Neutralizing Negative Messaging about Children with Autism by Lorrie Servati

The team at SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. thanks Lorrie Servati for her post, “Neutralizing Negative Messaging about Children with Autism”. It fits perfectly with our other posts of October about bullying and cyberbullying as this is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Children with Autism as well as other children with special needs are too often victims of bullying by their peers. Parents, other caregivers, and school staff have to be vigilant year round to protect the most vulnerable students who are taunted by others and they must act immediately to put a stop to this bullying.

Lorrie Servati is a mom and autism advocate for her 11 year old son. On Google + Lorrie’s tagline reads, “I’m Mom, “Nana”, an Autism Classroom Assistant, an autism advocate, an author of an autism resource blog and a support group leader for AutismOKC.org . If YOU have a chance, check out my Autism resource blog “Nathan’s Voice” and share it with someone you know in the autism community! Thanks for the support!”

Neutralizing Negative Messaging about Children with Autism

by Lorrie Servati

Our children are vulnerable and, as parents, we try to protect them from anything that will cause them harm. It is impossible for us to ensure that our children are safe everywhere they go. The school in which our children attend should be a safe environment for them to learn and socialize with their peers. Our children sit in their classrooms doing their best to make good grades so that we will reward them. As they walk through the halls and stand in the cafeteria line, they hope to have their peers notice and friend them.

Every child just wants to be accepted for who they are. Unfortunately, school can be an atmosphere where children feel unsafe because of how their peers talk to and treat them. When a child’s peers continuously say hurtful things and/or do things that subject him or her to embarrassment, it is called bullying. His or her self-esteem and confidence is being stolen by the very peers they want acceptance from. A child could possibly start to believe that he or she is being bullied because he or she deserves it. Being bullied is painful and, unless it is stopped, it can become fatal.

Now, imagine a child diagnosed with Autism, who has difficulty with social interaction. He or she already has a hard enough time, without having their peers mistreat them or call them names. A child with Autism knows that he or she is different and doesn’t need anyone to point that fact out to them. Those negative words and actions can only intensify his or her already conflicted thoughts and feelings of being unable to meet the expectations of others.

photo of angry boy - Children with autism are often victims of bullying. Caregivers have the responsibility to prepare vulnerable students so they know how to protect themselvesA child with Autism, being bullied by peers, may unconsciously choose to:

  • escape what is upsetting him or her. If the child wanders off to seek a less threatening environment, it could be misunderstood as running away, or being disobedient to authorities.
  • strike out at the individual causing him or her to be upset. It is how the child reacts to the situation which could be misunderstood by others as aggressive, or possibly assault.

This is known as the “fight or flight” instinct and is the result of a child being bullied. As parents, we have to investigate what exactly happened to “trigger” or make our child react the way he or she did. When we can find out what occurred, and in what chronological order, it usually tends to shed some light on the circumstances that led to the child’s behavior.

There is always a reason for a child to react the way he or she does. I found this out from personal experience when my son was being bullied at school. He used to look forward to school and, then out of the blue, he did not want to go to school. Our son became extremely anxious when school was mentioned and it started affecting his health. My husband and I also noticed that he was re-enacting events from his day at school. I went to the school the next morning to find out what was happening to upset my child. We were able to determine that he was being bullied by one of his peers.

Children with autism are often victims of bullying. Caregivers have the responsibility to prepare vulnerable students so they know how to protect themselvesSometimes, a child with Autism keeps the situation to him or herself, pretending that the situation doesn’t exist. The child thinks that, if he or she tells an adult, it will draw more attention to the problem they want to forget. This is extremely stressful on the child and an unhealthy delay of the “fight or flight” instinct. If he or she doesn’t get help, this will possibly cause him or her to feel overwhelmed by the situation. I know this from my own personal experience, even though I have not been officially diagnosed with Autism. I was the victim of bullying for several years and struggled with keeping it to myself or being known as the snitch who told. I was constantly anxious because I wasn’t sure when one of my peers would find it convenient to pursue their previous interest in me. It was difficult keeping my thoughts from becoming negative against anyone whom looked in my direction.

Address Bullying Immediately

It is important to address bullying as soon as we suspect that it is happening. Our children have so much to deal with as it is, now days. No one needs or wants to be bullied. It is demeaning to be called the “R-word” or any of the many other derogatory names that get slung around by bullies. If a child is being bullied physically, it could possibly lead to the child taking his or her own life. He or she becomes captive of the negative thoughts occupying his or her mind, continuing to make him or her susceptible to further bullying by their peers. Rather than submit himself, or herself, to continued bullying by peers, and feeling like no one else could ever understand what they are experiencing, he or she may choose to end the torture by taking their life.

Our children need for us to be involved, as much as we possibly can, in what is going on at school, during after school activities, in the neighborhood and anywhere else they go with their peers.[1] The earlier we know that there is a problem, we can help our children overcome what is bothering them.

If you know that your child, or any other child, is a victim of bullying, it is your responsibility to file an incident report with both the victim’s name and the name of the bully. If you do not think the incident is receiving the appropriate attention, take it to the next level until you are satisfied with the end result. You can also suggest that your child’s school district offer additional training to the teachers that promotes Anti-Bullying in the classroom and on the playground, where it happens the most.

[1] Bullying at School – Ezine @rticles Author, Ronnie Phillips

Lorrie Servati- AutismOKC Support Group Leader Author and Administrator of "Nathan's Voice" Author Bio: Lorrie Servati

Since I started my blog almost four years ago, I have met so many wonderful parents of children on the autism spectrum. I am happy that I made the decision to start blogging when I did. Being able to document Nathan’s progress and keep track of what has worked in helping Nathan identify what aggravated him has been very helpful to our family. The little blog that I started after my own son, Nathan, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders now offers a variety of resources to families looking for answers. We welcome anyone that wants to check out our autism blog, Nathan’s Voice!

Follow Lorrie Servati

  • Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org

READ Also:Book Review of Bullying and Cyberbullying: What Every Educator Needs to Know by Dr. Elizabeth Kandel Englander