5 Ways to Address Autism Stereotypes with Children to Combat Bullying (Part Two)
Autism can be challenging to understand, especially for children, and can often result in misunderstandings and stereotypes. The stigma surrounding autism can lead to the bullying of individuals with autism in person or on social media. We will explore five ways we can address autism stereotypes and combat bullying so that all children are treated with kindness, respect, and understanding.
1. Talk to Your Child About Autism
Talking to children about autism can be difficult. Many parents or caregivers worry they will say the wrong thing or confuse their child. Not to worry! Recommended tips to help the conversation easier to navigate are outlined below:
- Include positive messages about autism into your conversations.
- Ask your child if he or she knows an individual with autism that goes to their school.
- Ask your child what they know about autism.
- Teach your child how important it is to question what they hear and see, especially if they don’t understand it. Children often want to learn more but feel like they can’t ask questions without being judged or embarrassed in front of their peers. Provide your child with the space and time to ask you questions.
2. Teach Your Child About Acceptance
When children are taught to be accepting of other people’s differences from an early age, they are much less likely to bully or make fun of their peers. Acceptance can be applied to all individuals your child comes into contact with. Here are a few things you can do to teach and model acceptance:
- Demonstrate empathy and compassion through your words and actions by promoting openness and respect.
- Be kind to ourselves. As adults, it is easy to treat ourselves negatively. Doing so can set a poor example for children by teaching them to judge themselves and others negatively.
- By being kind to ourselves, it teaches self-confidence. A confident and optimistic child is more likely to support others, regardless of their differences.
3. Teach Your Child that All People are Different, and that Makes the World a Better Place
When children learn to embrace and celebrate what makes others unique instead of bullying or singling out people who are “different,” they’re more likely to help others feel supported and even happier. This encourages better relationships and fosters a positive environment.
Discrimination and prejudice are learned, not inherited. They are passed on through social interactions and adverse events. To change the way people view autism, we need to work together and create positive environments that encourage and reinforce acceptance of individuality in all forms.
4. Teach Your Child How to be Kind to People who are Different from Them
Individuals with autism have feelings, emotions, and the desire for love, just like everyone else. There are many ways you can teach your child how to be kind to others who may seem different from themselves, including:
- Never making assumptions about someone based on their appearance or behavior alone; always try to get to know them first.
- Remind your child to lend a hand if they notice someone who’s upset or having a difficult experience. If they don’t think they can help, encourage them to find an adult who can.
- Never laugh at or make fun of someone because they are different.
5. Teach Your Child About Advocacy
Encourage your child to speak up if they see someone being bullied. Teach them how important it is to stand together and be united against bullying and negativity in all forms, whether it’s aimed at an individual with autism, or not. Here are a few things we can do to encourage advocacy:
- Teach your child that speaking up makes a real difference and that their voice matters.
- Role-playing challenging encounters helps to teach and prepare your child how to react in certain situations.
- Introduce your child to positive role models who stand up for others and speak out against bullying and discrimination.
- Explain to your child that bullying isn’t just physical; it can be verbal, emotional or even online through social media.
- Encourage your child to speak out against any form of abuse they witness, no matter where it happens.
To combat bullying and help individuals with autism feel welcome in society, we need to proactively teach children just how important it is to not only accept other people’s differences, but to celebrate them, too! We can do this by teaching empathy through compassion and kindness and leading by example!