A bully who is skilled at language and socializing can take advantage of students with social challenges and language disabilities. So, the children with autism who are higher-functioning are at the greatest risk of being bullied. You as the parent can help school staff members and classmates understand how to support your child this October for National Bullying Prevention Month – and all year long.
School’s purpose is to educate, and education is the answer to stop bullying! Help protect your child from bullying during school even when you cannot physically be there by teaching better communication, social skills, independence, and self-advocacy.
All school staff play key roles and must take action against bullying. Keep in close contact with your child’s school to encourage working together to reduce bullying opportunities with these tips:
- Close supervision: An adult who is educated about autism, along with a trusted classmate if possible, can help in areas where bullying occurs more often. Places where students with autism are able to be bullied more easily due to the lack of supervision include:
- Mainstream classroom with only one teacher
- On the school bus where the driver is concentrating on driving as opposed to passengers’ behavior
- Walking to/from school
- Extra-curricular activities
- Passing time in hallways
- Bathroom visits
- Any unsupervised or unstructured activity
- Counseling and intervention: The bully himself or herself needs to be informed of school’s anti-bullying policy and counseled to stop more bullying.
- Overall education about bullying: Students and staff will become increasingly involved to report and resolve bullying.
- Basic rule: Tell your child if someone hurts her or him or makes him feel uncomfortable, unsure, or confused, tell an adult.
- Teach all students responsibility: Talk about the communication and social challenges experienced by kids with autism so that their classmates who don’t have autism will understand them more and be more sensitive to their needs. When it comes to a child with autism, being a kind, caring friend can make all the difference to protect them.
- Encourage friendships: More friends and stronger friendships will grow respect and acceptance. But peers without autism might not know how to make friends with someone who has autism. Along with your help, schools should guide students without autism how to reach their peers with autism possibly through workshops or specially-structured activities.
- Prevention: Encourage your child to stay with a crowd of people whom he or she likes. Lots of friendly students surrounding your child is like a school of fish that makes it harder for the bully to bust in.
- Communicate Confidently: If your child feels that she or he is being bullied, practice scripts like, “Shake your head and say, ‘No one likes a bully.’”; “So not cool.”; “Some people just don’t get it.”; “This is so boring.”; “Whatever.”; “Leave me alone.” Afterwards, to not add more fuel to the bully’s fire, it is very important to tell your child to walk away without looking back and immediately report this to an adult. These harmless yet powerful comebacks may leave the bully speechless, especially because it is unexpected out of the mouth of her or his victim.
Working together as a team in partnership with you as the parent, your school’s teaching staff, aides, principal, counselors, and psychologists will provide the safest environment for your child to learn and enjoy.