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Over the years, the practice of bullying among children has been a rampant practice in the society especially among schools where children spend most of the time. This mistreating of children has been affecting not only the children themselves but also the parents who are concerned about how their children will be able to cope up from such practice. It has been acknowledged by many researches and practical examples that bullying among children proved to be lowering their confidence and threatens their emotional health which would last until the years of their adult life. Being found practically in every neighborhood, school system, and the general society, the act of bullying children calls for a prevention and reduction through the implementation of a systematic effort which is geared towards helping children cope with such acts and also preventing such from occurring and affecting the lives of the many.
According to Beane (2008), bullying is distinguished from the normal conflict which occurs among children in the society. Some types of conflict are identified as being a normal part of a child's life while bullying is not as such is threatening and hurtful for the individuals who are concerned. The author described the term bullying as being “a form of overt and aggressive behavior that is intentional, hurtful, and persistent”. This repeated act is also said to be occurring when children are being teased, harassed, belittled, threatened, socially rejected, and attacked psychologically, physically, or verbally. At times, bullying is becoming violent and highly threatening especially when such already entails physical contact hurting the individual being bullied. Exclusion can be also a form of bullying where the individual is separated from the rest of the normal group and excluded from participating in the activities, a phenomenon which is very much common to happen in educational institutions. It is also mentioned by the author that children bully others primarily because they are very impulsive by nature and oftentimes, their acts of bullying are done without proper thinking before acting and without also bearing into mind what are the consequences of such acts to the person being bullied.
One of the perhaps group of children who are experiencing being bullied in schools and in the society in general would be those children who have ASD. Autism Spectrum Disorders or what will be referred to as ASD in this paper, is said to be a result of a certain neurological disorder which affects and impairs the normal functioning of the individual's brain. The occurrence of this disorder is said to happen four times more likely to males than females. Being one of the most common among the developmental disabilities, ASD is hard to diagnose and some people even already reach the point of adulthood without even knowing that they have been affected by the aforementioned disorder (Sicile-Kira, 2004). One of the most identified problems among individuals affected by ASD is said to be difficulties with social interaction, trying to find a group in which the individual could belong despite this mental condition (Fein et al, 1986). An example of this difficulty in social interaction is actually the practice of bullying especially inside educational institutions. In a study by Knott et al (2006), the results showed that among the participants in their research work only have of the parents whose children had ASD have close friends. While others have more friends, the study also illustrated that these children have had a hard time acquiring these friends and interacting with them on a social landscape. There is an occurrence of lower level of skills among the children with ASD as compared to those who were not affected by this condition. This is primarily because of the occurrence of social exclusion in schools or in the society wherein the individual affected or suffering under the mental condition of ASD is often excluded among social groups or peers and thereby ending with very few friends, or at unfortunate times being left alone and isolated.
In a research which was published by House of Commons Education and Skills Committee (2007), the organi9zation reported that their research finding illustrate that 41% of children who suffer from various conditions representing autism are being bullied in school. It is actually alarming that almost half of the entire populations of children who suffer from such condition are also suffering from unfair treatment in the society. The same study also reports that children with ASD are more likely to be bullied when they are already in the secondary school between the ages of 11 to 16. The study shows that 56% of children with autism condition in this age are being bullied in their schools. At this age, most children are already in their way to their adolescent stage which gives them the characteristics of being more aggressive in their living. With that, more children are eyeing those whom they though are suffering from a mental condition or disorder which is not normal in their societal set-up. Children with ASD on this age are very prone to the occurrence of bullying because they appear not to be normal as compared to the rest of the population of the entire school. The children are suffering non-verbal behavior, which involves making eye contacts, and the use of body language and facial expression in interpreting what they are thinking or feeling. They find it extremely difficult to make friends and social conventions because of the presence of such conditions in their behaviors.
In a separate study which was conducted by Stobart (2009), the respondents in her research showed that 40% of parents of children with ASD admitted that their children are being bullied in a myriad of ways. This is because of the fact that these children are experiencing difficulty in being able to read social situations and that they are finding it hard to predict the behavior of others. The most common occurrences of bullying in school includes befriending a child with ASD only to end up misleading that child and making the child an object of bullying through acts which are showing mistreatment. The author also identified that the act of bullying children with ASD is more likely to occur at unstructured times where there are no adults to offer supervision such as during lunch, recess, and break times from the class room. The author also holds that dealing on incidents of bullying among children with ASD should not only be done when the incidents arise. The measures should be executed even before the occurrence of bullying could most possibly take place.
The report of the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee also identified that the children with ASD who are being bullied at schools are suffering from the negative effects of such acts. It damages the children's belief in them resulting to lowered self-esteem because they think that their condition is hindering them from their normal functioning in the society. When parents were interviewed, 86% of the respondents noted that their children are showing these negative signs from bullying. More than their social health, it is also alarming that the metal health of these children is being damaged because of being bullied in schools. And to the worst cases, some parents even said that what could perhaps be pin-pointed as the most negative effects of bullying in their children who were faced with ASD is that they are showing signs of suicidal tendencies. This is perhaps very alarming because the child is threatening his or her own life because all the bullying that is received from the school makes the children question their being and the purpose of their existence. Children with ASD oftentimes find it extremely hard to cope with bullying because they also tend to exclude themselves from social groups.
According to Myles (2007), children who are suffering from ASD are more prone to being bullied at schools primarily because they have the innate characteristics of not being able to relate to the social, behavior, communication, and sensory challenges. Because of the presence of these conditions on children with ASD, they are being set apart from what appears to be a normal set of friends and they also found it difficult to recognize if they are being eyed for bullying by other people at school. The author also stipulated some of the key components which are essential in helping a child affected by ASD to overcome the negative effects of bullying. Successful programs which shall be implemented to help them from being bullied shall put an unwavering emphasis on awareness, willingness, and understanding on the parts of the adult to be bale to eliminate the occurrence of such in the environment. It must be recognized that the roles of the adults are indispensable in these conditions because they are the ones with greater to control to what is happening to the society and not the child being bullied. An effective bullying prevention program also calls for the attention of the entire community particularly the administration of the educational institutions where most of the notable bullying occurrences are noted to be happening. The author identified the following points as the critical key components of a successful prevention for bullying on children with ASD: identify high risk areas and let these areas be under the patronage of responsible adults; adults should demonstrate appropriate behaviors and not join in bullying; promote social-emotional learning; and have a long term commitment to prioritize the prevention of bullying.
Another notable key in being able to combat bullying on children with ASD is good supervision and observance (Thorpe, 2005). One of the most effective would be to establish work programs at schools where group performance is necessary. When grouped together, learning administrators must see to it that the children with ASD are not being excluded or isolated from the discussion and that they are actively doing their parts on various group works in order to develop their skills of dealing socially with the rest of the class. Oftentimes, children with ASD stand out from the rest of the group because they have different behaviors as influenced by their mental condition. The role of the parents in these situations is indispensable.
There are a variety of ways which were identified to be able to help these children. What is perhaps most important is that both parents and teachers should learn the very nature of this condition and have a broad perspective towards understanding the children who were under such condition. It is very important to have an insight on how they behave so that such can be managed and so that they can be managed how these children are being treated in the society. There are also various treatments and therapies available to be able to help reduce the anxiety which is brought about by bullying on children with ASD. There is also a need for social development which is happening in stages, one after the other. It must be recognized that properly and successfully dealing with these situations is not overnight and it entails time. Children with ASD also need to be helped in understanding and interpreting emotions, understanding social rules and social cues, and development of all kinds of relationships (William et al, 2004).
There are also signs or indications which the parents must be warned about to be able to know if their children are being bullied at school or at nay other places. Oftentimes, it may be hard for parents to discover if their child is being bullied. The children with ASD also find it hard to realize that they are already being bullied by others because they find it hard to realize the intention of others for doing something to them. Communication is also very difficult on this note because there might actually be some hard time to let the child talk or relate such experiences of bullying. For it to be a lot easier, the following pints have been identified to check if the child with ASD is indeed suffering from bullying looking at signs which the child is not actually narrating about. Coming home dirty with damaged or missing clothes and money is identified as one of the signs that children are suffering from bullying, actually physical bullying because of the involvement of physical attack. Arriving late at home from school is also indicative that the child is being bullied and being reluctant to go to school. Because of the bad experiences at school, the child is more often than not making false excuses to skip school just so that he can not experience the bullying at him. Showing signs of depression, stress, and happiness is also a significant indication of being bullied (The National Autistic Society, 2010).
According to Ives and Munro (2002), one of the greatest problems which deal with bullying on children with ASD is that they are not even aware of what bullying is. They do not know what occurrences can be classified as an act of bullying towards them. Children with ASD who are being bullied are said to be finding it hard to understand why they are treated that way and why other people are doing such to them. It is advised by the authors that schools should be able to have independent anti-bullying policies which should be provided to parents or guardians so that they can be ensured that their children will not suffer from such while maintained in the educational institution. The authors also stipulated that the practice of the no-blame approach is important. This concepts works by imparting the idea that it is more important to properly address the problems associated with bullying rather than paying attention to punishing the perpetrators of such acts. Stobart (2009) supported these arguments by necessitating that the topic of bullying should be addressed within educational schools. By addressing this concern in schools, there will be an existence of more relevant and significant measures which can be implemented in order to reduce the occurrence of such incidents or at least manage the actual situation. In secondary schools for instance, the author mentioned that the topic should be openly discussed in order to gain further insights and so that the condition will be easier for everyone to understand and evaluate. This discussion will also provide open minds among the students if given the chance that the bullied child will be openly expressing feelings about being bullied at school. There is a significant need for them to talk on ways on how they can help the child who has often been a target for bullying. The condition needs to be dealt with properly and evaluated in such a way that it will be beneficial and helpful especially for the affected individual.
Moreover, Dodd (2005) identified another set of strategies which will be helpful in dealing with bullying among children ho are affected with ASD. Part of such strategies will be to know if the individual is aware of the incident and if so, know the feelings of the child so that consequent steps can then be identified to remedy the growing problem. A buddy system can also be executed in order to remove the social barrier which exists among bullied children and the perpetrators of such act. Concerned people must be able to make these people realize that the practice is indeed wrong and it is hurting other children without them knowing the threat it is causing to the victim. There are various materials and methods which are available in order to address such problems. For instance, in the case of the younger population, social stories and comics can be used in order to support the arguments and to make the children realize that bullying is wrong. By doing so, teaching them the lesson will be more entertaining and attractive assuring that they will get everyone's attention as they educate them about the threats of the act of bullying. Aside from the strategies mentioned there are also legal acts which can be basis of eliminating the practice of discrimination in educational institutions. Such regulations are depending on governing organizations of schools but are geared towards one common goal that is to be bale to let the school execute more proactive approaches and practices towards positive attitudes towards people who are suffering from disability such as ASD. It calls for a set of pre-determined regulations which shall prevent cases such as that of bullying.
ASD is indeed a serious condition. Children affected by such difficulty are suffering from a number of threats and dangers such as exclusion from groups within the community, specifically inside educational institutions. The problem needs to be addressed properly through a series of strategies and practices which will alleviate the occurrence of such act and will eventually remove such occurrences. Parents are the ones who should be most concerned in this situation along with school and learning administrators. It must be remembered that children are very aggressive in their acts. Therefore, they do actions without thinking of the consequences. They bully others without even being aware of what such act entails. As the relevant literatures have illustrated, it is never too late. These problems can be given solution which might not prove to be immediate but they are effective in the long run especially if executed properly. Children with ASD needs understanding and care more than exclusion from the society, more than being bullied, and more than being hurt. The policies earlier laid upon must be given execution in order to eliminate the practice. As Hammarberg said (1997), every child is unique. Every child has different abilities. It therefore calls fro the need to be able to understand this set of differences and the author does not hold such differences to be grounds to mistreat others on a basis which is as simple as mentioned.
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Dodd, Susan (2005). Understanding Autism. Australia: Elsevier Australia
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