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Bullying has been proven by numerous studies to be a serious problem. Harassment of children with disabilities has increased
nationally. The effects of bullying children with autism can be extremely distressing. Children with autism are vulnerable to
bullying because while they look typical, they act differently and it’s difficult for them to speak up or seek help. A National
Autistic Society research study shows that over 40% of children with autism have been bullied at school both in mainstream
and special schools.

Autism a social and communication disorder can be very isolating many children with come upon negative reactions to
distinctive behaviors associated with the condition. Understanding and relating to other people is hard for children with autism,
who often don’t understand social rules and, as a result, act in ways which seem unusual or odd. Many have unique or
specific interests on certain topics and may not realize that others don’t share their enthusiasm. Some may also have
difficulties with eye contact and physical coordination, or have sensory difficulties, such as an under or over sensitivity to
certain smells or noises. All this can greatly affect their ability to be accepted by their peer group and can make them more at
risk of being bullied.

Many children with autism may not have a circle of friends around them or may prefer solitary time during breaks, making
them easy targets for bullies. Problems handling difficult situations may also get children with autism into trouble, because
they may be easily provoked by bullies. Autistic children may not always be able to identify when they have been bullied,
especially when the bullying is more subtle. Children with autism often have difficulty understanding non-verbal behavior and
interpreting facial expressions and body language, so they may trust another child who appears to be friendly, they’re naive to

Children with autism may find it hard to distinguish between accidental physical contact and deliberate actions and so, unable
to determine the severity of incidents, and may overreact and report everything to a teacher. Peers can sometimes interpret
this behavior as a “tattle teller”, which may cause further bullying.  

What is Bullying?

Bullying is the most common form of violence. Bullying consists of a series of repeated, deliberately cruel actions between the
same children who are in the same bully and victim roles. Bullies tend to focus on peers who seem pas¬sive, anxious, quiet,
weak, shy, sad, helpless, sensitive, or different in some way.

Examples of bullying behaviors:
Saying hurtful and unpleasant things, making fun of others, using mean and hurtful nicknames, completely overlooking
someone, deliberately excluding someone from a group of friends, hitting, kicking, pulling hair, or pushing, telling lies,
spreading false rumors, sending mean notes, or trying to get other students to dislike another person.

Bullying is something that can be painful to the child emotionally and/or physically:
•        Bullying hurts if the child is physically attacked/assaulted or abused.
•        Bullying hurts if the child is called names, teased, or verbally abused.

More about bullying:
•        Bullying is done on purpose.
•        Bullying is not done by accident.
•        Bullying happens more than once.
•        Bullying is wrong.
•        Bullying makes another person feel sad.

When a child is bullied they may feel:
•        Sick
•        Pain
•        Worried or stressed
•        Frustrated
•        Isolated
•        School refusal
•        Loss of appetite
•        Difficulty sleeping
•        Vulnerable
•        Scared
•        Self-harm
•        Aggressive towards others
•        Helpless
•        Worthless
•        Low self-esteem

Bullying may also affect the child’s social skills, relationships and mental health.
Children with autism struggle with understanding and expressing their emotions. This can lead to the child experiencing
difficulties in communicating incidents to parents and teachers which increases their feelings of frustration and isolation.

Bullying can also seriously interrupt a child’s education. The long-term damages to a child’s self-esteem and future social
interactions are very serious. A whole school approach is very important be sure all school anti-bullying strategies are
consistent. The message at schools must be clear that bullying is inexcusable. Training and resources in autism can help
teaching staff identify and support children with the disorder who are being bullied, even when the child themselves may not
realize or is unwilling to report it.

Unfortunately, bullying does not stay within childhood for people with autism: 56% of adults with autism say they have been
bullied or harassed since the age of 18. The impact of bullying for people with autism can be devastating and can continue into
adult life.

Raising awareness and helping people understand autism and the personal, social and educational challenges that exist is vital.
Acceptance of autism from an early age is the first step to promoting the social inclusion of people with autism and ensuring
they can enjoy the same human rights and liberty as the rest of society.