Autism groups around the country agree that bullying of autistic students in schools must be properly addressed.
For years, Autism Aspergers Advocacy Australia (known as A4) has cited published research showing bullying of autistic students in schools is a major problem and the result is abysmal education outcomes for autistic students (see http://a4.org.au/node/1068 and http://a4.org.au/node/1032).
Now a new report from another advocacy group (see http://a4.org.au/node/1157) raises concerns over death threats, physical abuse, etc.
“The issue of bullying of autistic students in schools has been around for ages yet little or no progress has been made. Education authorities need to recognise first that they have a serious problem, then, second, do something about it”, said Mr Buckley, A4 Convenor.
“Education outcomes will not improve until Education authorities formally recognise and address bullying of autistic students in schools”, he said.
“Autistic students are just 'different', and often vulnerable, which makes them easy and preferred targets for bullies. Data show autistic students are bullied far more than other students.”
“Most autistic students have difficulty with eye contact, a common characteristic in autism … so when school staff are interrogating autistic students about a bullying incident, the student finds it difficult or impossible to 'look school staff in the eye'. School staff then interpret poor eye contact wrongly as guilt or lying. School staff often blame an autistic student who is the victim, rather than the bully who is the real perpetrator. The autistic student is increasingly frustrated until he/she 'acts out'. Then the student is punished, suspended or expelled. The bully's behaviour is reinforced and more likely to be repeated … it is part of a school's culture.”
“As a result, autistic students become prone to 'school refusal' or just give up on education. The longer-term consequence is chronic unemployment, high support needs and increased likelihood of mental illness. The total cost of mishandled bullying to the community generally is enormous.”
“It's not just students who are bullied. The 'gatekeeping' enrolment process at too many schools bullies parents of students with disability into taking their child to another school” (see http://a4.org.au/node/1158), Mr Buckley said.
“Bullying in the form of school exclusion is lawful disability discrimination condoned by the country's High Court. We call on politicians everywhere to listen and act”, he said .
contact: Mr Bob Buckley, A4 Convenor.
see also: http://a4.org.au/node/1163