For the bullied, the bullies or the bystanders
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For the bullied, the bullies or the bystanders, this Achieva Advocacy presentation is for you

by Abby Mackey

Achieva’s advocates worked through their typical Herculean tasks last summer when they took on another challenge: a monthly speaker series that would begin in August.

As they batted around potential topics, several couldn’t be ignored. One was bullying.

Advocates noted an influx of bullying-related calls, but they weren’t all about victims. In some cases, the calls were from concerned loved ones of known — or suspected — bullies.

Nancy Murray, president of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh and a senior vice president of Achieva, and Melissa Skiffen, Achieva disability and family supports advocate, combined forces with Blackburn Center, an anti-violence organization in Greensburg, to plan a bullying presentation for February 15, 2023 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., though it won't sound like a typical talk on the subject.

Join the webinar on February 15th, from 6:30pm to 8pm.

“A lot of times when bullying is a part of the conversation, it’s during or after the fact,” Melissa said. “It’s punitive. It’s seldom proactive. We wanted to flip the script around a little bit, and have it be a trauma-informed approach.”

The presenter won’t label who’s “right” or “wrong” or “good” or “bad.” The approach is a way of considering conflict with compassion.

“A lot of times students who bully have been bullied. It’s a learned behavior,” Melissa said. “To just punish a student who has shown bullying behaviors isn’t helping them. Most of the time, they themselves need support of some kind.”

That might sound unattainable to the loved ones of those who have been bullied. Melissa, the mother of an autistic 12-year-old boy with Down syndrome, has been there.

“If he’s being picked on, I’ll be honest: It’s not easy to say, ‘Oh, that poor other kid. I wonder what he or she has gone though,’” she said. “But ultimately, I think that every adult — and probably every student — is going to have to deal with this in some way or another.”

That’s why the  90-minute presentation will address a full spectrum of those affected:

What is bullying, beyond the one-note definition most of us know?

Since it’s rare to hear, “I was bullied today,” how can caregivers identify signs of someone who’s experiencing these challenges?

For loved ones of school-age children or those living in groups, how should incidents be logged for future reference?

How can caregivers identify and support individuals who may be doing the bullying?

And there will even be advice aimed at witnesses of bullying.

“The goal is to have everyone work through these challenges in a healthy way,” Melissa said. “I think that’s ultimately what’s going to stop the cycle some day: Someone stepping in any saying, ‘I was bullied, and I’m not going to do that to someone else because I learned trauma-informed ways of dealing with my feelings’ … or that’s my hope.”

For more about Blackburn Center visit: blackburncenter.org.

Access The Webinar