HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM GETTING BULLIED AT SCHOOL
High functioning autistic students are more susceptible to bullying in school because of their speech and behavior issues. Neurotypical students who are more articulate and socially active see their autistic classmate or schoolmate as an easy target for bullying, thinking that the latter can’t stand up against them in a verbal fight, especially that they most likely have no friends to defend them. Truth be told, many autism traits such as alienation and communication challenges can provide the perfect setup for bullying to happen. As a parent to a kid on the spectrum, you cannot afford to put your child at the risk of getting bullied in school. Unlike accompanying them to a playground or the mall where you can always provide full supervision to your child, sending them to school is a different situation. The most that you can do is hang around in the designated waiting area or stay put in your car while waiting to pick your child up. In such circumstances, you cannot see everything that’s happening around your child, like the things that they do together with other students or the things that other students do to your autistic child. Thankfully, there are still many things that you can do to protect your child from getting bullied in a school setting.
There are many ways to heighten the level of supervision that you can give to your child, even without you being physically there in the school premises. You can talk to your child’s classroom adviser, the school principal, and other school educators and staff, informing them about your child’s autism diagnosis and appealing them to look after your child not only during class hours but in other indoor and outdoor school settings as well. This may include their time spent on the school bus, the playground, school canteen, comfort rooms, hallways, and several other school areas where the child may be away from the direct supervision of their classroom adviser. Aside from the educators and school staff, you can also communicate with one or more of your child’s schoolmates who show their concern or the student council and classroom officers who you think are responsible and trustworthy enough to report any cause of worry about your child’s well-being while at school.
Intervention and Counseling
When the bullying person or group is caught and reprimanded, the process must not simply end with said students promising not to do the deed again. Bullying has become a serious and nationwide community problem because it is shown to destroy many lives if not prevented or intervened at early detection. The said students must be educated about the cause and effect relationship of bullying to other community issues and must be given immediate and continued counseling so that they can overcome this stage of their lives and be provided with the help they need in facing existing problems at home and at school. Oftentimes, these bullies are misunderstood individuals who are living troubled lives, and they resort to committing such acts to channel their own frustration and anger to others. A sense of parental duty and cooperation from the school can go a long way in helping bullies become responsible and productive individuals in the society.
Talk to your child about it
Sometimes, autistic kids won’t even know that they are already being bullied because of their inability to read social situations and respond properly to context and cues. Even when they are being made as the subject of joke or ridicule, your autistic child might still think that it’s nothing personal and they are still somewhat friends with the bullies. At crucial times like this, it is best that you inform your child about the nature of bullying and how they can detect such situations. While getting physically hurt may be a clear indication of bullying, emotional and psychological aspects may not be easily detected by your child. Tell your child to be open to you whenever they are confused about how another student treats them, or how they feel uncomfortable whenever they’re around a specific individual or group of students. You can also advise your child to report these incidents to their teacher or principal.
Inform your child’s classmates
Friends are some of the best protectors one can have, and for your autistic child, a good place to start earning new ones is their classroom. During the scheduled parent-teacher conference or similar meetings, you can talk to the parents of your child’s classmates about your kid’s autism condition and get their support in properly informing their child about it. When their own parents are the ones who are explaining this to them, there is a great possibility that your child’s classmates can learn to understand and accommodate your child’s autism features. It will only be a matter of time until your child will find their new circle of friends who will be there to protect them against bullies.
Train your child for counteractions
It isn’t all the time and circumstances that your child’s report about the bullying incident will reach the school administration and educators. When you think there’s a chance that they’d be facing this battle alone, equip your child with the right verbal counteractions and gestures that will somewhat discourage the bullies from chasing your child. Phrases such as “whatever”, “bullying is for losers”, and “don’t you have more important things to do?” are some of the powerful statements that can catch the bullies off guard after hearing it come from their target’s mouth. You can also tell your child to shake their head in disbelief, act unaffected and uninterested, or simply walk fast and away from the bully.
Being an autistic student is already a big hurdle for your child to overcome, which makes being the target of bullying a burden that you just can’t let your child carry as well. There are many ways to protect your child from incidents of bullying, and it is up to your own initiative and resourcefulness to find the right solution to this kind of school problem.