Autism: The ‘Forgotten Youngsters’ – Autism Parenting Journal
“I wouldn’t change you for the world, but I would change the world for you,” says every parent of a child with autism.
Autism is often viewed as an invisible disease. People cannot “see” the disability as they can see a person in a wheelchair or with a deformity; they only see the bizarre behaviors.
You see the obsessive, narrowed interests and social awkwardness. You see the tics, echolalia, and the flapping of hands. For this reason, students with autism are known to be more vulnerable than other students with a disability.
This leads to bullying and alienation for many of these students. An estimated 46 to 94 percent of students with autism report being victims of bullying, compared with just 28 percent of the general education population (Winchell, Sreckovic & Schulz, 2018).
Bullying is defined as a direct or indirect form of social aggression that is repeated over a long period of time. Bullying is intentional and mean. This can be done in person or over the internet. It can be physical or verbal.
The consequences of bullying are low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Victims can develop behavioral problems such as aggression and poor academic achievement (Hebron, Oldfield, & Humphrey, 2017).
According to research, social vulnerability is the strongest predictor of being a victim of bullying, especially among the population with high-functioning autism or those with Asperger’s Syndrome.
These students are now spending more time in inclusive settings; However, they lack the skills necessary to interact with and engage with their unidentified peers. Exposing them to their nondisabled peers does not guarantee friendships and acceptance.
Students with autism spend more time solitary activities than cooperative activities, and research shows that these students are less likely to meet friends outside of school and participate in extracurricular activities. You struggle to start a conversation and respond appropriately.
They often have restricted interests and compulsive behaviors that hinder communication. Students with poor social adaptations are more likely to drop out of school and display criminal behavior.
These social problems can carry over into adulthood, making it difficult for them to keep jobs and develop and maintain relationships with adults. More than 30 percent of students with autism intentionally missed school for fear of bullying, and 20 percent switched schools.
These students do not feel safe in school (Saggers, et al., 2017). The current anti-bullying rules and regulations are ineffective. You are not protecting this vulnerable population.
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Improving an autistic student’s understanding of social cues and norms is a good start, but it is not enough. Schools need a more effective way of reporting bullying incidents, such as an anonymous form for those who are not comfortable reporting bullying.
A positive climate can provide some protection, along with a school-wide approach to bullying prevention, including mentoring programs for children with autism. It can also be helpful to expose these students to social stories that explain bullying, bullying prevention, and the dynamics of peer relationships (Saggers, et al., 2017).
Video modeling is another intervention that can help students on the spectrum become more confident in their social skills and potentially limit the frequency of bullying.
The child is viewing a recording of an adult, peer, or even himself doing a target behavior, such as starting a conversation with a peer. It is known that this intervention promotes generalization better than other interventions.
Video modeling also focuses on what to do if bullying happens to you, such as B. telling an adult about it and how you might avoid becoming a victim of bullying (Rex, Charlop & Spector, 2018). Teaching social skills, either in person or through video modeling, can help these students develop authentic friendships.
Role-playing different scenarios, such as asking a friend to play tag during break, is one way of teaching social skills.
Understanding the barriers to friendship development for these people can also be helpful. One major barrier is that children tend to be attracted to those who are similar to them.
You’re looking for others who have similar interests and experiences. However, people with autism often have interests that are not reciprocated by their peers, adding another barrier to connection. Distance can be another obstacle.
In some cases, students with autism attend school farther from where they live due to the availability of the program, and this can make it difficult to interact with classmates outside of school hours (Daughrity, 2019).
However, it is imperative to overcome these barriers and find a way for autistic students to connect with others. Parents should try structured activities outside of school, such as girl scouts, art, music, karate or computer classes.
Studies have shown that friends who support the student can protect them from bullying. Friendships improve academic success as well as mental and emotional health (Winchell, Sreckovic & Schulz, 2018).
Social interaction and friendship development begin at a young age and are necessary for early childhood development (Daughrity, 2019). As an example, many autism specialists tell people to go home and see Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory to “understand” what life is like with someone with autism.
Sheldon’s character perfectly portrays high-functioning autism. He has all of the quirks, social awkwardness, and straightforwardness one would expect from a high-functioning person, or the “Asperger’s” end of the spectrum, but even Sheldon has his loyal buddy, Leonard, who taking care of him (Lorre, 2007).
Everyone needs someone who is there for them – someone to talk to, who understands and accepts them, no matter what. Every “Sheldon” needs his “Leonard”.
It is also important to educate the peer group to limit the occurrence of bullying. Peers need to be trained to avoid excessive bullying behavior, because bullies live off having an audience. Parents should also be involved in anti-bullying training.
This includes the parents of bullies as well as the parents of the victims. Training must aim to raise awareness of bullying and changing attitudes and misunderstandings (Hebron, Oldfield & Humphrey, 2017).
Parents of a child who has bullied another child to the tears need to see how hurt their son / daughter is.
Although children with autism should be encouraged to develop social skills in order to make friends, their autistic traits must also be celebrated and accepted.
These people need to know that it is okay to be themselves and they can still be loved for their quirkiness. This is why it is important for neurotypical people to learn about people with autism and accept them for who they are. For example, at my son’s first Scout meeting, I told my son’s scout leader that he had autism.
I always like to give people a head up. For some reason, the man felt it was necessary to speak to my son loudly and very slowly. Later my son came to me and said, “Mom, I think there is something wrong with this man.”
Education is vital to society in general. All school-age children need to be educated about the dangers and effects of bullying and the acceptance of all people, especially those who are considered “different” by society.
Winchell, Sreckovic and Schulz stated that younger children accept their peers with disabilities more and accept less with age (2018). Parents and teachers must do everything possible to extend this acceptance into adulthood.
These lessons must begin at a young age in the hope that the world will eventually welcome all people with disabilities, but especially the “forgotten” with invisible disabilities.
Daughrity, B. (2019). Parents’ perceptions of barriers to friendship development in children with autism spectrum disorders. Communication disruptions quarterly, 40 (3), 142–151. DOI: 10.1177 / 1525740118788039
Hebron, J., Oldfield, J. & Humphrey, N. (2017). Cumulative risk effects of bullying children and adolescents with autism spectrum conditions. Autism, 21 (3), 291-300.DOI: 10.1177 / 1362361316636761
Lorre, C. (2007). Big bang theory. United States: CBS.
Rex, C., Charlop, M., & Spector, V. (2018). Using video modeling as an anti-bullying intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 48, 2701-2713. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-018-3527-8.
Saggers, B., Campbell, M., Dillon-Wallace, J., Ashburner, J., Hwang, Y., Carrington, S. & Tones, M. (2017). Understanding and Experiences of Bullying: Effects on Students on the Autism Spectrum. Australasian Journal of Special Education, 41 (2), 123-140. DOI: 10.1017 / jse.2017.6
Winchell, B., Sreckovic, M., & Schultz, T. (2018). Preventing bullying and promoting friendships for students with ASD: Looking back to move forward. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disorders, 53 (3), 243-252. Retrieved from: https://search-ebscohost-com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org
This article was published in Issue 107 – Caring for Your Autism Family. presented