Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bullying, Teasing, or Social Skill Deficit?

I had an interesting experience in a group this week that has left me processing and problem solving all weekend.  I had a group of three upper middle school teens who meet infrequently, it has been several months since our last meeting.  One of the students, who I thought was doing well generally, made a series of unkind remarks to one of the others; these two had been grouped together formerly. The remarks included: "we don't like each other, why are you stuttering, you are stuttering again" along with some inappropriate laughter. Though the student being referred to did not appear to take offense, it was clear that the remarks increased the stuttering behavior and made the student uncomfortable.

My first response was to "shoot daggers with my eyes" at the student making the remark the first time (not surprisingly, this made no impact whatsoever).  My next response was to quickly verbally reprimand the student: "that is a very inappropriate thing to say...".  My third response was to shut down the conversation and deliver a mini-lecture on the importance of not teasing or making negative remarks about others.  The offender took offense at being reprimanded and became defensive.  The offendee seemed unphased by any of it.  After the session, I spoke with the offendee and  mom to apologize for the incident and to vow I would speak with the other student to get this behavior under control.

Here is the background: Both  have Asperger's.  Both tend to enjoy the sarcastic side of humor.  Both like to get attention, usually in a sarcastic manner. Although, the offendee was behaving this day.

The Offendee did not seem phased by the remarks, except for having more trouble being fluent.  Although it was "said" it did not bother the Offendee but it clearly affected the speech.

The Offender tends to say what is thought.  What was the motivation behind the remarks?
  • Desire to "one-up" the other and be "on top" socially with a new member in the group.
  • Dislike of the other student with no attempt to hide it.
  • Maliciousness, bullying
  • Genuine curiosity about why the student stutters and inability to censor  words into a respectful dialogue or to understand that one must filter ones comments. (This did not appear to me to be genuine curiosity... but I could be wrong as it is often to tell with these kids what is really going on).
My dilemma:  How to approach this issue?

Did I ever say these groups were easy?  They are most definitely the hardest thing I have ever done...

My plan:  In our individual session, I will bring this incident up for discussion.  We will do a Social Behavior Map (from Michelle Winner's Social Thinking) and dissect the Offendee's responses to the situation.  I also found a helpful tool at Jill Kuzma's site: Analyzing a Teasing Situation and Types of Teasing Flowchart.  We will use these to try and help the Offender process the effect of words.  Then we will discuss what is not appropriate in commenting to others and the difference between harmless teasing and harmful teasing. I pinned some resources on my Pinterest Board for Social Skills that might help guide this discussion: Understanding Playful Vs. Hurtful Teasing, Teens Talk about Bullying, Normal Conflict vs. Bullying. This last link seems to be for younger kids but it might help illustrate the point of Hurtful Words and how they cannot be taken back: It involves crumpling a picture for each hurtful remark and then illustrating that even when we try to remove the hurt (straighten out the paper) the scars (wrinkles) remain.

We will see how it goes... If anyone has other suggestions, I would be happy to hear and consider them.

from Blog Hoppin'

No comments: