Autism Support Network reports that 160,000 children miss school every day because they’re afraid of being bullied. A recent Interactive Autism Network survey found that:
• 63 percent of children in grades 1 through 10 (ages 6 to 15) report having been bullied
• 43 percent of ASD children who attended regular public schools report being bullied
• 61 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome reported being bullied
• 28 percent of children with autism and 37 percent of children with other ASDs reported being bullied
What makes dealing with or addressing the bullying more difficult with children on the autism spectrum is, particularly, their inability to read social cues and to always verbalize what has happened and what they’re feeling inside.
Their natural obsessive tendencies also make it extremely hard for them to let go of those feelings and facilitate healing, and can interfere with ignoring or dismissing hurtful comments.
Some ASD children will fight back and may be punished for fighting back. Others may just retreat into a protective shell and not react at all. Meanwhile, the feelings build up inside affecting other areas of school and home life.
So, what can parents do to help their ASD child and teachers effectively settle the bullying situation?
The Role Parents Can Play Against Bullying
First of all, remember that you are your child’s own best advocate, and that children — regardless of their age — should never be expected or encouraged to settle the issue themselves. ASD children, by their very nature, don’t have the emotional and life-wisdom resources to deal with this issue by themselves.
The fact that they have an ASD makes them even more vulnerable to being bullied, and to the effects of being bullied, than neurotypical children. They need the support of adults.
Adults — parents, teachers, educational assistants, caregivers — need to know how to communicate effectively with children with ASDs. They need to speak the children's language.