Special needs class participant being bullied

I occasionally have special needs folks in my classes. This can mean that sometimes they don’t necessarily follow along with the choreography well and they may have some difficulty staying in sync with what we do in class. Mind you, this can and also does happen with anyone. Here’s the key, every time that I have had a special needs person in my class, whether alone or with their aid, they are having a blast and enjoying themselves.

(The gentleman you see in this picture with me was super cool. He wanted to get a picture and told me that he really loved my class. It was a bit difficult to communicate, but he went out of his way to express himself and I felt so happy and proud getting praise from him.)

So recently, there was a person who must not have realized that the individual in front of them had special needs. It should have been rather obvious by the way they were carrying themselves, but this person didn’t get it. So they kept making faces, tapping the person and trying to shove the special needs person forward during the class.

I saw this happen once and I made eye contact with person and shook my head. Then it happened two times and I figured that they’d realize the situation and stop. They did not realize anything and they didn’t appear like they were going to stop. I knew I would have to intervene. I really don’t like singling anyone out during class, but they left me no choice.

By the third time they did it I was pretty freaking heated. I went over to the bully and using my body I literally walked the person back away from the special needs individual. I kept walking them back until I had a safe distance, then I tried to quietly tell them that this person has special needs so kindly leave them alone. I tried to be nice and discreet, but extremely firm with my words and body language.

Then this person yells out loud, “Oh, this is a crazy one?” I blocked them from view of the special needs person and shushed them. I told them don’t say things like that, just leave them alone. Move to another spot if it bothers you. “Do you understand me?” The person said they understood and left them alone.

I understand that maybe at first they didn’t know what was going on. I’ll give you a bit of a pass on that one. But even if they didn’t have special needs and were out of sync, that doesn’t give you the right to bully them. Just move somewhere else. Now, once they knew what was up, to go scream that “crazy” stuff out loud? That’s just damn mean and rude. This person is socially ill conditioned and that’s just not cool. I don’t like imposing my will on people, but I could not allow this bullying to continue.

I did my best to be discreet and maintain a high degree of professional decorum. All things considered I believe I was respectful, but this abuse had to stop. Look folks, no one wants to get in trouble, or fired, or what not. But if you see someone doing something like that, don’t be afraid to check them. We have to stand up for those who can’t do so for themselves. Especially if you are the instructor! Don’t worry about the job and do what’s right!

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