Stop the Bullying of Students with Autism

Article excerpt

MANILA, Philippines --- Every day inside the school bus, students are treated to a "show." Some laugh and mock Joseph, 15, as he dances on the bus aisle and follows the instructions of some classmates who ask him to do silly stuff.

Carlo, 17, gets a weekly allowance for food, but some of his classmates ask him to buy them burgers.

Whenever Gerald, 14, does not obey a classmate who treats him like his servant, he gets punched.

His classmates always ridicule Ricky, 12, for his "robotic" voice and "weird" behavior. One time, the hecklers turned into a small mob and started shouting insults at Ricky. Being sensitive to loud sounds, he ran away from them but only to be pursued. He got hold of a cutter, ran inside a cabinet to "take cover," and tried to ward off the bullies by putting out his hand with the cutter. The school suspended Ricky, not the bullies, for possession of dangerous weapon.

"Because of difficulties with social interaction and the inability to read social cues, children with autism have higher rates of peer rejection and higher frequencies of verbal and physical attacks," said Robin Kowalski, a psychology professor at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C.

House Bill 5496, the Anti-Bullying Act of 2012 was approved last month requiring all elementary and secondary schools to adopt anti-bullying policies. The bill requires that "anti-bullying policies be included in the school's student and employee handbook; details of the policies should be posted in school websites and school walls; schools shall submit their anti-bullying policies to the Department of Education within six months upon effectivity of the law; bullying incidents in schools must be reported to the division superintendents, who in turn shall report to the Education Secretary; and the DepEd must submit a report on bullying incidents to the appropriate congressional committee and impose sanctions on school administrators who do not implement anti-bullying policies."

Ability Path, an online hub and special needs community came up with a comprehensive report and guide, "Walk a Mile in Their Shoes: Bullying and Special Needs."

Here are excerpts, from the Teacher Toolkit chapter, for teachers who should be first to respond when bullying occurs in the classroom.

Education and Training

Make yourself and your staff aware of the physical and behavioral needs of your students with disability. Some children exhibit sensory issues and have issues related to this such as being touched, not tolerating noises, or being surrounded by groups of children.

For children with autism, it may be difficult for them to express emotions or make friends. Learn more about the symptoms and characteristics of these special needs. …