The Anti-Bullying-Alliance (ABA) has called for schools and colleges to be more aware of the bullying that children with autism can experience.
This call came as a nationwide survey found that 42.4% of children with autism say there are often bullied at school, and 97% of parents and carers of autistic children see their child as vulnerable to bullying.
The ABA, in collaboration with children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau and Tesco Mum of the Year 2013 Anna Kennedy OBE, has launched a campaign called ‘Give us a break’, which calls on all schools and colleges to be particularly aware of the bullying that children with autism experience at break times and to provide positive activities that keep them safe.
The survey also found that more than half of parents and carers say that ‘structured activities’ are currently seriously lacking at break times in schools, alongside 89% who said they would embrace positive activities as a constructive way of combating the bullying of autistic children.
Meanwhile, three quarters (73%) of children with an autistic spectrum condition find break times extremely difficult and in some cases actually frightening.
Lauren Seager-Smith, national coordinator of the ABA, said: “For children and young people with autism, break and lunch times in schools and colleges can be particularly daunting and can put them at risk of bullying. Too often these children are seen as the problem; as not ‘fitting in’ or ‘settling down’. We want to see all schools take decisive action to create environments and cultures where all children feel safe and supported without fear of bullying.”
Anna Kennedy OBE, director of Anna Kennedy Online, added: “I felt that a survey was needed to truly assess the extent of the problem due to the overwhelming amount of emails and messages I receive from families who are affected by this issue at grass-roots level every day; it became apparent that they needed a platform through which to voice their direct concerns. Partnering with the Anti-Bullying Alliance was the perfect opportunity to raise the profile of the problem and advise schools to take action on what is evidently an extremely serious issue.”
‘Give us a break’ also seeks to inspire schools and colleges to communicate examples of their success stories, through designated resource sharing on the Anti-Bullying Alliance and Anna Kennedy Online websites. Encouraging an idea sharing culture where thoughts on break time activities, keeping children safe and improving social skills can be discussed and circulated.