April is World Autism Awareness Month and we thought we’d raise awareness about bullying (and what to do about it). Bullying can take many forms – physical, verbal, social exclusion or embarrassment – and with the rise of internet communication sites it is arguably more pervasive now than ever. All children (and even adults) may have to deal with bullying at some point in their lives. However, for those with autism spectrum disorders, bullying may especially be a problem as their unique behaviour makes them stand out from the crowd.
The effects of bullying should not be underestimated – it can lead to depression, anxiety, decreased academic performance, unwillingness to go to school and substance abuse. In severe cases, bullying has also led to suicide or acts of violence, such as school shootings. The best way to stop bullying is to know how to recognise the signs and to talk about bullying openly and encourage children to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied.
According to www.stopbullying.gov, the following behaviours are warning signs that your child is being bullied:
- Unexplainable injuries
- Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
- Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
- Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
StopBullying.gov recommends the following actions if you know or suspect that your child is being bullied:
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
- What to do when dealing with bullying:
- Intervene immediately. It is ok to get another adult to help.
- Separate the kids involved.
- Make sure everyone is safe.
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs. Get police help or medical attention if a weapon is involved or there are threats of serious physical injury.
- Stay calm. Reassure the kids involved, including bystanders.
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
- What NOT to do when dealing with bullying:
- Don’t ignore it. Don’t think kids can work it out without adult help.
- Don’t immediately try to sort out the facts.
- Don’t force other kids to say publicly what they saw.
- Don’t question the children involved in front of other kids.
- Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately.
- Don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.
- This information was provided by the wonderful website
- . You can also visit the following sites for more information about bullying. Pacer’s NBC also has a special section on dealing with disabilities and bullying.