Cruelty of Kids

This last few weeks, we’ve had to deal with some excessive cruelty towards our son, CT. Some of the kids in the neighborhood think its fun to try to torture CT. They try to make him perform “tricks” like a circus animal. CT is the type of kid who will do almost anything to make someone happy, even if it might be detrimental to him.

CT’s social disability makes him act younger than he is. Usually his friends are anywhere from 3-7 years younger than him. He’s a lighthearted kid who just wants to play outside and have fun. The two boys who have been picking on him are in their teens. I believe one is older than him by a year or so. The other, is only a few days older than CT. Initially, the second boy (closest to his age) had a mother who claimed she worked with autistic children, so CT was always welcome to come over.

According to CT, when kid #2 is alone, he’s fun to be around. When kid #1 (the oldest boy) is around, kid #2 doesn’t necessarily do anything to CT, but he also doesn’t stop kid #1 from picking on him and trying to make CT do something he shouldn’t be doing. Part of CT’s disability is his inability to lie. When he was younger, he just couldn’t lie period. He didn’t know anything about fabrication.

As he gets older, he sometimes tries (sadly, it’s a pathetic attempt to conceal truth that even a kid could pick up as a lie) though he always ends up admitting the truth when told it’s clear he’s not telling it. It’s nice to see he’s trying to do something so normal socially (though lying really isn’t good), but he’s just unable to fully grasp the concept of lying. That’s how we’re 100% certain he’s telling the truth about everything he says.

Of course, another boy in our neighborhood who is nice to CT says these kids scream at CT, calling him crazy and retard. The boy doesn’t understand why CT still wants to be their friends. CT’s biggest fault is defending those who are mean to him. The kid who sliced his shoulder/neck because he didn’t want CT playing with something did it, according to CT, as an accident. The kid who sits on his chest on the trampoline and bounces, telling him to “take it like a man” is just “playing”, so no harm, no foul, right?

So, he will defend the second boy. The second boy didn’t mean to let boy #1 pick on CT. He didn’t stop him from doing something we technically could call the police for on boy #2’s property. CT doesn’t get that boy #2 isn’t going to stop boy #1. They’re friends and they sometimes try to come down to our house to try and stir up trouble with CT. Of course, they have the belief that nobody is going to believe CT. He’s retarded right? These boys know nothing about autistic children, their superior intelligence and their inability to lie. These boys underestimate CT, significantly. He’s three times as smart as both of them.

We had planned to have one of us go down and talk to boy #2’s mother (she’s a crazy fundamentalist Christan, who I believe would freak out if she knew what was happening on her property) and boy #1’s dad (he’s pretty much not worth talking to). However, the family (not all of us) has decided that for CT’s benefit we will just not let him go down there and we’ll keep a better eye on him.

I don’t agree with this personally. I think the parents should know what is going on. The rest of the family (excluding CT, who doesn’t know we’ve all spoken about this) fears retribution. We’re planning to move in the next year. The parents won’t do anything because their kids will lie about it. Bringing the police in means CT will be interrogated, something he’s definitely not strong enough to handle. The boys will be more willing to seek out CT and hurt him worse, is the main fear. Still, I feel like they’ll do that anyway, having gotten away with what they have already.

We’ve agreed to a compromise. We’ll be talking to CT’s therapist, to see what he thinks will be best for CT. We’ll find out next week if it is better to confront the parents or not. I think they’ll try and attack CT at another friend’s house. We don’t let him out of our sight much at all, but he does have an occasional moment at the neighbors who are nice to him. We’re obviously more wary now, knowing that CT has problems telling people he considers his friends, no.

We’ve also put CT in more regular therapy. His therapist plans to work specifically with CT on these social aspects…learning to say no, standing up for yourself, when you know something is wrong (he knows it’s wrong – just ignores that fact) you go home or find a safe solution not to do what you don’t want to do, amongst other things. His medication has also been tweaked. He’s less hyper and more docile, which should help calm the racing thoughts in his mind.

So, based on what you’ve read, do you think we should confront the parents or should we just let bygones be bygones and keep CT safe on this side of the street until we move?

7 responses to “Cruelty of Kids”

  1. I think you should let the mom of kid #2 know what is going on with kid #1 on her property in a non-confrontational way. She would be legally responsible for any injuries your kid suffered on her property whichever child injures him. If she has worked with autistic children, she will be quite well aware of the dynamics involved, as well as her responsibility to ensure the safety of the people who are on her property. I would be thankful if someone informed me that a friend of my son’s is picking on a mutual friend, at my house.

    I would talk to the therapist to get advice on how to approach this mother. Ignoring the problem because you will be moving away is not a going to fix anything- you will meet bullies like this in any community you move to. It sounds like your son is not the only one in your family who needs counseling.

    If this bully does something you could call the police for – wherever it happens – for goodness sake call the police. This bully is not going to change his behavior unless he realizes that there are consequences for his actions. When you move away, he will just start in on someone else… maybe boy #2.

  2. Rachel – Thanks for responding. I wouldn’t say that anyone else in my family needs counseling. They’re actually trying to think of my son and his reaction. This is a boy who was bullied in school (before being homeschooled) as a 1st grader (age 6).

    Seven years later, he still talks about it and is quite upset and angry. He’s not the type of person who is able to let things go easily. He repeats and rehashes things until it makes him upset.

    The other people in the house are worried that if the cops come and question him, it will rehash everything all over, open up wounds, and make him take a step back, when he’s made many strides forward lately.

    It is on the borderline of whether the cops would even actually do anything and how many times have we heard that cops don’t believe autistic kids because they’re autistic? I’d hate for them to call him a liar, when everyone here knows that he’s not.

    The problem with the mother is she seems to think her son can do no wrong. She probably wouldn’t believe us anyway. She ran a perfectly good family out of the house by constantly calling the cops on them (the son supposedly played music too loud) so this bully could move in and corrupt her son. Talking to her could cause no change, the kid could get mad, tell the bully and they would take it out on my son.

    I am not avoiding this because I’m moving, I’m trying to weigh the options to see what’s going to be best for my son, overall. This decision just isn’t black and white.

  3. From what I can see, this is a very tricky situation. I can see where there are many different potential avenues, and none of them exactly scream “I am the right path, take me”.

    On one hand, if you call the police, they’re likely to do nothing more than give a verbal warning and then intensify the issues by causing the bully to ramp up the abuse. On the other hand, they could actually do something about it, put the kid in juvenile detention for a month, and maybe that’ll make a difference. The same things could happen if you talk to the mother directly, without jumping to the police. The possibilities only wind up spanning out from there the more intervention takes place. It could go good, it could go bad. It could go even worse if you are in an area that is chock-full of people that are extremely closed-minded, opening up an entirely different series of possibilities.

    There will be no easy decision. Being that you’re one of the people dealing with the situation, you’ll have more at your disposal to help find the right thing to do. Have you asked your son for his thoughts—is he able to articulate them on this matter when the other parties are not present?

  4. Hey Michael – Thanks for commenting. Yeah it is very tricky. The mother is a very closed minded, fundamentalist Christian. She doesn’t believe her son is a bad kid, which is why she invited my son over. We thought that there was more supervision at her house. Apparently not.

    See, it’s tricky because my son does know right from wrong. He just doesn’t know how to say no. The boy made him do something bad, and while I believe CT knew it wasn’t something he should do, I think he was incapable of saying no due to peer pressure and other factors that deal with his disability.

    The issue is something the police may or may not take seriously. We’ve really never had to deal with the police here so it really isn’t clear what way it’ll go. They may also say CT functions high enough to know better and he technically let the kid bully him into doing it. That would devastate CT and make him wary of authority.

    At first, my son wanted me to go down and handle it. He tried to handle it on his own, but the kids threw rocks at him and ran him out of their yard when he tried to confront them. They weren’t home when I went down there.

    Now, he just wants to forget about it and not deal with it. He knows he can’t go down there any more and doesn’t want to. He’s working with his therapist on learning to say no and on getting through this.

    He’s actually tried to move on and while initially he let his anger out with bad behavior, he’s making major strides academically and behaviorally since we stopped talking about the issue.

    So, that’s my dilemma. Do I reopen the issue? This kid seems like one day he’ll go on a killing rampage. I’d hate to have him start it on my front lawn because the cops talked to him but did nothing about him. Plus, there is no doubt if that happened he’d try to attack CT and CT is VERY thin – small for his age. This kid could give him a pounding and then some.

  5. I am at a loss for what to say, really—it sounds like a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” type of situation. If the other kid is a loose cannon, there’s nothing that the law enforcement is going to do about it until the cannon goes off. However, if nothing is done, the cannon might well go off, and preventing that is highly desirable.

    The question at this point, I think, is how far are you moving, and how far into the future? If you’re moving such that you’ll be entirely out of range from this cannon and in a relatively short time, then I think that it might be best for you and yours to leave it be, and perhaps after you move, discreetly talk to this kid’s mother about it. If she doesn’t believe you at that point, then you’ll have done all you can—you’ll have notified the mother, and it will be up to her to deal with it, or not (and suffer the consequences if/when the cannon goes off).

    But, if that’s not a decent solution, there are other ways to approach the problem, though they are all somewhat risky in various ways. I am sure that you can come up with a decent number of scenarios, but what will work best will depend heavily on the people involved, of course. Sometimes, a big ’ol group taking the minority into an intervention confrontation is the best way, though that is just a polite way of putting it. Whether or not that is an appropriate way to handle it is something that only you can decide, though—it might be the riskiest way to do it all the way around, depending on the way the kids will react.

  6. We’ll be moving an hour away, so well out of range. Not sure when though as we have a lot to do at this house before we can move. All I can say is I hope soon.

  7. Dear Dominick,
    As you probably remember, I have had a brain injury since the age of nine. Even before the injury, lying was very far from being my strong point — but afterwards it became impossible. As I was growing up, I was accused of lying so often (yes, because I do not argue convincingly, because I do not speak _quite_ as fluently as a “normal” person, because I hesitate longer before I can think of the right thing to say, and often say the wrong thing, and so on), that at some point I decided I would have to START lying, so that the others would be right, since I had already tried for years to convince them that they were wrong. So I am, in that sense, on the other side of being unable to lie. (I still do not do it well, don’t like to do it, but I can do it to save my life if I need to. Usually I think of the lie I could have told to avoid a bad confrontation AFTER the confrontation has happened. So probably I will think of the right lie AFTER losing the ability to save my life with it…)
    On the one hand I think you should protect your son from confrontation with authorities, because now he is at peace within himself and such a confrontation may make him doubt himself. In addition, everyone must “choose their battles,” and it is VERY hard to know in advance which battles are the most important ones to fight (or if you do fight them, how you will fare). On the other hand, you are not going to be around forever, and CT is not going to be a child forever. At some point he will have to learn to deal with peers and authorities on his own, unless he is to live under the guardianship of another adult for the rest of his life. I know about guardianship and it can be very terrible, since not even family can be trusted to protect one’s interests.
    I really do not have any fool-proof solutions, but… have you thought of talking to CT about solutions? I mean, not just “let’s not talk about it any more” but actual solutions? Explaining to him the difference between how the world should work and how the world does work; allowing him perhaps the option of confronting authorities with a “safe” adult at his side, such as a teacher or school official or therapist who KNOWS that this child does not lie?
    I wish you the best in dealing with this.


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