With the new school year in full swing, many parents worry about their children being bullied. This issue is of particular concern for parents of children with autism as these children are more likely to be bullied than their peers. Seventy percent of children with autism were the victims of bullies, according to a survey done by the Kennedy Krieger Institute.
Here are some tips to reduce your children’s risk of being bullied.
1. Talk about bullying
Make sure your children understand what bullying is. Provide them with examples including how social media can be used for bullying. Encourage your children to tell you if they think they are being bullied. Remind them that they shouldn’t be embarrassed if they are bullied. Discuss this topic periodically throughout the school year.
If your children tell you they have been bullied try to respond calmly. You need to get as much information about the situation as you can before you take action. Find out:
exactly what happened
where it happened
the names of anyone involved
the names of any witnesses or anyone who was nearby when it happened
what, if anything, your children did in response to the bullying
any action taken by school staff
Then, contact your children’s school. Always confirm any contact with a follow-up letter. Depending on the type of bullying involved, you may also want to contact your local police department.
The website StopBullying.gov defines bullying and gives parents tips on how to discuss this topic with their children.
2. Check for cyber-bullying
Look for signs of bullying on your children’s computers and phones. You have to make a judgment call on this one. Children may view this as an invasion of their privacy, so you must decide whether to do this with or without their permission. Depending on your children’s ages, you may be able to reach some agreement about how and when you will check their devices.
If you find any evidence of bullying, report it immediately to school officials and your local police.
3. Teach your children how to respond to bullying
Thomas Ricker on Flickr
Make sure your children know to report bullying immediately to their teachers or other school officials. Do not encourage your children to fight back. Tell them to go to the nearest adult and report the abuse immediately. Give your children strategies to use to avoid bullies such as staying with groups of friends or sitting near a teacher or other adult.
4. Help improve your children’s social skills
Children with autism are less likely to be bullied if “they have a strong support network of friends and teachers,” reports a recent study by the University of Manchester. If your children do not have a strong support network, help them build one. Teach them the social skills they need to promote friendships. There are many websites with tips for helping children with autism with their social skills. Here are a few websites you may find helpful:
Parents “engagement” with their children’s school lowers the risk of bullying for their children, report researchers from the University of Manchester. Make a point of stopping by your children’s school periodically to visit teachers and staff. Get to know the bus driver. Join parent teacher associations or other school groups.