Oswego, NY: ARISE marked October as National Bullying Awareness month by focusing on the issue for six weeks of social skills classes for youth with disabilities.
Classes began on September 27 and ran through November 1.
Jason Brodosky, a certified teacher and father of a child on the autism spectrum, led the social skills classes with assistance by Vicki Affinati of ARISE. He helped the youth, many of whom are on the autism spectrum, to recognize situations that can lead to bullying and how to handle them. The youth practiced walking confidently and defusing a situation that could easily escalate.
Students with disabilities are more likely to experience bullying. A 2002 survey of American mothers found that 94% of children with Asperger’s syndrome had been bullied. In general, students with disabilities are more vulnerable and disproportionally impacted by bullying.
Recently, New York State enacted the Dignity for All Students Act. Effective July 1, 2012, the act declares that all students in public elementary and secondary schools have the right to attend school in a safe, welcoming, considerate, and caring environment. No student shall be subject to harassment or discrimination.
Ben Kellogg, who attended the classes, stated: “Even though I have rarely encountered bullying situations in my own life, I greatly value the information about bullying and how to prevent it. If I ever encounter bullying, I now know the correct methods to intervene, something I feel very proud of. I hope that being an example to others through my words and actions will help bring down this epidemic.”
While the youth worked on their skill development, their parents learned about bullying and communication methods in a “Dine and Discuss” group that met at the same time. Paul Meier, a consultant in this field who also has autism, shared what it is like to be a person with autism.
Although the skills group was originally scheduled for six weeks, there is a strong desire by the youth and parents to keep meeting.
“Everyone here is so nice and happy to see me,” stated Courtney Combes, one of the social skills class participants. “I am so sad our group is almost over and I will miss everyone.”
ARISE is exploring hosting monthly meetings during the winter.
Support for the social skills classes and the “Dine and Discuss” parent group is provided by the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, Family Support Services.
ARISE is a non-profit Independent Living Center run by and for people with disabilities. The organization has been providing advocacy and services since 1979, and each year ARISE works with approximately 4,000 people of all ages who have all types of disabilities. ARISE has offices in Onondaga, Oswego, and Madison Counties and operates ARISE at the Farm, a 77-acre recreational facility in Chittenango, NY, and ARISE & Ski at Toggenburg Winter Sports Center in Fabius, NY.