It’s anti-bullying week this week, and new research has highlighted the extent to which bullying is a real and distressing part of the lives of young people with ASD.
The survey was carried out by author and campaigner Anna Kennedy. Anna has two sons, one with autism and one with Asperger syndrome, and after being turned away by a staggering 26 special schools she took matters into her own hands and founded her own school, Hillingdon Manor in Middlesex.
The survey was conducted online and generated over 900 responses from people affected by ASD including parents, carers and teachers. Disturbingly, 61% of parents reported that their child had been bullied at school because of their ASD, and of those 73% said the school had either ignored the problem or handled it poorly. The vast majority of parents – 93% – said that their child’s educational progress had been seriously affected by the bullying.
Commenting on the survey results, Anna said “I believe this is a national scandal … I urge the Government not to ignore this problem because it is not going away and is getting worse. We must increase the number of special needs schools or facilities within mainstream establishments if we are going to tackle it effectively.” She stressed that bullying can lead to further problems later on in life, adding “If we don’t do something now we will face much higher costs in the future when we have to care for those with ASC”.
Our own Great Expectations campaign has highlighted the need for better autism awareness in schools – staff need a good understanding of the issues young people with autism face, including their vulnerability to bullying. Our own survey also found that one in three young people would like their peers to have a better understanding of autism.
ChildLine has been working with Anna Kennedy to develop some new resources for its website. Children with autism, or those who have friends or family with the condition, can now access information and support online. Find the site at http://www.childline.org.uk/Explore/Life/Pages/Autism.aspx. Anna Kennedy’s own website, http://www.annakennedy.com/, also offers a range of advice for families affected by autism.