What do you do when the autistic child IS the bully?

From: Anonymous

My son is 10 and in fourth grade.  For nearly five years, he and his classmates have repeatedly been victimized by a child we believe to be autistic.  His official diagnoses has never been shared with other parents. But I do have some experience with special education and autistic relative, and the child’s other behaviors seem to follow those of a child on the autism spectrum.  He has had a one on one aide in school since Kindergarten, but not every moment, everywhere.  

I have two children with multiple special needs of my own, (including ADHD and SPD), but neither is autistic.  I want to be sympathetic because I understand what it’s like for your child to be singled out, but too many things have happened, and never with an apology or explanation of any kind. 

There have been multiple altercations on the bus to and from school, horrible one-sided “fights” on the playground, in the halls, down the stairs, and off-site on play dates or club-related outings.

Besides verbal intimidation and harassment, kids have been thrown into walls, strangled, and bloodied. At least one has suffered broken bones. The children who do fight back are reprimanded, if not suspended if it happens on the bus or at school.

The school continues to support the rights of this child over the rights of the rest of the school to go to school peacefully, without risk of injury. My son has only been allowed by us to ride his own bus a handful of times over the past two years because nearly every time he is on the bus, there is an incident. The only way to truly protect my child is to deny him his rights to ride his bus because the other child’s parents refuse to drive their child, ever.

Recently, at an after-school activity, my son was bullied fairly severely. The event had lasted several minutes with a lot of physical contact, and my son could not free himself because he is much smaller than the other child and no one was around to hear/see what was happening. He was not seriously injured, but only because an adult discovered them just in time, at which point the bully took off.

The school does not seem to have any control over him anymore, even with an aide. He has run out of the building during the day multiple times. He has lashed out at multiple staff members. School officials say they are taking the matter seriously, but there have been so many altercations, so many injuries, and most of them occur with no provocation and no warning. They will not tell me what is being done this time, or for future incidents to ensure my child is safe, and that the other children and the staff are, as well.

We contacted our local police because this was the umpteenth time our son was the target, and this was the worst time, for our family. The police said they could do very little because of the child’s age (10) and lack of mental capacity.

I can only see this getting worse as this child gets older and bigger, but the district and the child’s parents are hiding behind the disability, never apologize to anyone, never enforcing the consequences that would occur for a non-disabled child as is the policy. They also don’t offer any proactive solutions, such as the parents attending after-school activities with the child, unless forced to, nor offering other parents any information on how to handle situations if they seem to get out of control.

Nobody knows what to do, to keep an even more serious accident from occurring, which based on the past five years, unfortunately, seems inevitable.

I tried to do an internet search of my question of what to do when an autistic child is the bully, but the search only offered answers to what to do when an autistic child is bullied. IT seems like there is nothing I can do to protect my own son, and I don’t see how that doesn’t constitute a violation of his civil rights.

When is it no longer appropriate to extend the regular public school to a child in order to protect the rights of all the other children, including those children like mine, who are also disabled?

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25 thoughts on “What do you do when the autistic child IS the bully?

  • August 7, 2019 at 11:44 pm
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    There have been 3 attacks on my child by a child on the spectrum, both physical and verbal. I have witnessed one of the three attacks. The attack I witnessed was the autistic child came from behind, (my son was sitting cross legged on the floor), and grabbed him by the head and started to drag him across the room. This was in between the end of class and an after school sport activity held at the school. The last incident of violence was in class during school hours. He came up to my child and said he was an f&@$ing idiot and he was going to kill him. He then proceeded to push him into cupboards before other kids alerted a teacher. In the same afternoon as the children were leaving school this child continued to taunt my child and push him in the vicinity of two flights of stairs. There was no teacher present to witness this event.

    The child was pulled out of school for the last two days of term and on the first day back at school this child was seated directly behind my son.

    My child is quiet, not great at sports and is seen as one of the weaker kids at school.

    We have reported it to the board of education, catholic schools head office and whistleblowers.

    I’m meeting with a school consultant tomorrow to discuss these issues and the absolute neglect towards my child. My theory is they are going to sweep it under the carpet just like most catholic schools do with there issues.

    Reply
    • Joel Manzer
      September 10, 2019 at 5:26 pm
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      WOW! So sorry to hear about this!

      I hope your child is much improved. Dealing with these situations is extremely difficult for all involved. No one should have this level of abuse.

      Hope the meeting went well, would love to know the progress and your experience regarding your situation. I do know this type of bullying behavior happens regardless if it’s a catholic school or public school.

      Reply
  • August 15, 2012 at 7:52 am
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    @TwitchBunny – Well it’s been about five months since all this trouble ended, hopefully for good. 
    Yay and happydance!  o /  After trying many things (punishments, even risperdal did nothing, though he is on celexa like yours truly now)  The solution, what worked for him, was exactly what you’d do for a normal child, we showed him “Scared Straight” and explained people who are violent end up with other violent people who are then violent to them.  Suddenly it clicked and he hasn’t done anything violent since.  He still gets upset but not near as often, and we’ve given him other ‘scripts’, that it’s OK to admit when you’re sad, and that asking nicely gets you farther than demanding.  I feel like I had other stuff for him to work on but it’s hard to remember I’m so happy we’re past this.
    Now I have my son back, and if he kicks my arse it’s at chess.

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  • August 15, 2012 at 7:38 am
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    @Willow – Years ago it would have been “Emotionally Disturbed”.  Normal bullies do not get this diagnosis.  Sorry you think it’s so simple.

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  • May 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm
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    I wonder if parents like this bully’s parents are part of the reason for the rise in ASD diagnoses, and especially the rise in ASD diagnoses among children who are male and/or white.

    In decades past, some school districts would let some children behave like that without a diagnosis.  Instead, they’d allow the bully to continue bullying their other students because “boys will be boys” or because the bully was more Anglo-Saxon than his or her victims (letting a white child bully a black child, letting a white English-American child beat up a white Italian-American child, etc.), or because the bully’s parents were wealthier than the victim’s parents, or whichever.

    Would the parents of this bully have used those excuses for his bullying instead if it was 1952 instead of 2012?  Maybe this bully actually doesn’t have an ASD but his parents went doctor-shopping to get him a diagnosis and a teaching aide since it’s 2012 instead of 1952 so those non-medical excuses for bullying don’t fly as well?

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  • January 16, 2012 at 7:13 am
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    @TwitchBunny – An update.  Jamie hasn’t kicked in a while, all in all once this year, but has decided yelling to disrupt class and refusing to do homework to be an easier way to get his way.  To me that’s an improvement, but to the school you can tell the message is they’re in over their heads.  The recommendation has been to do a Functional Behavior Assessment.  Cause I’m anal I’ve put their somewhat scattered logs of day to day into a database to see for myself.  Jamie’s special interests include time and fairness, and sure enough most of his acting out is over his perception he’s not getting his fair share of time, although his idea is down to the minute so to everyone else it’s hard to predict.  That’s the antecedent, any consequence that may be ‘rewarding’ like extra time out is hard to say, though things have been better since we made clear getting out of class doesn’t mean he gets out of schoolwork.

    His little sister tantrums, so we’ve been showing him that a tantrum isn’t a meltdown, and that this isn’t how you get your way.

    But it’s still so hard.  I need to be consistent (strict) with him, but he really is stressed.  He’s such a perfectionist, he’s worried about taking too long or getting even one answer wrong.  He knows he’s different and it’s eating at him, last night he broke down crying talking about himself like he was broken.

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  • December 1, 2011 at 7:05 pm
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    My son, like myself, has Asperger’s.   Like myself, he is very smart, very sensitive to sound and other sensory overload and it makes him super irritable.  But he doesn’t turn it inward, like myself, he turns it outward.  My whole childhood I was hounded by bullies for being different.  I expected him to be like me in this respect too, but he’s not. 
    Early on he would spit on the floor to get out of school.  Somewhere he picked up kicking.  That apparently got the desired reaction, people would back off.  When asked the kids say they aren’t hurt but it’s the idea, and he’s certainly intimidating people and has no idea how he’s making people feel, explaining it doesn’t work.  That was most of last school year. He was on Risperdal briefly but that (like with me) just made him sleepy for a while til he got used to it.  This year we started him on Prozac. 
    No incidents for a few months, and then suddenly he’s back at it.  I am seeing the signs that he may feel kicking may not be enough to get his point across, that maybe he feels he needs to kick harder or hit, which he just tried to do to someone today, because someone with hot lunch wanted to sit next to him and he can’t stand hot lunch, I dunno if it’s the smell or what.  I can tell him a thousand times to get an adult if something or someone is bothering him, that if the adult doesn’t take him to a calmer situation I can make them, but he is NOT to take matters in his own hands. 
    But nothing works.  I’m saying words that don’t count.  Punishments just make him think kicking (a “punishment” in his eyes) is all the more appropriate.  I’m scared.  I (and he) worries they won’t challenge him intellectually or socially in a special school and he could still hurt or intimidate people.  He acts fine for long enough stretches that faculty just isn’t ready when he acts out — though I don’t know how, I can feel it when he’s getting that way. And instead of keeping a closer eye out they just keep “challenging” him (putting him in situations that stress him) and when he acts out they just call us up. 
    I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO.  PLEASE HELP.  If they want me to think I’m a bad parent, already there.  I know this isn’t anybody’s fault.  He’s my boy.  How do I make this stop?

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  • October 29, 2011 at 1:17 pm
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    a bully is a bully i dont car if ther missing goddamn legs do somthing

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  • April 13, 2011 at 6:19 pm
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    Reading this column has helped me a lot,my daughter is in reception at school and only just turned five, there is a special needs boy in her class that bullies her everyday.The headmaster will not have it that he is a bully just a problem child who has 3 care assistants to look after him but he still manages to get to her, she is very small and petite and does not like anyone to hurt her.
    Every morning and every night she cries as she is so afraid of him, yesterday he threw a pair of scissors at her head, it is at the point now that we are afraid he might hurt her really bad, or we will end up doing time as we will hurt him if it carries on.
    I can get her in another school but i have another daughter 2 years older and they cannot take her, she also is afraid of this child but it upsets her seeing her little sister so upset.
    All the mothers talk outside the yard but no one will do anything as they feel they are banging their heads against a brick wall.

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  • November 11, 2010 at 12:26 pm
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    I speak as a mother of two autistic children–one of whom is profoundly autistic, low-functioning, and non-verbal, and who is also prone to violent outbursts if she is placed in situations that could trigger that kind of behavior.

    It sounds as if both the school and the parents are failing to properly supervise this child. You mentioned that the boy has a tendency to run away from school–if my daughter managed to get away from her aide, I’d have her head on a platter. When I take her out in public, I never let her get more than a few feet away, simply for that reason. Imagine what could happen if such a child managed to slip away…Also, you mentioned that he got into a fight with your child that lasted several minutes, and “no one was around to see what happened.” If a child is mentally incapable of handling themselves properly in that kind of situation, the adults in charge of him have absolutely no business leaving him unsupervised! I can’t imagine leaving my own daughter alone for even a minute.
    Many autistic kids can lash out and become violent in certain kinds of situations. With my own daughter, excessive noise is what seems to drive her off the deep end. We’ve managed to keep those kinds of outbursts to a minimum by avoiding taking her to places that might be too noisy for her. At school, her aide eats lunch with her in the classroom instead of the cafeteria–as a result, she is much calmer in the classroom. Apparently, no one has bothered to look into what the triggering factors are for this boy–if they had, they would find some sort of work around. In addition, if he keeps getting into trouble on the regular school bus, he is probably eligible for special ed busing to and from school–there is always an aide on those buses to assist with the children. 
    As a parent, I feel I am 100% responsible for my child–it sounds as if the school and parents simply don’t want to be bothered with the hard work that goes into raising a kid with special needs. Have you tried calling child protective services? Obviously, the lack of proper supervision constitutes neglect. It seems as if nobody cares about what happens to that boy–and his behavior shows it.

    Reply
  • November 3, 2010 at 8:56 am
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    if the child becomes out of control and is violent someone either needs to remove him from society so the chain of command is calling the police I believe.   They have restraints for violent behavior and people considered a danger to themselves and others,  and laws providing protection for the rest of us.

    Reply
  • November 2, 2010 at 9:44 pm
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    If somebody stomps on his fucking head and breaks his neck and puts him in a wheelchair as a quadruplegic for the rest of his miserable life he will not bully anyone anymore.

    @OstentatiousEloquence@xanga – You are goddamn motherfuckn’ right and what you said makes total sense.  @amyunicorn@xanga – A police emergency usually involves Dunkin Donuts though nowadays!@RaeChan77@xanga – That is a lofty sentiment but I wouldn’t hold my breath for too long waiting for it to happen.  Sort of like feeding biscuits to a dog with rabies.

    Reply
  • November 2, 2010 at 8:35 pm
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    Oh my god I’d fucking kill him and his family… Just because a person has special needs, does NOT make them morally angelic!! So many people are completely oblivious to this obvious fact. 

    Reply
  • November 2, 2010 at 7:04 am
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    Your son should not have to be worried about that or treated like that to attend school. That kids rights, just like the rights of everyone else, extend as far they can until they infringe on or take away the rights of others. Maybe go talk to the principal and request a conference with the principal, some sort of mediator, and then you and the other child’s parents. Do the parents of the other child even know what’s been going on? I think the parents can probably do more than the school can. Hopefully this can at least inform the parents and get a discussion going. I don’t know if you’d want to bring the kids in and talk to them with both parents there or not, that would be for all of the adults involved to decide if that would be helpful or not.
    He should not be allowed to treat to your son like that though.

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  • November 2, 2010 at 2:23 am
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    I had an autistic boy latch on to me for a good six or seven months [before I graduated and had to leave]. They are very difficult to calm down when they are upset, but you need to remember it is possible. Each autistic child is, in short, a child. Each child is unique. Some respond to being reprimanded, others soothing voice, and some by being distracted. If there’s one thing I know about autistic kids, it’s that there is always a key. One specific interest or habit you can tap into to connect with them. Maybe this kid is obsessed with physical manifestations of emotion. You might have your child try to convince him to do something physical that does not require beating on someone else. For example “Oh yeah, you’re strong–can you do twenty jumping jacks without stopping?” Wear him out passively, encourage similar behavior to what he already does on his own, but make sure you’re encouraging the safe kind. Arming your children with the tools to handle the situation is better than pulling them away from it.

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  • November 1, 2010 at 11:13 pm
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    Remember we think about equality?

    Treat him as an equal. What would you do to prevent a normal child from being a bully? That school district needs to consider the welfare of other students as well.

    Reply
  • November 1, 2010 at 5:51 pm
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    There are institutions in place to protect you and your child. Just because some officials don’t want to get their hands dirty in this mess doesn’t mean your son should be afraid to ride the bus.

    The key is to NEVER SHUT UP. Do NOT stop complaining until you are heard. Since the low levels don’t listen, get all the parents you can on your side, witness testimonies, children who have been hurt, and GO TO THE BOARD. Get as many people on your side as you can to show up to the next board meeting. Say you will drag this through court if you have to.

    Of course the bully has rights to go to school and receive his education, but he clearly needs more aid and supervision. Tell the board you will haunt their graves until this kid gets another aid to protect himself and those around him. It would be great if you could get the parents whose kids were more seriously injured to speak. I think if a group of people can make it apparent that this child is endangering the community, that the board will be legally responsible for stepping in. This bully needs to receive more attention in your school or leave your school for a better suited program.

    I know it’s work, but you just have to raise a stink big enough to get those lazy assholes in motion.

    side note: Don’t make it about his disability, just point out the hurt children and what an abomination it is to allow this to happen. It’s not the child’s fault, and he shouldn’t be villainized, but the school should be ashamed for allowing this to happen; it’s bad for both the bullied and the bully.

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  • November 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm
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    The school needs to take action and stop refusing to address the issue because he has a disability. If he’s endangering other students, he needs to be under watch of an aid and/or transported to the school on a different bus. This happened to me and nothing was done because the disability was used in the other child’s defense…

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  • October 31, 2010 at 11:05 pm
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    The kid belongs in a special school where he can be controlled or contained. He’s such a bully that he has terrorised a school for this length of time, its obvious that whatever his problem is its not being addressed.  An environment more adapated to his needs may benefit him a great deal more than this.  

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  • October 31, 2010 at 10:30 am
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    In situations like this, feel free to remove the label. This is an autistic bully, but he is a bully nonetheless. Because people look at him with the label in mind, they feel bad for him & don’t want to do anything because they feel he “can’t control himself” or whichever their reasoning is in their own minds. Point is, it’s another form of discrimination & it’s just as bad.

    I would go to the parents, & when they start in on the labels & excuses, say “Look, all I am seeing is your child bullying my child to the point of physical & mental injury & it needs to stop.” If that doesn’t help (which it very well might not), go in front of the school board. Go as high as you can on the school system & request the child be removed from the school until he can coexist with his peers because he is making an unsafe environment for your child.

    Autism is no excuse for bullying. It drives me nuts when a child, any child, gets off simply because they have special needs. Good luck with everything!

    Reply

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