April is Autism Awareness Month.
Definition of Bullying
For years bullying has been dismissed as a normal, school-age, playground experience. We’ve used phrases like "Boys will be boys," "What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger," and "Kids are cruel." The reality is that bullying isn’t harmless. “Every day, 160,000 children do not go to school because they are afraid of being bullied.” (2)
The Department for Children, Schools and Families in the U.K. defines the following actions as bullying:
• Taking belongings
• Making insulting or offensive remarks
• Spreading nasty stories about someone
• Excluding from social groups
• Making a person the subject of malicious rumors
• Sending malicious emails or text messages (3)
Actions are considered bullying when they’ve been deliberately hurtful, repeated over a period of time, and make it difficult for victims to defend themselves.
Bullying and Autism
The Interactive Autism Network engaged in a survey in the fall of 2011 of families with children on the autism spectrum to investigate the frequency at which children with ASD were bullied because of their disabilities.
The preliminary findings of this survey indicate “that children with ASD are bullied at a very high rate, and are also often intentionally ‘triggered’ into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by ill-intentioned peers.” (1)
To summarize some of the preliminary findings in the IAN survey (1):
• 63 percent of children aged 6 to 15 years with ASD were reported to have been bullied, compared to 12 percent of their neurotypical siblings.
• 73 percent of those bullied reported being teased, picked on, or made fun of, 51 percent reported being ignored or left out of things on purpose’, 47 percent reported being called names.
• Nearly 30 percent of children who had been bullied had been pushed, shoved, hit, slapped or kicked.
• 53 percent had been provoked into fighting back or having a meltdown.
• Bullying occurred at every grade level, with the worst time between grade 5 and 8.