Jonny on Handling Bullies

My older son Jonny is in 2nd grade. He is being bullied at school. Again.

He has several developmental delays, but none of them related to autism.

He was born with bilateral hip dysplasia (loose/dislocated hips) and a cleft in his soft palate, both requiring surgery before he was a year old. He was in a cast from his armpits to his ankles for basically 2 months . He was a pickier eater than my Ausome Jonah and slept less than Jonah does. He was extremely coliky, sometimes up crying for 12 hours straight through the night. The hip cast (and later splint) and the surgery on his palate gave him a resilience he doesn’t even remember how he got, but still displays. It also gave my wife and I a crash course on parenting children with special needs and NOW we are all the better for it.

Jonny (6 months old) just out of surgery wearing a “spica cast”

But as a result, he started off a bit behind with his development. He walked late, talked late, even his cognitive skills are a bit delayed. He’s probably one of the smallest kids in his class, and he’s one of the older kids.

Jonny is now 8. He has been through PT, OT and speech therapy. He has been through developmental preschool, summerschool, he’s been retained (held back) in Kindergarten to give him time to catch up and is now halfway done with 2nd Grade. Half of his school day is working with interventionists and specialists to get him caught up. He is not big, or strong. He can barely do a sit up. His waist is about a 4T.

In addition to that, my sister (who is a paraeducator) will work with him for a couple hours after school and through the summer getting his academic skills where they need to be.

He’s a hard worker. He’s resilient. He’s a problem solver.

Last year we dealt with bullies in 1st grade. It went like this:

Jonny liked a girl.

Another boy liked the same girl.

The girl liked Jonny instead of the other boy.

TADAAH! Instant bully for Jonny.

At the end of the year, that girl and the bully both ended up moving away, so that problem was solved (poor Jonny was heartbroken).

The 2nd grade class that Jonny was placed this year in was to alleviate some of the potential for bullying that was present last year.

Fast-forward to today.
Jonny is being bullied.

A new student transferred into his class halfway through the year [Student A]. Student A has some behavioral issues. Student A does not stay in his seat (or in the classroom sometimes). Student A teases Jonny and calls him names. He tried to hit Jonny with a stick. He throws pencils at him. Student A throws chairs and yells and screams. The whole class has to evacuate when Student A has episodes like this.

The teachers have put some interventions in place to prevent bullying by Student A, and it has had mixed results. Some days are better than others.

For Valentine’s day this year, Jonny wanted to make a couple “valengrams” (special notes for people) for 2 special people. The first one, he wanted to write “You’re my best friend” to a good friend he has had since like kindergarten.

And surprisingly, for the 2nd one he wanted to write to Student A, saying “Stop being so mean.” I got a chuckle out of it. We settled on “Have a terrific day!”

I thought it was kind of a funny thing, but Jonny had learned something profound.

Jonny said that Student A doesn’t have many (if any) friends and that maybe he wouldn’t be so mean if someone were his friend. So Jonny decided to try to be his friend, despite being bullied by him [I know right?].

Well, another student [Student B] has started harassing Student A. Some of it is also bullying, but some of it may be a result of the bullying Student A has displayed in the past.

In other words, Student A may have had it coming.

But Jonny was having NONE of it.

On more than 2 occasions, Jonny has intervened to keep Student B from bullying Student A. He has stepped in to keep Student B from hurting Student A physically and informed other adults when Student A is being bullied.

Yesterday, Jonny stepped in AGAIN to prevent bullying by Student B of Student A, and Student B physically threatened Jonny.

When I picked Jonny up from school, I could tell something was wrong. I asked him about it.

Me: “How was school today, bud?”

Jonny: “I got in another fight again today.” (Fight is a pretty harsh way of saying a ” mild confrontation”)

Me: “What happened?”

Jonny: “Student A was being bullied again, and I helped him get away from Student B.”

Me: “I see. And what did Student B do?”

Jonny: “They said a ‘not nice word’ to me. “

Me: “What did they say?”

Jonny: “…”

Jonny: (barely above a whisper) “I got scared that I would go see Jesus.”

Me: “WHAT?!! What did they say?”

Jonny: (starting to cry) “Student B said that they were gonna kill me.”

I had mixed emotions. I was both upset that he was threatened, but SO proud of Jonny for standing up for another student, especially one who may have not DESERVED intervention, even after he was threatened for doing so. That is a life lesson, my friends.

As soon as we got home, I sent an email to Jonny’s teacher telling her what he told me. She said they are aware of the situation and we are working on finding a resolution.

We will see.

Jonny on stage praying for the children and teachers at church in the main service.

I don’t know what we did to shape Jonny’s character, but he has something special. In Jonny, it seems God has provided us with not only training for parenting Jonah, but also the perfect advocate for his little brother.

One of Jonny’s heros is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He has watched the original “I have a dream speech” multiple times, and not just the last part of it (the popularized part), but the full hour of it. He genuinely wants to know what happened to Dr. King and what it meant to live back in his time.

A couple weeks ago he told me, “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once talked to me in my dreams. He told me all about heaven and took me on a journey back in time. Dr. King Told me to join him [on his 1964 march on his D.C.]. I got to see his “I Have a Dream” speech and I told him I liked his words.”

He wants to know about missionaries living overseas. I told him about one particular person I knew of around the Middle East. That led to a grown-up discussion about the conflicts going on there and how it has been going on for a long time.

The other night in Awana, the kid’s teacher asked them (K-2) what they could pray for.

Person 1): “My dad is traveling to Oregon”. (Safety)

Person 2): “I hurt my knee” (healing)

Jonny: “There is a lot of fighting going on in Israel right now and people there aren’t very safe. We need to pray for them.”

My little activist. Please stop growing up. You have plenty of time before your presidential election.

Jason Reynolds
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Jason Reynolds

Jason is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. He is also a parent of Jonny (9) and Jonah (4) who was diagnosed with Autism in December 2016.
Jason Reynolds
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