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Autism & Bullying In School

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Autism and bully statistics report that 25-33% of American children have experienced bullying, making it a widespread concern for parents and caregivers. Even more concerning is that according to a survey completed by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, 63% of students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have been bullied. These findings also showed that children with autism are up to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers. If your child is in school, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and be prepared to develop a prevention strategy if your child becomes the victim of bullying.

Why Are Children With Autism More Likely To Be Bullied?

Bullies may choose to target children with autism for a variety of reasons, but research has indicated that difficulty understanding social cues, unusual sensory responses, and poor motor coordination may increase the risk. However, equipping your child with communication strategies to report bullying and helping them form a peer support group can lower the risk of being bullied.

How To Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied

Not all children who are being bullied ask for help and it can be even harder to tell if a child with ASD is being bullied. Some children with autism may not know they’re being bullied or can’t communicate what’s happening. Helping your child understand what bullying looks like can help them differentiate between malicious behavior and normal friendships. If you’re concerned about bullying, ask your therapy team to develop some communication strategies that will allow your child to report any incidents.

In addition, parents should watch for these general indicators of bullying. Keep in mind that not every child who is bullied will exhibit these signs: 1

  • Destroyed or missing clothing or personal items (like books, electronics, etc.)
  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Sudden changes in eating patterns, like skipping meals or overeating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Increased self-injurious behavior
  • Loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed

What Parents Can Do If Your Child With Autism is Being Bullied

If you suspect your child is being bullied, set up a meeting with your child’s teacher, the school administration, and any other relevant staff member. At the meeting, express your concerns and ask the school to provide some bully management and prevention strategies, like:

  • Providing a supervised, safe space for children to go to if they need it
  • Identifying a staff member the child is familiar with that they can report any bullying to
  • Implementing a buddy system
  • Providing more cooperative activities that give children with ASD safe opportunities for social interaction

Before the meeting ends, be sure to have a plan in place for how you and the school will manage the situation going forward.

How To Support Your Child With ASD If They’re Being Bullied

After you and the school have developed a strategy for combating bullying, it’s important to give your child ample support. If bullying is happening at school or another location where you’re not present, consistently practice how and when your child should report bullying. Practicing this in a safe environment can make your child feel more comfortable reporting bullying if it happens again. Check in with your child and trusted adults often to monitor the situation. If the bullying hasn’t stopped with the new strategies, set up another meeting and continue to advocate for your child.

Additionally, peer support can protect your child from the emotional effects of bullying and can sometimes even prevent bullying from happening in the first place. Set up playdates with friendly peers in your child’s class to help them develop healthy friendships.

READ MORE: Helping Your Child With Autism Make Friends In School

Bullying isn’t an easy challenge to overcome, and Trumpet is here to help. Trumpet regularly partners with educators and schools to provide children with autism the support they need to succeed. In addition, our expert ABA therapists can help your child strengthen the communication skills they need to report bullying and create healthy friendships. Learn more about how Trumpet can serve your family by contacting us today or finding an ABA therapy center near you.

1 https://www.stopbullying.gov/bullying/warning-signs

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