Creating a bully-free world for children with autism

We've all probably heard stories, or even witnessed one, of how children with autism are bullied by their peers because of how they may be different. In today's society, it is evident that individuals with autism are especially vulnerable to bullying as compared to their typically developing peers. In a national survey done by The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) on the bullying experiences of children on the autism spectrum, the findings showed that a total of 63% of 1,167 children with ASD, ages 6 to 15, had been bullied at some point in their lives (Anderson, 2012). This can stem from a number of reasons, including not understanding social cues, or even the lack of knowledge that they are getting bullied.

At EAP, we communicate to our kiddos what bullying means, and how they can overcome it, be it in school, home or any other environment. We want our kiddos to know that it's cool to be different and that being different isn't a bad thing.

It takes all of us to create a safe place for children with autism, not just the teachers and parents. Here is a Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit by Autism Speaks, which can be used by teachers, parents and students. Based on this toolkit, Autism Speaks have come up with 7 Steps to Take A Stand Against Bullying. Each of these steps, as listed below, have links to the toolkit mentioned above for more tips and resources.

  1. Start the conversation
  2. Develop a plan
  3. Teach tolerance
  4. Increase awareness and acceptance
  5. Encourage self-advocacy
  6. Learn your rights
  7. Speak up

Here are some stories of how the community has played a part in combating bullying among individuals with autism:

1. Pittsburg's Very Own Spider-Man Tackles School Bullying

“We had a couple students that retaliated against a student with disabilities.” Nina said. “…I just decided that I wanted them to hear from a speaker about bullying, that even if someone is hitting you, you don’t have to hit them back. Everybody’s different, and our student who was hitting them doesn’t know and doesn’t realize how to make friends. So it was really important for them to think about that.”

2. The Decision I Made to Help Stop My Son With Autism From Being Bullied

"At his teacher’s invitation, I gave a little presentation on autism. I was shaking in my shoes, but I explained what autism is and what it can feel like for people who have it. I told the class why my son may look away when they’re talking to him. He’s still interested, but the many things going on around him are too distracting, too bright or too loud. I let them know that it helps to be patient. It helps to repeat what you’ve said. It helps to remember that people who are different can still be smart, talented, fun and funny. And most importantly, that people who are different often want the same things we all want: to learn, to have friends, to play, to feel safe and to be happy."

3. When My Son With Autism Befriended His Bully

"Everyone has a story, and we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. But we can put aside our differences and be there for someone who really needs it. Even when we don’t want to be."

Reference list

  1. Anderson, C. (2012). IAN Research Report: Bullying and Children with ASD. Interactive Autism Network. Retrieved from https://www.iancommunity.org/cs/ian_research_reports/ian_research_report_bullying
  2. 7 Steps to Take A Stand Against Bullying. (n.d.). Autism Speaks. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/2015/03/27/7-steps-take-stand-against-bullying