Bullying in a school setting is not uncommon. However, children with ASD can be easy targets for bullying from their peers. In this guide brought to you by Solstice Behavioral Health, we go over ways to support children on the autism spectrum who are victims of bullying.
Why Are Children On The Autism Spectrum More Vulnerable To Bullying?
In school settings, all children can be susceptible to bullying, but children on the autism spectrum may be particularly vulnerable because of social difficulties. Children with ASD can often interpret things too literally or have trouble entering peer groups and participating in social activities. Because of issues understanding the tone of voice or the body language of others, some children with autism often do not realize they are being bullied.
What Are Signs That Your Child Has Been Bullied?
Your child may not realize they are being bullied or may not be able to communicate what they are experiencing. As their parent, it’s important to look for signs of bullying.
- Physical signs. Your child may have unexplained cuts, scrapes, or bruises. It can also be a sign that something is wrong if your child comes home hungry or with missing or damaged belongings.
- Emotional signs. Your child may cry a lot or be more angry than usual, have nightmares, feel anxious or withdrawn, stammer, and not want to talk about what is wrong.
- Behavioral signs. Your child may do poorly in school, or not want to go to school at all. It is also possible to notice changes in their eating or sleeping habits.
- Another sign that your child has experienced bullying is if you notice your child begins to bully others.
How Can Parents Of Children With ASD Address Bullying?
It is believed that over half of all instances of bullying stop when someone intervenes. It is important to listen and support your child, but also communicate with the school.
1. Listen to your child and encourage them to share their experience with simple questions, such as “What happened after that?” or “What did you do when that happened?” Stay calm as you listen to what happened, or wait until you feel calm before you speak to your child again, as this is a good opportunity to model how to solve problems for your child. After your child shares their story, summarize what happened. Tell your child that their negative feelings about any instance of bullying are natural, and assure them that the bullying is not their fault.
2. It’s not easy to be honest about something difficult that has happened, so it is important that you agree with your child that there is an issue and praise your child for communicating openly and honestly with you. Assure your child you will work towards a solution for them: ”Let me think about how we can make things better.” Avoid any negative or shameful talk.
3. Talk to your child’s teachers. Your child’s teacher will be trained in spotting and preventing further bullying and can intervene. Make time to speak with your child’s teacher privately.
4. Learn your rights. In the United States, all states have laws about bullying. Through laws and state education codes, each state addresses bullying differently.
When it comes to mental health concerns in children with autism, early intervention is crucial. The earlier a child with ASD is diagnosed and receives proper treatment and support, the sooner a child has the tools to identify and communicate and cope with their emotions. With more than 20 years of providing support and training for families, Solstice Behavioral Health and Consulting in Shelton, Connecticut strives to become a bedrock for autism awareness and education. Solstice has created multiple programs and activities to help children and communities enhance their skills and develop their support networks. Contact our office at 203-900-4720 to see how we can help you and your family move forward together.