If you're a parent with a child on the autism spectrum, you know that sending them off to school can be hard. But this story is for other parents, the parents of the kids who don't have autism. Did you now that 62 percent of children on the autism spectrum report being bullied once a week or MORE?
It's one of the more sobering statistics I've come across this October, the month set aside as National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. And sadly, it only gets worse. A new report from the US Commission on Civil Rights shows 40 percent of parents with children on the spectrum report their child has been bullied for more than a year. And 94 percent of the parents of kids with Asperger's say their child has suffered at the hands of their peers.
As a mother whose child is not on the spectrum, the statistics are both shocking and depressing. We're doing everything we can to make sure our daughter isn't a bully, but I'll be honest: we also depend reports from her teachers to let us know if something naughty is going on. But the British National Autistic Society says one of the problems with autistic kids being bullied is that often they don't know to report it because of their syndrome.
The good news is people are trying to change it. The commission's report is pushing the US departments of education and justice both to focus on kids with disabilities in particular in all bullying efforts. And we, as parents can do a lot. Talk to your kids! There was a child on the spectrum in my daughter's kindergarten class, and that's what we did.
Also good news this month has inspired people to end the reign of terror for kids who can't always fight back themselves. The anti-bullying campaign is being expanded like never before to include means to help children with autism.
Of particular note, the Just Like You Foundation was launched by a Chicago philanthropist and now children's book author. His new book shares its name with the foundation and features a deaf mouse and a spider with difficulty walking who become unlikely heroes for the very creatures who have long slighted them for being different. The Stir got hold of an advance copy, and it's not only beautifully illustrated by Hannah Harrison, but 100 of the profits from the book's sale are being split between non-profits that support children with disabilities including actress Holly Robinson Peete's autism charity, the HollyRod Foundation.
Are you making an effort to talk to your kids about bullying and autism?
Image via Just Like You Foundation