Zoom Autism Magazine Issue 7 - Page 22

5 WAYS TO protect Your Child From Bullying R esearch studies indicate that children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied than those without disabilities. Children with autism are even more vulnerable due to differences in communication abilities, motor skills, and social cognition. I know this to be true because, throughout elementary and middle school, I experienced severe bullying due to my sensory issues and social awkwardness from autism. My life’s experiences with bullying have taught me five powerful methods to be bully proof. 1. Teach your child to recognize and understand bullying. Many autistic children tend to be naïve and may fail to realize that they are being bullied. Anthony Ianni, an autistic public speaker who also played Division 1 college basketball at Michigan State University, told me in a phone interview, “When I was a child, a bully whom I thought was a friend tricked me into sticking my tongue on a frozen, metal pole.” (Learn more about Anthony’s story in our article on page 17.) A bully may harass your child by manipulating him to do things that he does not want to do. He can even get him in legal trouble or expelled from school. This type of bullying uses conditional friendship. The bully tells your child, “I won’t be your friend anymore unless you steal this video game.” Educate your child to know the difference between a friend and a bully. 2. Teach your child not to react to the bully. You can help prevent your child from being a human target by teaching him or her not to react to bullying but instead to report the incident to an adult. Bullies feed on reaction. If your child does not react, the bully will quickly lose interest and search for another helpless victim. Richard Maguire, who has Asperger’s, shares, “Bullies are inadequate people; they cannot deal with confident people who will not be controlled by them.” 22 ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses 3. Teach your child the danger of cyber bullying. An example of cyber bullying is a bully emailing a message to your son pretending to be a girl he likes and asking him on a date. When he arrives at the movie theater, the bullies are waiting for him. Michael Ko wrote in his article “14 Signs That Your Child Is Being Bullied or Is a Bully” (Health & Fitness MSN.com. 7 Feb. 2015), “The profile of the adolescent bully is changing from the schoolyard thug who extorts fistfuls of lunch money to a more covert operator who avoids face-to-face confrontations in favor of phones and Facebook.” You can help prevent cyber bullying by monitoring your child’s use of the computer. 4. Prevent bullying by establishing a mentor for your child. Use the power of bystanders. More than 50% of bullying situations stop when a peer intervenes. Find a mentor or buddy with whom your child feels comfortable to report bullying. Mentors can serve as a deterrent to bullying since a bully normally preys on a child who is alone. 5. Educate teachers, parents, and students on autism and acceptance. Bullies tend to make fun of children they perceive as different. An understanding of disabilities and autism can help create acceptance. If teachers and administration confront bullying, students will do the same. Awareness and acceptance helps students to have the courage to speak up against bullying. Ron Sandison is a professor of theology and an advisory board member of Autism Society Faith Initiative of the Autism Society of America. His book, A Parent’s Guide to Autism: Practical Advice. Biblical Wisdom is scheduled to be released later this year. You can contact Ron at his website. ZOOM Autism through Many Lenses 23