Let’s face it: kids (and adults) can be mean and not afraid to bully others, just to make themselves feel superior. Unfortunately, children with autism, mainly older children, are susceptible to bullying, which can lead to depression, low self-esteem, self-harm, or even suicide. A study conducted at the University of Manchester by Dr. Judith Hebron and Professor Neil Humphrey examined the association between bullying and children with autism.
The study was carried out by surveying 722 teachers and 119 parents of children with autism, and concluded that bullying occurs more often in mainstream school settings, rather than a special education school. This is because at special education schools, the classroom size and ratio of teachers to students is number, providing less opportunity for bullying. Dr. Judith Hebron commented,
“Children with autism are easy targets because their behavior may be regarded as odd or different, and our research tells us this is likely to result in bullying, teasing and provocation. At its most extreme, bullying results in suicide, self-harm, low self-esteem, mental health problems and difficulties at school. But not all of these children are bullied, and as researchers, we are interested in finding out why.” [i]
Bullying is a serious concern among children, both typically developing and with autism. The survey’s results concluded that if the child has a strong network of peers and mentors (teachers and parents), the rate of bullying can decrease. Every school setting should hold a zero tolerance policy, to ensure the safety and well-being of their students.
Shema Kolainu-Hear Our Voices holds frequent workshops on non-verbal communication, socialization, music therapy, and even bullying. On June 6th, Dr. Stephen Shore, an active member of the Shema Kolainu community and its partner organization, ICare4Autism, presented the workshop “Bullying: Practical solutions for eradicating bullying for individuals with autism and other special needs.”
Dr. Shore is a self-advocate for autism, and during the workshop he discussed just how prevalent bullying is in the school and community settings for people with autism. The workshop aimed to define bullying, learn to stop the act, and identify how learning effective skills in self-advocacy can help stop or prevent bullying. Dr. Shore successfully informed parents and professionals alike on the dangers of bullying and the effect it can have on individuals with autism.
[i] “Medical Xpress” Research throws new light on why children with autism are often bullied. 7 Aug 2013. Web. < http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-08-children-autism-bullied.html>