Bullying and Autism

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Every parent of an child with Autism has a fear, that their child will be bullied constantly by other children.  I saw it happen with my older brother, and I fear that it will happen with my son.

Children can be very mean, particularly in those years that comprise Junior High (7th to 9th grade).  Kids are just starting to figure out who they are, and as such many feel they can best define themselves by picking on others.

Medscape news posted an article on bullying, and why children with Autism are more likely to be victims.  It seems that children with Autism are more likely to react emotionally, which just feeds the bully's ego.  They can control something by pushing buttons, and as such know they can continue to bully the child to get the same reaction.

When I was growing up, teachers and administrators were not prepared to deal with the bullying of children with Autism, mostly because Autism was not widely known.  They would often punish the child getting bullied, because they would try to defend themselves.  To someone coming late into the situation, the child reacting often looks the aggressor.  This is simple baiting, and it happens quite often.

So what is a parent to do?  Well, first, they need to talk with the teachers and administrators at the school their child is attending.  Most schools have a zero tolerance policy for bullying, when it is caught.  They need to be made aware of the potential for bullying based on the child's special needs.  Often teachers and administrators are willing to keep an eye out, once forewarned.  Second, parents need to pay attention to their child.  Children on the Spectrum generally do not talk, or don't mention anything they don't find relevant to the situation.  That includes being bullied at school, because it doesn't fit in the situation of "home".  So parents need to be aware of their child's behavior while at school and at home.

Another solution is to look for schooling that is less "public".  I don't mean you need to enroll your child into a private school, because often that can be just as problematic.  No, I mean look for a special school specifically for those on the Spectrum.  Salt Lake City has one, and it is a Charter school (meaning it is run with public school funds).  It's ideal because it helps children through their formative years with one on one attention from staff.  That, of course, means less of a chance of getting bullied.

Online learning can also be of benefit, as it blends the rigor of a structured classroom with the convenience of home schooling.  Utah also has a Virtual Academy, which is essentially a Charter school online.  They do mention there are special programs for children on the Spectrum, though I have yet to hear from the specialist I was supposed to contact.  Not that I would worry about that now for my son (he's just finishing up Kindergarten), but it is something I would easily consider for his Junior High years at least.

There are lots of options to help parents protect their children.  Each is great, depending on the needs of the child, and the best remedy for any bullying issue is parental awareness.  Kids may not want to share the fact that they are being bullied, but if parents are aware and alert, they can help stop it from ever becoming a problem.