Unfortunately, many parents are not strangers to their child getting bullied. If your child has an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) the likelihood that they are getting bullied increases. Autism Speaks tells us that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of all students.
However, switching schools may not resolve the issue. Although the school changes, the underlying reason your child was getting bullied in the first place may not change, and the reason must always be considered. As parents, we always want to blame the bully, forgetting to consider the other side of the equation – our children. What causes bullies to pick on our kids?
What causes bullies to pick on others
Well, usually kids get bullied because of differences in power, whether they be real (physical or age difference) or perceived (more or less popular or more/less clever), or in the case of students with an ASD, because they’re “different.” If your child is picked on enough, they may even begin to believe they are what the bully portrays them to be. Therefore, these issues can carry over into the next school, where they are the newcomer entering new territory. On several occasions, we’ve heard stories from parents switching from one public school to another public school, hoping that running away from the bully will alleviate the problem, only to be disappointed as the same issues arise in the new school.
If a student with an ASD is always perceived as “different” in the public school setting, they’ll never feel “normal” in a public school. Of course, switching to a private school for specializing in special education doesn’t guarantee anything. However, it does put your student in an environment where everyone is similar to them, where they’re more likely to make friends, not be secluded from the rest, and where differences are embraced.
Before giving up on the current school, you can try to address the problem.
If your student is being bullied, here are some tips on how to address the issue
Figure out what your schools’ policy is on bullying and the measures they can take to address it. Work with teachers to see how they manage bullying. Follow up with the school to hold them accountable.
Help build your child’s resilience and self-esteem. Going to a counselor or work with the school counselor to help your student gain the confidence they need to not let the bullying get to them.
Always listen to your child – don’t brush the issue under the rug. Take them seriously. If bullying goes ignored, it can negatively impact your student’s confidence, ability to learn & make friends, causing longer-term damage.
Give your child opportunities to practice how they would react in difficult situations. Be cognizant of when and how they deal with negative situations, give them feedback and positive praise.
Questions to ask when deciding if it’s time to change schools
Aside from bullying, there are many important factors to consider before making a change. Here are some helpful questions you can ask yourself when determining if it’s time to make a change.
Is this school implementing my child’s most important needs as spelled out in his/her IEP/ILP?
Do the teachers and staff treat my child as a welcome member of the school community, or as a chore for them to address each day?
Is my child succeeding academically?
Are efforts being made to proactively address academic problems?
Does my child have friends? (Not just people who are polite, but people he/she spends time with outside of school?)
Am I able to be a strong educational advocate for my child, checking in frequently, assessing progress, and ensuring his/her needs are met? Does the school support my involvement?
Does my child enjoy going to school?
These are great questions for reflecting & considering the pros and cons of the current situation. Contact us if you are considering a switch to a private school for students with autism.