Do you believe that school should be a safe space for children to learn and socialize with their peers?
What can you do if you discover that school is not a safe space for your child who has a diagnosis of autism?
Children with Autism May Be Especially Susceptible to Bullying.
Ideally, school is a safe space for kids regardless of academic abilities or social skills. Unfortunately, school can sometimes be an atmosphere where children feel unsafe because of how they are treated by their peers. When a child's peers continuously say hurtful things or do things that subject him or her to embarrassment, it's called bullying. A recent study children with autism spectrum disorders are bullied almost five times as often as children without a diagnosis of autism.
What Makes Children with Autism Attractive Targets for Bullies?
Only about a third of children diagnosed with autism are on the severe end of the spectrum, making the children who are higher functioning and who attend mainstream classes easier targets for bullies. Children with autism have characteristics such as repetitive behaviors and/or stimming, failure to understand social cues when interacting with their peers, talking and/or focusing obsessively about particular topics, the inability to communicate smoothly, frustration which typically leads to frequent meltdowns and overly sensitive to changes in routine, rules or environment. These characteristics can make children with autism targets, but the one characteristic which seems to attract bullies to children with autism is when the autistic child has conversational ability. "Children with autism who could speak well, for example, were three times more likely to be bullied than those whose conversational ability was limited or absent."
How Does a Child with Autism Typically React to Bullying?
When a child is being bullied, his or her self-esteem and confidence is being stolen by the very peers they want acceptance from. A child could possibly start to believe that he or she is being bullied because he or she deserves it. Social confidence is extremely important for children because it serves as a template for adult relationships.
A child diagnosed with Autism may have social interaction challenges. He or she is likely to have a difficult time, without being mistreated by peers. Negative words and actions may serve to intensify his or her already conflicted thoughts and feelings about being unable to meet the expectations of others. A child with Autism, being bullied by peers, may unconsciously choose to
• strike out at the individual causing him or her to be upset.
It is how the child reacts to the situation which could be misunderstood by others as aggressive, or possibly assault.
• attempt to physically escape what is upsetting him or her.
If the child wanders off to seek a less threatening environment, it could be misunderstood as running away, or being disobedient to authorities.
• freeze as if he or she can’t...