Take a Stand Against Bullying

Bullying prevention

The best defense against bullying is knowledge. Below are tips to talk about and stand up to bullying.

Start the Conversation

Some autistic individuals may not realize that they are being bullied or may be unable to communicate what is happening at school or in the community. The first step is to explain what bullying means and why it is not okay. Teach your child or your student to know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate treatment from classmates. The basic rule: Let children know if the behavior hurts or harms them, either emotionally or physically, it is bullying.

Parents should be ready to:

  • Listen. It is the child’s story; let him or her tell it. They may be in emotional pain about the way they are being treated.
  • Believe. The knowledge that a child is being bullied can raise many emotions. To be an effective advocate, parents need to react in a way that encourages the child to trust.
  • Be supportive. Tell the child it is not his fault and that he does not deserve to be bullied. Empower the child by telling her how terrific she is. Avoid judgmental comments about the child or the child who bullies. The child may already be feeling isolated. Hearing negative statements from parents may only further isolate him or her.
  • Be patient. Children may not be ready to open up right away. Talking about the bullying can be difficult because children may fear retaliation from the bully or think that, even if they tell an adult, nothing will change. The child might be feeling insecure, withdrawn, frightened, or ashamed.
  • Provide information. Parents should educate their child about bullying by providing information at a level that the child can understand.
  • Explore options for intervention strategies. Parents can discuss options with their child to deal with bullying behavior.

Use the IEP

The IEP is a direct opportunity to proactively prevent bullying. Parents and other IEP team members should work together to make the IEP reflect the child’s unique needs in school, including the need to be safe from bullying. The IEP team members should consider a variety of supports, accommodations, and strategies that can be incorporated into the IEP to support the student. A school psychologist may be involved in writing social-emotional goals that are measurable and relevant. Including the child in the IEP decision-making process, if appropriate, can also lead to better outcomes. Read more ways to include bullying prevention in your child’s IEP.

Teach Tolerance

Schools are a vital part of the equation to prevent bullying. Districts and individual schools must teach tolerance in schools. Lesson plans should be developed to teach students about the importance of tolerance and the effects bullying can have on individuals. Speakers should be brought in so students can learn more about celebrating differences like disabilities.

It is also important for districts and individual schools to have their bullying policy available and accessible to all. Include a prominent link to the school's bullying policy on your website. Review the highlights of the policy at back-to-school nights with families. Review the policy with students during the first week of school. Keep the conversation going about the zero tolerance for bullying policy that the school/district follows throughout the year.

Encourage Self-Advocacy

While parents and educators can put plans and supports in place to prevent bullying, it is also very important to teach students to advocate for themselves to the best of their abilities. Once they learn how to spot bullying when it happens to them, they need to learn the steps to stop it and prevent it from happening again. Read about how you can help your child learn to be a good self-advocate.

Learn Your Rights

ALL states have laws about bullying, and some have specific laws relating to bullying of children with special needs. It is important to know your rights and your child's rights when incidents of bullying take place.  According to StopBullying.gov, state and local lawmakers have taken action to prevent bullying and protect children. Through laws (in their state education codes and elsewhere) and model policies (that provide guidance to districts and schools), each state addresses bullying differently. Find out how your state refers to bullying in its laws and what they require on the part of schools and districts here.

Speak Up

Adults who witness bullying must respond to it on the spot. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time. Separate the victim who was bullied from the one who bullied and make sure they are safe. Then report that an incident occurred. When you are reporting, it is important to have the information in writing.

Students should talk to a parent, teacher or another adult as soon as possible. Not saying anything can make bullying worse for everyone.

Find more bullying resources from the PACER Center's National Bullying Prevention Center. Visit PACER's pacerkidsagainstbullying.org and pacerteensagainstbullying.org for great anti-bullying tips and tools for kids and teens.

Note: If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. It is free and confidential. Call or text 988 on your phone. Línea de Prevención del Suicidio y Crisis: 1-888-628-9454.