One of the unfortunate parts of dealing with autistic children is that sooner or later, you are going to come across a bully or two, and you're going to need to know how to deal with them. Unfortunately, autistic children are far more susceptible to bullies both because they stand out and because they often can not stand up for themselves. Sometimes, they do not even know they're being bullied.
3 Steps to Stop Autistic Children from Being Bullied
- Communicate : In order to help protect autistic children from bullying, you should talk with him or her so that they know what the different kinds of bullying are and how to recognize them. Some are obvious, of course, but others are more subtle.
- Report the Bullying : Teach your child to tell a teacher or aide as soon as these things happen. Many autistic children keep the bullying to themselves in fear that either it will get worse if they tell or that nothing will help.
- Explain It Is Not Their Fault : Explain to your child that these things are not their fault, that there are some kids with low self-esteem who thrive on putting others down to make themselves feel better.
Recognize the 3 Types of Bullying
- Verbal bullying is perhaps the most common kind. Autistic children may be called names or their clothes are ridiculed or their manner of speaking is mock. The bully will usually pick on some physical or mental aspect of the child that is different in some way.
- Physical bullying, such as pushing or shoving or worse, is another kind. Sometimes a kid who is being bullied will not tell anyone out of fear of repercussions from the bully, so it is important to try to keep tabs on autistic children. If they seem more depressed and withdrawn than usual, you may want to investigate further.
- Psychological bullying. This type of bullying is more common with girls. This is bullying by means of social exclusion, or psychological bullying. Psychological bullying happens when a group of kids tries to socially exclude the kid with autism from a group. Girls might pretend to invite the autistic child to their house to hang out with them, and when the child with autism becomes excited, cruelly tell them that they would never do such a thing. Kids will do a stunning variety of things to make the girl feel that she is being included and then shut her out, or alternately will be very blatant about excluding her. This can severely affect autistic children.
How do you stop bullying of autistic children?
The first thing to realize is that there are three parts to the bullying cycle:
- the bully
- the victim
- the bystander
The majority of witnesses to bullying will not try to intervene to help autistic children who are the victim. They could feel uncomfortable, or be afraid that if they try to do anything, they will be picked on next. They may also be afraid of seeming somehow uncool.
School Culture Needs to Change to Help Autistic Children
However, the school culture needs to be changed so that it is seen as uncool to bully. Bullies get silent affirmation from bystanders who do nothing. It gives them a message that it's okay. If bystanders began saying “Hey, it's not cool to pick on others,” and bullies no longer got this positive reinforcement, they would do it less because they would have less motivation to do so.
School workshops with bullying roleplaying events, where everyone learns and practices the appropriate responses can be helpful for this. Hopefully, as anti-bullying programs get more popular, handling bullies will be one less thing that a parent or teacher will have to contend with when dealing with autistic children.