Bullying of kids with ASD must be prevented. We as teachers need to be on our guard. Students with ASD are more likely to be bullied, due to the difference in communication abilities, motor skills, and social cognition. The reality is that students on the Autism spectrum are bullied more than students without or with other disabilities. In fact, of all the students who are bullied, 63% are on the Autism spectrum. It is a pervasive problem that we need to address.
We need to teach students to recognise and understand bullying. Many students in general and students with ASD in particular, fail to realise that they are being bullied. A student might have unexplained bruises, cuts and scratches, or they might be hungry from food being stolen.
A good solution is to set up a meeting with parents, head of department, and the welfare coordinator. At the meeting, its good to discuss the issues that are affecting the student. By working with others, you can identify the time, activities, places and even people that affect the student and how to cope with them.
Try to get programs into your school that promote awareness of students on the spectrum. Then, develop a teaching Program to help students on the spectrum develop play and social skills. Teach all students social skills, to minimise the bullying of kids with ASD.
Spend time with your targeted student. If there are times or areas where bullying is more likely to occur, get together with others and develop a plan for adult supervision. Breaks, movement in between lessons, bus rides or certain classes, that are more problematic. Make a plan and work with others on how to implement it to stop the bullying of kids with ASD.
At times, detecting bullying is very difficult. A bully may harass a student by manipulating him to do things he does not want to do. The bully may tell the student with ASD, “I won’t be your friend anymore unless you steal this video game”. So, it’s our responsibility to educate every student in the class to know the difference between a friend and a bully. Don’t just leave it to chance and expect that every student will know, (Sandison, R. 2016).
Sandison offers a parents guide to autism Gazette May 2018
A student might seem unusually anxious, nervous, upset, unhappy, down, angry, withdrawn and secretive. Try to remind a concerned parent that these signs may not necessarily mean that the student is being bullied. They could be signs of other issues like depression, and withdrawal. If you and the parent/s are more concerned, consult a psychiatrist or practitioner.
We cannot prevent bullies targeting kids on the spectrum just by our individual efforts. It requires a multidisciplinary approach. It includes parents, teacher, psychiatrist, psychologist, doctor and health worker and the community in general.
Cyberbullying is a relatively recent phenomenon. Research has found that students who are victims of cyber bullying were also victims of school bullying. Both types of victims tended to exhibit low levels of popularity and low self-esteem. Some victims also become bully-victims, usually in response to being bullied as a way of “fighting back” or “letting off steam”.
Establishing Connections with Kids is mandatory to stop bullies targeting kids on the spectrum. Here are 9 strategies to prevent bullying of kids with Autism by Meraki Lane. A meaningful connection will help the student to share and discuss the entire problem being faced by him/her. Building a Circle of Friends for a student with ASD, to build supportive friendly relationships is a must. In this way, you as a teacher can start to solve the problem at school. It will also help you to show parents how you are trying to minimise the risk of their child being bullied.
One thing should be kept in mind that students with ASD, need our love and protection from bullies. They are the assets of our classroom, not liabilities.
Edward, B. Mc. (2013). Bullying and Students with Disabilities. Strategies and Techniques to create a safe Learning Environment for All. Printed by The United States of America, Published by Crowin. 2013 P: 21-35
Espelage, D. L., & Swearer, S. M. (2008) Current perspectives on linking school bullying research to effective prevention strategies. School Violence and Primary Prevention, P:11, 335-353.
Matson, L. Johnny. (2017) Curricula for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Published by Springer International Publishing AG 2017. P: 230-235
Sandison, R (2016). A Parents Guide to Autism. Published by spectruminclusion.-u