By Shaun Heasley
Nine in 10 Massachusetts parents of kids with autism say their child has been a victim of bullying at school, a new survey finds. In over half of the cases, the bullying included being hit, kicked or chased.
The results come from an online survey conducted by Massachusetts Advocates for Children of nearly 400 parents of children with autism across the state. Findings indicate that 88 percent of children with autism have been bullied at school ranging from verbal abuse to physical contact.
Though widespread, parents indicated that schools were doing too little to address the bullying. Just one in five parents said they learned about the bullying their child experienced from the school. And, in two out of three cases, the bullying lasted for several months with most parents saying their child’s school didn’t do enough to respond.
“Children with autism spectrum disorder are especially vulnerable targets because of the nature of their disability,” says Julia Landau, senior autism center director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children. “Children on the spectrum are often viewed as atypical or different by their peers, and are generally unable to understand bullying incidents and protect themselves like other students due to the nature of ASD, which impacts communication, social and behavioral skills.”
A bill being considered in the Massachusetts legislature would address this problem by requiring individualized education plan (IEP) teams to address bullying faced by students with autism.
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