Sunday, 13 November 2011
Autism and Anti Bullying Week 2011
Bullying is a nearly constant concern for many families affected by autism. With Anti-Bullying Week just around the corner, a new survey of parents, carers and teachers suggests that the majority of children with autism at mainstream school have suffered from bullying, and that schools are failing to deal with the problem.
The online survey, sponsored by author and autism campaigner Anna Kennedy, generated over 900 responses from across the UK. It found that 61 per cent of respondents reported that their child had been bullied at school as a result of their autism. Moreover, 73 per cent of these respondents said that the school had handled their child’s bullying badly or that the problem had been ignored.
Calling the survey’s findings “a national scandal”, Mrs Kennedy argued that the Government is not doing enough to support children with autism and their families. “I realise the Government is cutting back on everything at the moment”, she said, “but this problem is a real time bomb...If we don’t do something now we will face much higher costs in the future when we have to care for those with ASC (autistic spectrum conditions).”
Anti-Bullying Week starts on Monday 14 November. Organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), a coalition of over 130 members from the voluntary, public and private sectors, the theme of this year’s campaign, “Stop and think – words can hurt”, focuses on verbal bullying.
A pack, containing information, advice and resources for those living and working with young people, is available at: www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk
With school now underway, and having to deal with this issue in our own house, we had a think about ways to deal with bullying.
1. Find out what your school policy on bullying is and be prepared to advocate for better if needed. Be firm in letting them know that bullying can’t be tolerated.
2. Be vigilant. Stay on top of the situation through frequent conversations with your child about what happens each day at school.
3. Teach your child humour and “walk-away” skills.
4. Keep the lines of communication open with teachers and any school worker in a position to observe your child at various times during the school day.
5. Share social stories with your child that deal with bullying.
6. Employ a buddy system by asking a trusted teacher, aide, or even a non-disabled peer to keep an eye out for any negative actions or words directed towards your child.
7. Educate teachers and classmates about what autism is and what struggles those affected may have. Raising awareness may have an impact on bullying tendencies.
8. Check for bruises, torn clothing, or any items taken to school that are now missing. Follow up immediately with the school if any of these red flags exist.
9. Roleplay teasing with your child and practice back and forth humorous replies to negative comments.