Is Your Child Bullied at School? How Parents of Children with ASD Can Help

Nov 10, 2022 | Advocacy, Autism, Parenting Tips

Is Your Child Bullied at School? How Parents of Children with ASD Can Help

Nationally, an estimated 22 percent of students ages 12 – 18 experience bullying, which can result in negative physical, emotional, social, academic, and mental health issues. Bullying can happen on or off school grounds, and in rural, suburban, and urban areas. It can also include cyberbullying, which includes sending, posting, or sharing malicious, false, or harmful content about someone else. Cyberbullying commonly occurs on social media sites, through text messaging, online forums, email, and online gaming communities.

According to StopBullying.gov, kids who are victims of bullies are more likely to experience health complaints, depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. They are also more likely to show decreased academic achievement and miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Kids with ASD and other special needs are at increased risk of being bullied because they may be perceived as being different from their peers, unable to defend themselves, less popular than others, and have few friends. Kids with ASD may not always realize they are being bullied, such as when a peer pretends to be a friend, but is taking advantage of the child or making fun of them.

If you believe your child is being bullied, experts recommend being supportive and encouraging your child to describe how and when the bullying happened, and who was involved. Recommended steps to take include the following:

• Talk with the child’s teacher immediately to see whether they can help to resolve the problem.

 • Put your concerns in writing and contact the principal if the bullying or harassment is severe or the teacher doesn’t fix the problem. Explain what happened in detail and ask for a prompt response. Keep a written record of all conversations and communications with the school.

 • Ask the school district to convene a meeting of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or the Section 504 teams. These groups ensure that the school district is meeting the needs of its students with disabilities. This meeting will allow parents to explain what has been happening and will let the team review the child’s IEP or 504 plans and make sure that the school is taking steps to stop the harassment. 

When bullying is directed at a child because of his or her established disability and it creates a hostile environment at school, bullying behavior may cross the line and become “disability harassment.”  Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the school must address the harassment. 

• Explore whether the child may also be bullying other younger, weaker students at school. If so, his or her IEP may need to be modified to include help to change the aggressive behavior. 

• Be persistent. Talk regularly with the child and with school staff to see whether the behavior has stopped. 

(Material sourced from https://www.stopbullying.gov/)

Harsha Autism Center provides ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Center can help please contact us at info@harshaautism.com or call (812) 233-8833.

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