Bullying of autistic kids going unnoticed [ ABCNews, by David Lewis, 21/8/2012 ].

Researchers say autistic children who are bullied at school often do not receive any help until the abuse becomes physical.

A study of 50 autistic primary and secondary school students by Bond University on Queensland’s Gold Coast has found 80 per cent of them have experienced bullying without their teachers knowing.

Dr Vicki Bitsika from the Centre of Autism Spectrum Disorders says it often takes a long time for a child with autism to realise they are being mistreated.

“They won’t pick up on the sarcasm. They won’t pick up on the mimicking or mocking, especially if they’re desperate for friends,” she said.

In many cases, Dr Bitsika says the bullying is only reported to teachers when it is too late.

“The bullying actually has to escalate to something physical,” she said.

Ben Haack is autistic and says his school years were marred by suffering.

“I went through a whole variety of mistreatment. I know I was peed on in grade one, I got bashed up in the toilets by my school football team,” he said.

Mr Haack, now 29, says he was not diagnosed with autism until Year 11.

Before then, he says he struggled to come to terms with why he was so different to the other kids in the classroom.

He says he would hide in the corner hoping he was not noticed.

Mr Haack says when the bullying turned violent, his teachers were forced to take action.

“Funnily enough, the reason why I got diagnosed was because I’d been bullied pretty well through all my time at school but then I started to fight back,” he said.

“It was at that point I think the school recognised what was going on.”

Dr Bitsika says the researchers have heard stories similar to Mr Haack’s many times before.

She says because autistic children may not have the verbal skills to report what is happening to them, teachers need more training so they can tackle the problem in its early stages.

Mr Haack agrees and says more awareness among staff at his school could have spared him a lot of pain.

“A bit more understanding and really listening to the kids that you’re involved in and really looking at what’s going on,” he said.

Cyberbullying: Tips to stay safe online [BBC Radio 1, 8/5/2012]

Cyberbullying can affect any age group says the Beatbullying charity
Cyberbullying can affect any age group says the Beatbullying charity

Social media sites like Facebook are regularly being used to abuse teachers, says a survey.

Of the 1,500 teachers who responded, 42% reported things like insulting comments, allegations of inappropriate behaviour and having photos passed around the internet.

One 27-year-old teacher told Newsbeat how she fell into depression and had to go on medication because of the way she was targeted online.

The problem of cyberbullying can affect any group, says Richard Piggin, deputy chief executive of Beatbullying.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re 13 or 30,” he said. “The behaviour is still the same and the consequences are still the same.

“It can still hurt just as much and have an impact on confidence and if it takes place in school, your willingness to want to go to school.”

Richard says there’s a big gap between what many people think is acceptable online, compared with the real world.

He says cyberbullying often isn’t taken as seriously as face-to-face bullying and that help can be hard to find.

“Sometime it’s not taken down, sometimes the support networks aren’t in place,” he said.

“Schools are unclear and perhaps don’t have guidance or the confidence to know what they can do and whether they can act.”

He also reckons social networking sites should be quicker to take down cases of online bullying.

CyberMentors, a bullying support website, recommends the following:

Top tips

  • Don’t post personal information online, like your address, your email address or mobile number. Keep personal information as general as possible.
  • Never let anyone have access to your passwords. Check the privacy settings on accounts like Facebook and make sure you know how to keep your personal information private.
  • Think very carefully before posting photos of yourself online. Once your picture is online, anyone can download it and share it or even change it.
  • Never respond or retaliate, as this can just make things worse. It might be difficult, but try to ignore the bullies.
  • Block any users that send you nasty messages.
  • Save and print out any bullying messages, posts, pictures or videos you receive or see.
  • Make a note of the dates and times of bullying messages, along with any details you have about the sender’s ID and the URL.
  • If you’re being bullied repeatedly, think about changing your user ID, nickname or profile.
  • Don’t ignore it. If you see cyberbullying going on, report it and offer your support.
  • Google yourself every now and again. It will show you what is online about you and what others can see and you can make changes if you don’t like what you see.