We consistently read news stories about children with disabilities, especially children/adolescents with ASD as victims of bullying, the most recent being Aaron Hill’s violent beating which was caught on video that later went viral on the internet. Studies in the past have shown that children on the spectrum are bullied nearly five times more often than their typically developing peers. In fact, higher functioning kids on the spectrum are three times more likely to be bullied than those who are nonverbal or have a harder time communicating. Another challenge autistics face is reporting the bullying act itself; they need to be able to understand that they are being harassed and effectively communicate how so.
Here are some signs that your child is being bullied:
– Reluctance to attend school
– Extra emotional, sensitive behavior and anxiety
– Change in their daily routines, such as sleeping patterns or diet
– Torn clothing or damaged possessions
– A decline in academic performance
As parents there are definitely steps you can take to help your child have a more stress-free and healthy learning environment:
1) Talk to teachers, councelors, and administrators and ask what programs they have in place to combat bullying at their school. For example, social and emotional learning (SEL) helps kids develop skills to handle school relationships and attitudes about self and others.
2) Address your concerns when developing an IEP. Making sure that self-advocacy skills are on the agenda in an important part of preventing bullying and helping your child handle a bully. Also consider if the school has peer programs to make sure your child has a buddy with them going to class or lunch etc.
3) Prepare you child in your home. Talking to your child about friendship and how friends should and shouldn’t treat each other is an important way for your child to learn the skills necessary to recognize when they are in a bad situation and either need to stand up for themselves or try to get help.
For more resources on helping your child with bullying: