It is distressing for parents to learn that their child is being bullied in school or around the neighborhood or online. Roughly 20% of kids in junior high through high school are bullied according to surveys. And many never report the abuse to an adult.
Bullies tend to target kids they think are different. Autistic kids and sensory kids are often vulnerable to teasing. The good news is that you can do something about this. In this article, we’ll share some tips on how you can make your autistic child more bully-proof.
Make sure your child will recognize bullying for what it is and have a definition for it. Otherwise, they may just think how things are, are how they’re supposed to be, or that things couldn’t ever be different. They need to know what bullying is and that it is WRONG!
Bullying is repetitive, mean actions or words meant to single out a “victim”. It can be physical tormenting, or verbal abuse, whether in their face or behind their back, including online. Don’t forget to include purposeful exclusion from a group of kids as part of bullying.
Teach Them How to Control Their Reactions
In most cases, bullies will try to do something that will provoke their victims, and then use this reaction as a justification for bullying them. Bullies love to see the kids’ reactions because they want to embarrass them.
Teach your child to calmly but firmly tell the bully to stop. When the bullies learn that they do not have much effect on the kid, they will not get the same thrill from tormenting their victims. Don’t encourage a child to physically fight back, but to calming walk away and get an adult involved.
Build Confidence in Them
Confident kids are more assertive and they can express their opinions better. They will be confident in the way they handle their affairs and how they stand up to the bullies. Bullies do not like to abuse assertive peers. They fear strong, confident kids. Confidence doesn’t equal reciprocating with violence, bu having the courage to get help.
All autistic kids are talented in one way or another. You may find that a child that struggles socially is a genius in math or sciences. Another child might have a knack for working with animals or excel on the sports field. Whatever their talent is, help them learn how to grow and develop them. Remind your child that they are gifted and unique and wonderful!
Help Them Improve Their Social and Communication Skills
Bullies tend to look for shy kids or kids who look like they have no support or friends. That’s just another reason to focus on helping your child develop social skills. Social skills are vital for their growth and development. Encourage them to keep the company of a few friends at school, especially those that have the confidence to stand up to bullies.
Having supportive friends is one of the most significant positive factors when it comes to preventing bullying. Many schools have programs in place to help kids develop friendships that might not otherwise flourish. If your school doesn’t have any yet, get one started. Consider lunch programs that get kids interacting with different kids and asking questions.
Don’t forget to invest in your relationship to your child! Keeping the lines of communication open are ESSENTIAL so your child feels comfortable bringing their concerns to you. The better you know your child, the quicker you’ll notice anything being “off” with your child.
Physically and Digitally Avoid the Bully
Sometimes the simplest solution to bullying is making sure that they are not stuck in the same room with the bully alone. Avoiding the bully eliminates the chance of the action happening. They should try to stay close to where other people can see or hear them in case they need their assistance.
The digital world is often harder to avoid. While I strongly advise limiting access to screens, as children age, it’s often unavoidable. Consider installing programs like Bark to monitor your child’s online activities and be alerted if there is any online bullying going on. It can even keep your child safe if they log on with a friend’s device or create new accounts! It’s rather incredible! When my kids are older, this will be a must for our family!
StopBullying.gov also has a ton of resources to help your entire community work to eliminate bullying!
Have more questions??? Check out this wildly popular series of Sensory FAQs and become a more confident sensory parent today!