A shocking survey of parents of over 900 students in the UK with children suffering from aspects of Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) revealed that 61% of those asked said their child was being bullied because of their autism related condition. A more shocking statement was the fact that 73% of parents asked said schools either didn’t handle the situation at all or handled it poorly when it comes to bullying Autistic Children.
93% of those parents said that their children’s progress at school had been affected by the ongoing bullying. And a whopping 89% said their children were borderline terrified of the aspect of spending time with their schoolmates outside of school hours.
The recent numbers show there are about 500,000 children diagnosed with ASC with numbers expected to rise in the coming decade.
The same survey revealed that having a child with ASC or a special needs child in general puts a huge strain on the family and on relationships and marriages in particular. 65% of respondents said having a child with ASC put a great pressure on the marriage and 74% said it put negative pressure on all family members including siblings.
The study was sponsored by ASC Campaigner Anna Kennedy. Anna started the campaign to help ASC children back in 1999 by building her own school “Hillingdon Manor” for children diagnosed with ASC and Asperger syndrome. The reason being that she has two children, one with ASC and one with Asperger syndrome and she was denied by 26 special needs schools all over the UK so Anna took matters into her own hands and decided to provide quality education and support for children with ASC and Asperger syndrome.
What is ASC?
The variation in symptoms between children diagnosed with an illness related to ASC is so wide as to make generalizations relatively useless. There are two broad areas of interest in behaviors or lack thereof.
- Impaired ability to communicate, especially socially
- Behaviors that are endlessly repeated and stereotypical
Lack or oddity of social relationships is what is most likely to be noticed as a primary symptom. Even very young children with ASC may not make eye contact; they do not look or listen to people in their environment or respond to them; they do not share their interest in their playthings with others, verbally or otherwise; and they may have very atypical reactions to other people who are showing anger or affection. It is as if they cannot respond emotionally to cues in other people because they are not paying attention to social cues. One study has shown that children with ASC focus on the mouth of a person speaking rather than on the eyes. They seem to miss subtle social cues- tone of voice, gestures, facial expressions – that “normal” children are beginning to read.
Some noticeable concerns for children with potential Autism Spectrum Condition
- Failure to react to their own name or other verbal efforts to get their attention
- Slowness in developing gestures, such as pointing
- Ceasing to continue with cooing and babbling after infancy
- Language may be delayed or entirely undeveloped
- Speak single words, seeming unable to combine words
- Repetitive words or phrases, called echolalia
Parents are aware that bullying is an issue at some point in every child’s life. However, parents of special needs children have a very different situation on their hands when their children come in contact with Bullying of Special Needs Children. Because of the vulnerable nature of special needs children, they are often at higher risk to become the victims of bullying. More disturbing, is that because special needs children are more vulnerable and less likely to tattle on a bully, the child bullying special needs kids may go to extremes before adults are even aware that it is taking place.
Disablist bullying is the act of being bullied because of a person’s disability. A child suffering from Autism, Asperger’s or any other autistic spectrum disorder is an easy target for bullies. Because of the dislike of touch or confrontation, even small gestures, such as a bump in the hallway, can sent them into an episode.
Children who are known to bully others may take great pleasure in learning the triggers that will set off a reaction in an autistic student. What may seem innocent to others, can actually be a way of bullying to an autistic child. The bully often walks away claiming it wasn’t done on purpose, but in actuality, the knowledge of the child’s triggers allowed them to perform the act in a seemingly guilt free manner.
As children with autism age, their reactions to triggers and bullies will change. Some may lash out and fight back, while others may become increasingly more withdrawn. A knowledgeable teacher, parent or guardian will be able to assess these changes and address the issue. Children with autistic spectrum disorders can be taught various techniques, depending on the severity of their diagnosis, on how to react in stressful situations.