Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bullying and What To Do About It: Taking Autism Into Account

One thing that frightens me most about my son's schooling is the potential for bullying.  I saw it with my older brother, and often my older brother would be the one getting in trouble for defending himself (hence the reason why I hated Jr. High, and Gym class).  A lot of parents are determined to have their child with Autism mainstreamed.  Others prefer to isolate them within special schools or home-school their children.  The route you take will be completely up to you, but when dealing with Bullying, The Kiowa County Signal has posted ways to deal with it, particularly with children with Autism.

Bullying isn't just hitting kids on the playground.  It's much more insidious than that.  Bullying is harassing children verbally (including texting and instant messages), physically (like forcing them to sit at another table, or move from their spot), or even psychologically (forcing unacceptable and often humiliating behavior, from a person). 

Too often it's too easy for school officials, being human themselves, to dismiss bullying if they can't see it.  Because it often doesn't happen within eye-shot of an authority figure, they fear incriminating another student on "hear-say".  This is understandable, as it underscores the basis of our justice system, innocent until proven guilty (or at least until tried by the media at any rate). 

As a parent, it is also your right to make sure your child, with or without Autism, is in a safe environment.  This starts with contacting the school.  Find out what their anti-bullying policy is, and how it is enforced.  How do they react to reports of bullying, and how is it addressed?  It's important to note that adults in schools are very much out-numbered, and cannot be everywhere at once.  And also losing your temper cannot help any situation.  Accept they are human, and see how you can work with the system. 

But even more important, let them know that your child has Autism, and what that means.  Find out if they are aware of what Autism means, particularly when it comes to psychological bullying.  Do they understand that children with autism are more likely to take things literally, and will often be very trusting of everyone?  Do they know how to recognize a bully leading another child into a bullying situation, using manipulation?  These are crucial to your child's protection, and need to be addressed.

Bullying is a frustrating issue for all concerned.  Often it requires a lot of patience, and sometimes some creative thinking.  Be a help to your school, and I'm sure they will be happy to make any necessary changes to guarantee your child with autism will have a safe learning environment.

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