In March 2007 in the UK moves were made to start putting pressure on Tony Blair and the rest of government to start recognising and helping autistic children in schools who are being bullied. A number of parents have outlined that their children are being bullied and that a lot of the time this is leading to different types of "exclusion" for the autistic child. So as well as the trauma and upset of being bullied - the chances are that the autistic child is facing sanctions at the school as well. Ivan Corea, Chair of the Autism Awareness Campaign who are leading the campaign said: 'Bullying of autistic children is going on in primary and secondary schools. This must stop, some schools are punishing the autistic child rather than the bully. We are asking the Secretary of State Alan Johnson to keep specific data of incidents of bullying and exclusion of autistic children and set up a mechanism where parents and carers of children with autism can register incidents of bullying because some autistic children with communication disorders may not even be able to tell their teachers about the bullies.
We need real action on this and Lee Scott MP has already highlighted the seriousness of this issue in his debate on autism in parliament.' Lee Scott is due to meet with Tony Blair later in the year and will discuss the very serious nature of autism and bullying then. Bullying is an awful problem with any child but the needs of a child on the autistic spectrum make this even worse. The lack of understanding of social cues, difficulties in communicating the problems to others, interests and hobbies that often seem a little "goofy" and make the child an easy "target" - to name but a few. So it is so important that this issue is taken seriously by the government and then hopefully some kind of agenda for change will filter down to teachers, classroom assistants, domestic staff and everyone else in the schools. As we all know the multi-sensory and often very hectic nature of schools can be difficult enough for children with autism - so they can really do without having to contend with the extra "attention" of playground bullies.
Obviously as parents it is important to ensure that your child has some kind of feedback loop to a trusted person so that any signs of bullying can be picked up. Whether this is verbal, through some kind of symbol or PECS board, or more creative like "puppet talk" for youngsters, it needs to be crystal clear for the child what is and what isn't acceptable - and then what they should do about it. The simpler the better with this approach and I guess this is easier for things like physical bullying - as the more subtle types of verbal bullying can be more difficult to explain. But generally your child's behaviors will be a key to something being not right and then you have the ,often difficult, task of working out what is happening from there. If you do have the ear of your child's teacher it is worth raising this issue with them and finding out what mechanisms they have in place for your child to communicate if they are being bullied.
There is a useful "bullying worksheet" that you can use to look at the issues around bullying with your Aspergers child. You can find it at http://autism.about.com/od/theautismcommunity/a/bullies_2.
htm So to briefly summarize this article; bullying is sadly something that all parents with a child on the autistic spectrum need to think about. This involves looking at different ways in which you can monitor your child to check if something is going on so that you can take action.
Dave Angel is a social worker with families who have children on the Autistic Spectrum and is the author of a new e-book that answers the 46 most asked questions by parents of children with Aspergers. To claim your free 7 day Mini-Course for parents of children with Aspergers Syndrome, visit http://www.parentingaspergers.com today.