Kids have been dealing with bullying at school for many years and it’s finally starting to get the attention that the epidemic has needed to attempt to end the behavior. For students with autism, bullying at school can be a constant source of anxiety and fear, making it hard for these students to concentrate on learning. No child should have to fear for their safety, so it’s up to parents, family, friends and community members to recognize the signs of bullying, especially bullying that takes place in a digital landscape. It’s also incumbent on the community to stop and prevent this behavior from continuing in a positive manner. It only takes awareness and action to stop bullying in its tracks and Lexington Life Academy is a school committed to preventing bullying for all kids, including students with autism.
What Constitutes Bullying
Bullying is any behavior that harms, hurts or humiliates a person. Bullying is typically any sort of harassing behaviors such as verbal abuse and name calling, graphic or written statements or signs, physical or mental threats, or even physical assault. Bullying can be carried out by one person or many. There are no age limits on who can be a bully, just a requirement for someone to be in a position of social or physical power and another not understanding how to prevent the behavior. Usually bullying is done with intent and the behavior is typically repeated. That’s the basic idea of bullying, but where this injustice takes place has changed. In a time gone by, we would have imagined a consistent presence of bullying at school, but bullying has become part of the digital landscape.
Bullying And Students With Autism
Bullying is hard on any student, but it has a profound impact on students with autism for a number of reasons. First of all, bullying impacts self-esteem, heightens anxiety and depression, increases stress and causes young people to feel unsafe. For students with autism, this is already a field of struggle. However, it’s the social deficits that make bullying so difficult for children with autism to deal with or even understand. For certain people on the spectrum, bullying may be hard to detect or even understand. Many students might not understand the social cues that indicate when something is friendly banter and when it’s bullying. Roughly 63% of people with ASD have reported being bullied at some point in their lives, indicating that people see people with autism as an easy target. And the digital age has all but removed the social stigma that comes from being a bully because things can happen so anonymously.
Bullying In The Digital Age
Bullying happens in different spaces now. More and more of the lives of American children take place online these days. It’s no longer just bullying at school that should worry parents, but also bullying on social media that can follow kids home and persist long after school has ended for the day. Digital bullying is also particularly worrying because a single incident of bullying at school might only be seen by one or two people, but posting to a digital space can attract the ridicule of an entire classroom. Cyberbullying represents more than 15% of all bullying cases and that number rises as our lives become even more intertwined in the digital landscape.
Preventing bullying at school and online takes vigilance and willingness to recognize the signs of ongoing harassment. Here are the things that might be signs that a child is getting bullied:
- Lost or destroyed property, schoolbooks, clothing and belongings
- Desire not to attend school or peer activities with no explanation or feigned illness
- Fatigue, sleeplessness and changes in eating habits.
- Unexplained physical injuries
These signs might not indicate bullying but if you notice these on your own children or on a child in the community, it’s a good idea to talk to teachers and staff to make sure that bullying at school isn’t going on. Another way that you can help young people that are getting bullied is to speak to peers and empower peers to stop bullying, which has proven more effective than an authority figure stepping in.
For kids with autism, parents and community members can help by promoting inner confidence. Bullies need a victim that doesn’t have the confidence to believe in themselves and be confident. Part of what we can do as adults is to model and teach compassion, kindness and empathy for others. In this way, we can stop the behavior that allows bullying to continue.
Finding The Right Space For Students With ASD
Sometimes bullying persists, even when parents, community members and peers have stepped in. If bullying at school has become a distinct problem, students with autism need to know that there is a safe space for them to seek refuge. While many public schools offer temporary safe spaces and zones where bullying cannot take place, safe spaces only offer a temporary solution.
That’s why many parents choose to place their children at the Lexington Life Academy. At Lexington, we provide a safe education option for students with autism with classrooms that are meant to enhance learning for students with sensory issues. Our teachers and staff use evidence-based practices and standards based curriculum to help members maintain the state standards of learning in an environment that’s right for them. And our staff works diligently to make sure that everyone feels accepted and safe, so they can learn and grow. If you need a solution to bullying at school for your child with autism, consider visiting Lexington Life Academy at one of our many valley locations today. Give us a call at 480-900-1009 to schedule your tour.