How Parents Can Take A Stand Against Bullying
Bullying is a major problem across the country, and it can impact kids and parents alike. Children get bullied for a variety of reasons, often just for being different. Unfortunately, students living on the autism spectrum disorder are 63% more likely to be bullied. If you’re a parent of someone on the spectrum, that can be a hard statistic to hear.
As a parent, it’s natural to want to protect your child. You would do anything to keep them safe and to ensure that hurtful words don’t cause them pain. Unfortunately, you can’t keep them in a bubble, and it’s next to impossible to protect them from everything.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take a stand against bullying, especially at your child’s school. Every student deserves to feel safe and protected, and a more secure school environment can start when parents choose to speak up and do something.
If your child is on the spectrum and they’re being bullied, let’s cover some ways you can stand up and advocate for them.
Look for the Warning Signs
It’s not always easy to know if your child is being bullied at school. That’s especially true if they don’t speak much. Roughly 25% of people with autism speak a few or no words. Even if your child is verbal, they might not be able to express what’s happening to them, or they may even try to hide it.
Understanding some of the warning signs of bullying can help you to better determine what your child might be going through. Some of the common signs include:
- Bruises or physical markings
- Loss of appetite
- They come home with missing or damaged possessions
- They seem anxious
Keep in mind that kids on the spectrum are four times more likely than their neurotypical peers to experience depression. If they’re being bullied every day, depression can be a common result. Look for signs of depression, including feelings of sadness or a loss of interest in things they typically enjoy.
Your child might also start talking about avoiding school. They might “fake” an illness so they don’t have to go or come up with excuses to stay home. Unfortunately, it’s hard to get the truth out of any child who is being bullied, but it can be especially difficult when your child is living with autism. Understanding these “tells” can help you get to the bottom of the situation, so you can develop a strategy for taking a stand.
Empower Your Child
One of the best ways you can initially help your child deal with bullying is to empower them. You know them better than anyone, and that includes their strengths and weaknesses. Talk to them about what bullying is and why it’s wrong. If they’re already being bullied, suggest having them stay by teachers or supervisors during lunch or recess.
Additionally, encourage your child to spend more time with their friends at school. If your child is part of a group, they’re less likely to be singled out by would-be bullies. Most kids who like to pick on others tend to focus on individuals they think are “weak”. When your child relies on a buddy system and always has someone with them, they’ll be less likely to experience bullying.
Until the bullying subsides, it’s also a good idea to keep valuables, personal items, and money at home. Sometimes, bullying can lead to breaking things or stealing valuable items. If that seems to be happening to your child regularly, one of the best ways to stop it is by not sending them to school with anything of interest. If a bully’s goal is to destroy or steal personal possessions, they’ll quickly lose interest when your child keeps showing up without them.
Work With the School System
Your child can only do so much to stop bullying, and that kind of weight shouldn’t be solely on their shoulders.
As a parent and advocate, it’s important to involve yourself in your child’s school system if you know bullying is a problem. The minute you hear your child is being bullied, let school officials know. Sometimes, that’s enough to end the bullying for good, or at least make administrators more aware of what to look for.
If things keep escalating, don’t be silent.
Consider talking with your local school board about setting up a formal process to address bullying. Teachers should have a set strategy in place to deal with bullies in the classroom, on the playground, or even in-between classes. Some of the best things teachers can do to stop bullying include:
- Stepping in the middle of a harmful situation between students
- Meeting with the child responsible for bullying to talk things through
- Communicating which rules are being violated
- Reassuring bullied students that reporting is not “tattling”
Even if you can’t work with the school board, consider talking with your child’s teacher about what they can do to put a stop to it.
It might feel like ending bullying is an uphill battle. But, if more parents start speaking up and getting involved, it doesn’t have to be. Do your part to educate your child, but more importantly, work with their school to advocate for real change and better safety procedures.
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