Should I eat lunch with my son? He has Aspergers and wants me to be there
Hello. I am the parent of a fantastic son who has been diagnosed 2 years ago with Asperger's Syndrome. He is somewhat shy,likes to play alone,and is somewhat disturbed by crowds & loud noises. He has 2 or 3 friends,but is genuinely friendly to others if prompted. Last year, at the end of 6th grade,his Vice Principal called to say that he had been in a fight at lunchtime.My son told us that 4-5 boys have been picking on him for weeks. They pushed & poked at him subtly in the slow crowded lunch lines. They frequently called him delusional over&over. One of the boys that day pinched him hard,and my son pushed back,hard,not controlling his strength. All involved served a detention.For the rest of the school year,I came to visit at lunchtime,standing in line with him,eating lunch with him,going outside playing catch or walking with him. The new year has started this week,and he has asked me to have lunch with him again. This is the third day,and the Autism specialist at school today asked me to reconsider coming to school at lunch time. She reminded me that this is social time,a crucial period in which bonds are made. My son says that he wants me to eat lunch with him.What are the pros & cons,beside the obvious. I don't want to hold him back,but I don't want him scarred either. Help! Sincerely,B.Norment-Anderson.
I can understand how frightening it must be for your son and upsetting for your entire family to think that a simple act of eating lunch can become such a terrible ordeal.
First, I would have a meeting with your son's IEP team to discuss acommodations for the lunch time to ensure his safety.
Second, please ask if there is a BEST BUDDIES program in your school. This is when a typically developing peer who has been trained to help a person with some social or developmental issues ease in to a school environment and act as a bit of a buffer.
If there is no such program, see if one can be started. They promote diversity and tolerance towards children and adults with learning differences. This is a national wide group and I have attached their website below. It is known to be very effective and I highly recommend it. Not only could your son be a part of this program, but so can any student who needs help with socialization and being made a part of the larger school environment in a safe manner.
Third, I would only consider eating lunch with your son if you feel there is no other option. I would see if a teacher, assistant, best buddy or anyone else or another solution can be implemented first. Also, I would ask for monitoring of the "offending" children if they are a small group. I am sure your son is asking for you as a protector and someone who is his comfort source and I can see how you would like to be there for him.
Is there a lunchtime monitor that could be asked to pay special attention to your son during lunchtime? I think that you should probably ease out of your lunchtime visiting routine, but there should be some adults who are aware of your son's situation and can intervene if he is being bullied during lunch. You may also want to speak to his friends and encourage them to sit together at lunch so that your son feels more comfortable on his own.
Does your school have a group of special needs children? Or, is your son the only one in the school? If there is a group, perhaps they can eat together and other students from Leadership or clubs could join the lunch bunch each day. We have something similar at our school as we have a large group of special needs students. They love to interact with kids yet they need some protection, and they need to feel safe. The Leadership kids and other club members help them get lunch, sit with them, talk with them, and then help clean up. Because these kids are some of the more popular kids on campus, others who might bully the special needs kids know better. As the year wears on, the special needs kids become part of the campus culture and more and more kids look out for them.