Maybe go to a sport event together. There are groups out there such as Friendship Circle  who do similar things.

You can be sure I’ll be doing some more research on this idea over the next few weeks. If you know of programs that sound like I’m describing SHARE!! I’d love to have some more ideas to put together.

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