Should you homeschool your ASD child due to bullying in the public school?

"I've decided to home-school my son (high functioning autistic) starting next year (even though it's in the middle of school year) because of the bullying that is going on in his public school this year. Am I being over-protective? Also, how can autistic children be helped with bullying so they can return to public school at some point?"

Unfortunately, the majority of kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA), or ASD level 1, experience bullying or victimization at school. There are many reasons for this, but mainly it is because these young people stand out from typically developing children due to their problems in social situations.

Kids who bully are socially savvy and are able to keep from getting caught, which makes bullying difficult to spot and stop. Children on the autism spectrum have a low social IQ, so they either do not notice the bullying, retaliate, or get the blame for it shifted onto them! It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to address this issue.

Your decision to home-school your son is a wise one in this situation. Be sure that he knows he must tell you right away when he is bullied. Warn him against being aggressive or provoking the bully. Help him practice being assertive and not showing fear. Encourage your son to stick with friends at all times when he is away from home. Also, warn him against trying to appease the bully (e.g., if the bully says he should steal something and then they’ll be friends, your son should be taught how to say no).

The myth of the over-protective mom in this case is bogus. Parents MUST assume a protective role with their "special needs" sons and daughters. These kids are extremely vulnerable, and independence should be introduced gradually in controlled, non-threatening situations.

Your next step is to see if anti-bullying laws exist in your area and get a copy of the law. Your son’s rights are contained in these laws. Many states have anti-bullying laws that should contain the following:
  1. The word “bullying” must be used in the bill/law/statutes and the law must mandate programs, using the word “shall.” Some other words used are, “hate crimes” harassment, discrimination, or intimidation.
  2. The law must be an anti-bullying law, not a school safety law. Anti-bullying laws discuss individual student.
  3. There must be definitions of bullying and harassment. Any child can be a bullying victim and all children should be protected.
  4. There should be recommendations on how the policy will be implemented. 
  5. An effective law involves education specialists at all levels, i.e.; the State Superintendent of Education’s office, school district and school personnel, parents and students.
  6. Laws should include a date by which policies must be in effect.
  7. There must be consequences for reprisal, retaliation, or false accusations and procedures for reporting bullying anonymously.
  8. There must be school district protection against lawsuits. Parents of bullies should know that they can be sued for their child’s behavior and school districts should know that they can be sued if they fail to comply with anti-bullying law.

Next, make an appointment with the school principal to see a copy of the school’s anti-bullying policy. The vast majority of schools have disciplinary policies to address this type of misconduct. Explain what happened to your son and demand to know what steps are being taken so that he can return to school without harassment.

If the school principal refuses to cooperate with you to get bullying in the school stopped, speak to the School Board, publicly stating what is happening. You will get a response! If you know of other bullying victims, get their moms and dads to work with you. If the school district still won’t cooperate, get a child advocate or attorney and take steps to see that they do.

Notify the police if your son is assaulted. Get a restraining order so that a bully is required by law to have no contact with him. Take legal action.


Anonymous said... As an adult on the spectrum, I will say the only thing that ever worked was fighting back, physically if necessary. Teachers normally did not intervene when they witnessed bullying. Parent and teacher intervention was not effective, and the teachers didn't really care. Teachers generally did not take insults, kicking, or another student threatening to stab me with a pocket knife seriously. Their responses: "Just ignore them" and (if I was merely being called a "psycho retard nerd" or being told to go to a mental institution) talking about sticks and stones. When I was 9, I did stupid things because I thought my classmates had a right to order me to. When I was 11, bullies made my life a living hell. By the time I was 13, I knew to hit back and the turds found other kids to pick on. I later unlearned this behavior in high school (no longer necessary), and about half the kids who picked on me went on to (found this out by searching public records online) have criminal records. My boyfriend (also on the spectrum) had a similar experience, except that he started fighting back a couple years later and his school life became tolerable a couple years later. If the school is truly interested in intervening that's one thing, but more often they gave it lip service and then turn a blind eye. And the kids know it.

Anonymous said... My son's SpEd Teacher designated an aid to be on recess to make sure kids didn't bully or talk him into doing unsafe things.

Anonymous said... I took my Son out of school 7 years ago for the same reason. I was in the office everyday for 2 weeks begging them to make the kids stop or punish them for it. They did NOTHING, actually blamed him for it. So I took his education in my hands. well his actually, we went for unschooling, and it has been great. The fighting about going to school stopped of course, who wants to get hit everyday for nothing. I had no idea he had Aspergers until April this year. As for how to get a stop to it, who knows. Seems the schools don't care so we have to protect our kids the best way we can.

Anonymous said... Very little can actually be done..schools try..they say they have zero tolerance...they have these policies but I too have found not much can be done and who has the time or energy to take on the system when you have to deal with day to day issues. Home schooling also fixed this problem for me and my child. And boy am I tired of hearing about the lack of socialization...and that kids need Ito toughen up for the real world...and we can't protect them forever etc etc.......

Anonymous said... We are going through the same thing! And it started early in kindergarten !!!! I am mortified for first grade and if it doesnt work we are taking her out and homeschooling.

Anonymous said... I'm talking about mainstream schooling. Yes sometimes if lucky you can get aids to do a watching at lunch or recess.

Anonymous said... I wish that homeschooling was an option for us. Unfortunately, I cant afford to quit my job to be home with him. My son is 13 and they are going to designate safe place and/special person for him to be able to go to when he is in distress. I hope this helps. (Im relieved the school year is over next week, but it also creates a new bunch of issues with summer child care issues).

Anonymous said... At the school my son is starting at they have had 6 children with as who have started that have come from bullying my son as got as high functioning it will be his first year with a statement I am trying to be positive we will see how it goes

Anonymous said... I feel for all of you. My 10 year old will be starting middle school in the fall. My wife and I are both anxious and excited. They supposedly have better programs for children on the spectrum than grammar school, but they also have children from other schools; that my son won't know and they won't know him (small school). I put it in God's hands and and pray for guidance and patience.

Anonymous said... Check out this video from abc news. I recently went to an autism conference where Dr. Jed Baker was the featured speaker. He started a program for junior high students where they get NT peers to help kids on the spectrum practice their social skills. Bullying has dropped dramatically for these kids. http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=3010139

Anonymous said... I don't think we can keep bullying from happening. Why are these kids targeting your son? Because he is different. They have been taught by our society that their value is in their sameness. The teachers unconsciously encourage their behavior and sometimes they are overt in their directions to exclude a child because their behavior is not fitting with the norm. We also value humor at the sake of others so its "funny" to get the different kid to hurt himself. These are all deep rooted media backed values of our society...PS teachers cannot stop this behavior, the only solution is to pull your kids out of school. imo

Anonymous said... My 10 year old son is constantly bullied on the school bus and I am desperate to keep him safe. The transportation dept is not doing anything besides transporting kids, and despite my many emails and phone calls they are not handling the matter. My son with Aspergers, ADHD, anxiety, and OCD is being emotionally assaulted and physically harmed. I have called the police, but the problems persist because it is multiple kids. What more can I do? 

Anonymous said... Anything that helps your kid thrive and build confidence in himself isn't being overprotective. Aspies especially need that extra time to come to terms with understanding themselves before they're pushed into the limelight. Homeschool is a great way to get that extra time and let them learn about themselves and the world around them without the unusual, cruel pressure of public school.

Anonymous said... Homeschooling is the best thing we ever did for our son and our family. My son with Aspergers is thriving and it has benefited our entire family. We love the lifestyle so much that we brought our oldest son home this year.

Anonymous said... I guess it depends on what is happening at school. My son is 20 and I don't believe he would have been as involved or have the social life he had in HS if I didn't let him go out in the world and experience it. Now that he is out of HS, I feel he only socializes at work and if he didn't work, he would only have his father and I. Looking back, I know he misses school. I would really think about this. I know people don't think an aspie doesn't need the interaction with others but I know from experience, they want it.

Anonymous said... I pulled my daughter out halfway through the year too. She loves homeschooling. Enjoy your new adventure!

Anonymous said... That's exactly why we are homeschooling so no you're not overprotective. My son knows that other kids are mean and he cannot control that fact. He has no desire to want to return to public school. He also likes being able to move at his own pace and pick his curriculum out himself.

Anonymous said... We homeschool as well.....started a few weeks after grade one....doing grade 8 now

Anonymous said... What is so great about homeschooling is it gives kids an opportunity to create their own social life, and the social/group opportunities available to homeschool kids make it more likely that he will meet people who are like him, who are outside the norm, and he will likely find more acceptance within that community than a traditional school. Contrary to how many people view homeschooling, most people I know who do it have very active social lives and participate in lots of activities with other homeschoolers.

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