Question: How do I ensure the safety of my child (with autism) at school and make sure they are not teased or bullied?
Answer: Safety of children with autism in school is a lot of parents' concerns. And, you know, some parents really struggle with, "Do I tell the school my student has autism or not?" especially with the higher-functioning children. Because if they look like everyone else and they're acting like everyone else, do they really want the label put on them? That often becomes a parent's choice on do you label the child or not.
But when if comes to a safety issue, I think it is better to let the school personnel know that your student has autism because they may not necessarily just respond to someone calling their name if they're running down the hall or something like that.
When it comes to older kids, you really have to watch out for bullying and teasing, because sometimes the students with autism don't pick up on that. Some higher-functioning students with Asperger's may not also pick up on that. There are some commercially available anti-bullying programs that are available. There's none specifically geared towards children with autism. So, schools that have been using them have really had to focus on the whole school.
One way to really reduce some of that or the future potential of that is to start including children in the regular class as young as possible, in preschool, in kindergarten, so the kids are growing up together, and they're knowing, "That's just Johnny, that's the way Johnny works, that's the way Johnny talks." So, the bullying and teasing becomes less because the kids are used to that. But, it is something especially when you hit middle school, everyone has to watch out for and I don't think it's specific to autism that bullying gets done, but for children that are being bullied in school, you really want to make sure the teacher's aware of it so that they can do things to help prevent some of the bullying and to deal with the bullying as it's going on. But most children with autism may not pick up on that. So, the parents are really going to have to be careful of what's going on and coming up with the plan with the teachers and the school personnel to help prevent the bullying.