Bullying and Autism: Parents Guide to Help Your Child
by Neerja Anand
On 18 March, 2021
Bullying is defined as “Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children. It involves a real or perceived power imbalance and the behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” Have you ever been bullied by a neighbor, a peer, or a random group on the street? Unfortunately, millions of children and young adults face bullying on a regular basis. The impact of bullying cannot be underplayed as it results in serious traumatic consequences.
Bullying can be classified into three different types: verbal, social, and physical. Verbal bullying is defined as the act of saying or writing mean or hurtful things such as teasing, name calling, taunting, and threatening to harm. Social bullying refers to texting harmful or negative comments, exclusion from peer groups, posting negative content about someone on social media, and refusing someone to join with one’s clique and rumor mongering. Physical bullying is defined as physical violence towards someone.
Children with special health needs are more likely to be bullied in comparison to a neurotypical child. A research study conducted in 2010 suggests that children with special are at a higher risk for bullying and victimization and should be asked during mental screening if they have experienced bullying (Twyman KA, Saylor CF, Saia D et al., 2010). Despite the different kinds of bullying the preventative measures or reactionary measure families’ can take to protect their child is fairly similar.
Here are some suggestions for preventative and reactionary measures:
1) Meet with school officials (i.e. teachers, guidance counselors) before school admission to get know the school environment, culture, and policies
2) Observed your child and be aware of any changes in mood, behaviors, damage to clothes, etc. that doesn’t have a clear explanation (i.e. hole in pants – from playing baseball afterschool and sliding into home base)
3) Talk to your child regularly about their school day. Ask questions such as Who are your friends? Is anyone troubling you in school? Who do you have lunch with?
4) Maintain regular contact with school teachers and paraprofessionals. Have a communication log that goes home daily with progress notes.
5) Teach your child about what bullying can look like. Instruct them on the difference between a friend and a bully.
6) Ensure your child that they are not in trouble or to blame for the misconduct of the bully and that you are a safe person for them to express their fears
7) Engage the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) regarding bullying – by both bringing awareness and maybe spear heading an awareness day with the collaboration of the team
Twyman KA, Saylor CF, Saia D, Macias MM, Taylor LA, Spratt E. Bullying and ostracism experiences in children with special health care needs. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2010 Jan;31(1):1-8. doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e3181c828c8. PMID: 20081430.