Defying The Spectrum

Dealing With Bullies

We ran into a mild bully situation with our son on the bus last year. His verbal abilities were low and it was difficult to discern what events had transpired. We contacted the school immediately via email, met first thing the next morning with the Principal and Vice Principal, and by the end of the day had solutions resolving the issue.

It has been suggested that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are especially vulnerable to bullying. The Interactive Autism Network (IAN) is now sharing initial results of a national survey on the bullying experiences of children on the autism spectrum. The findings show that children with ASD are bullied at a very high rate, and are also often intentionally “triggered” into meltdowns or aggressive outbursts by ill-intentioned peers. The study found that a total of 63% of 1,167 children with ASD, ages 6 to 15, had been bullied at some point in their lives.

Our TEAM was super supportive and came up with Speech social group conflict resolution type activities. My son is learning through verbal scripts, and conflict resolution role-play how to self advocate in these types of situations. The ABA support staff is also working in his inclusion setting to offer real-time coaching when situations arise for self advocacy. We are so lucky to have such awesome support.

We are so fortunate to have such an amazing school district that responds so quickly and effectively to our needs. As an advocate there are lots of things you can do to be more effective in terms of dealing with bullies. No matter the level of bullying or ambiguity of the circumstances, there are things you can do as a parent to act on behalf of you child.

Getting started is as easy as writing a letter to your child’s teacher, or asking your Principal to post your school’s anti-bullying policy in public places around the school building. It could mean talking to your child about how he or she has experienced bullying, or reading about the roles of bullying and identifying your personal place in the cycle of bullying.

Special Needs Anti-Bullying Toolkit

Parent Toolkit-Free Download 

Below is an excerpt from the Toolkit:

Top Ten Facts Parents, Educators and Students Need to Know:

1. The Facts – Students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.

2. Bullying affects a student’s ability to learn.

3. The Definition – bullying based on a student’s disability may be considered harassment.

4. The Federal Laws – disability harassment is a civil rights issue.

5. The State Laws – students with disabilities have legal rights when they are a target of bullying.

6. The adult response is important.

7. The Resources – students with disabilities have resources that are specifically designed for their situation.

8. The Power of Bystanders – more than 50% of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes.

9. The importance of self-advocacy.

10. You are not alone.


Bullying Resource Websites (taken from Autism Speaks)

Bullying and Autism: Helping Kids Cope with Getting Excluded

Face Bullying with Confidence – 8 Skills Kids Can Use Right Away

Teach Antibullying, Inc.

The National Autistic Society: Bullying and Autism Spectrum Disorders – A Guide for School Staff

Amaze Information Fact Sheet: Bullying and Autism Spectrum Disorders U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Interactive Autism Network: Bullying and ASD

Autism NOW: Bullying and Autism Spectrum Disorders

Other Resources

The Signs of Bullying: What to Look For If You Suspect Your Child is Being Bullied

Bullying and Students with Special Needs DVD In the DVD Bullying and Students with Special Needs, experts look at this issue and advise teachers and administrators on how to develop specific strategies and approaches.


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