Book Review of: And Words Can Hurt Forever

Doctors Garbarino and deLara write in And Words Can Hurt Forever: “Teenagers told us that “autistic kids” and other “handicapped kids” get it the worst.” As a parent of a teenager with ASD, I know this to be true. But what can I do about it? Read on, because, even though this book is written for the general audience, it does offer lots of ideas for families dealing with ASDs.

From their base at Cornell University, the authors interviewed students, teachers, and administrators from around the country. They found that, everyday, millions of teenagers suffer from emotional violence in the form of bullying, stalking, intimidation, and humiliation.

They write that: “Over and over again parents are surprised, even stunned, to discover the extent and nature of the emotional and physical violence that their teenagers face at school,”

The authors argue that the problem persists because students don’t tell adults about it, and administrators are indifferent or unable to do anything. But as parents with teens in the autism spectrum, we have to be vigilant. Besides, Columbine has taught us that we can no longer assume that kids should just get over it.

Garbarino and deLara point out that, if the same thing happened to us in our workplace, we would be quick to take legal action. Don’t our children deserve the same level of protection? So, what can we do to create a safer environment for our teens?

The “What You Can Do” list at the every chapter outlines concrete ideas such as:

Recognize that most students want adults to intervene.
Form a community team with other parents and youth.
Challenge old beliefs about what appropriate supervision is and insist on adequate supervision.
Be in the schools as much as possible. Volunteer to supervise trouble areas of the building.
Exercise your right to contact your school board president.
Hire an outside expert to evaluate the school. Then use his or her recommendations.
If nothing improves for your child, consider legal intervention.
Doctors Garbarino and de Lara conclude their book by saying: “When it comes to bullying, sexual harassment, and emotional violence at school, the buck stops with adults.”

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