School Bullying and Autism
Understanding High Functioning Autism, From the Heart of an Autism Mom, Part 2
In this next part of my series about the struggles of children with High Functioning Autism, I would like to address bullying in school. I would like to thank my fellow Aspie mom, Karen West, for some of her bullying insight, that helped make this article possible.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Types of bullying include verbal assaults, social assaults, and physical assaults. (stopbullying.org)
Because many Aspies have trouble conforming to the neurotypical ideals in school, they are bullied way more often than you would think. Aspie children take an unfortunate amount of bullying, and sadly, it is not always just their peers that do the deed. Sometimes, the staff is just as guilty.
Peer to peer bullying is the most common and typically is unnoticeable, at first. Little remarks about a child’s scripting, rocking, lack of sense of humor, or appearance, typically is where I see it start. Peers will make fun of a child’s lack of athletic ability, or if the child is really good a sport, they may take steps to lower the child’s self-confidence.
Some of the peer bullyings can go as far as setting up a child, using sarcasm and dares, to make that child be laughed at by other peers. These occurrences don’t register to the child being bullied as a problem, a lot because they don’t understand social cues. It could be getting the to repeat a socially unacceptable word or phrase, or to give a socially inappropriate gesture.
Sometimes, the verbal and social bullying moves on to a more physical nature. Pushing and pulling useful tripping. Some kids will even pull a chair out, as the child is beginning to sit, just to be funny. This is bullying too. Unfortunately, this minor physical bullying can and does sometimes lead to more violent acts.
Staff bullying, from teachers to administrators, kitchen help to coaches, though less common, is also a problem. It is the hardest to combat, however.
This bullying is typically verbal. From telling a kid they are not smart enough to take a course, to calling them cry babies, or saying they are wimpy, or an annoyance. Some staffers will push a child to speak when they cannot. They purposefully make a spectacle out of a child in front of peers, as a lesson. They make threats of detention, or suspension to get them to comply. This is bullying.
Unfortunately, bullying of our Aspie kids tends to go unreported, for a long time. It usually manifests itself in more aggressive behavior at home, with family members, or other people the child is comfortable around; or in a total shut down, and self-isolation, or worse, in depression. Other times, there may be complete or partial school refusal, or refusal to go to particular classes.
When it is reported, the cycle of reporting is so tedious, and stressful, that it adds to the stress of our Aspie kids. This stress can trigger a complete shutdown, and refusal to comply. This happens in some cases because the child is so traumatized by the events, that they cannot accurately remember specific times and dates. It also happens, out of fear of retaliation, especially when it is the staffer, that is being reported. And, in some cases, it happens because the child is truly afraid to get anyone in trouble or have their feelings hurt. Yes, even the ones who were damaging them.
I know of so many cases of these types of bullying, from my parent support group. Many of the parents have either fought to get a school transfer and many, when it was feasible, opted to homeschool their children. They talk about the huge difference, after a period of decompression and adjustment, their decisions made to the total person of their Aspie child.
I hope that you can share this article with people in your circle, and your children, so that if they see any of this taking place, they can take a stand. I also hope, if you have an Aspie child, who seems to be more aggressive, more reclusive, isolated, or depressed, you might consider that maybe they are being bullied, at school.
No level of bullying is acceptable. All bullying must stop.
God Bless you.