Why are autistic people targeted for bullying?
Autistic people are more vulnerable to experiencing instances of bullying or harassment than many other social groups, regardless of their age or gender. This is for various reasons, including:
- Communication Difficulties
- Individual mannerisms that some may believe to be “odd” or “eccentric”
- Challenges in making and holding down friendships, leaving them more isolated, and
- Limited social reading skills, making it difficult to spot signs of bullying or exploitation in the first place.
What should I do if my autistic child is being bullied?
If your autistic child says to you that they are experiencing bullying or harassment at school, it is important that you take what they are saying seriously. Listen to them calmly and patiently. Make a note of everything they tell you, including names and the kinds of behaviour they have been a target of. Reassure them that it is not their fault and that they have not brought it on themselves. You may feel emotional during this but remember your child will be feeling vulnerable and may mistake signs of upset as being directed toward them. If this happens, emphasize that you are not upset or angry with them, but at the situation.
Once you have done so, contact your child’s teacher and/or principal as soon as you can. When you have done so, remain calm whilst explaining the situation from your child’s perspective. Again, you may be feeling emotional during this time, but remember, this is not an argument. It is a discussion intended to secure your child’s best interests. Make sure that you also listen to the teacher’s and/or principal’s perspective. They may have seen more of what is going between your child and their bully at school and may have more information about what’s happening.
The National Autistic Society in the UK have produced a comprehensive guide for parents on bullying, which helps you deal with situations where a child is being bullied or vice versa.