Children with Autism or Special Needs Face Greater Risk of Bullying in School

Ask the Experts by Kristy Piana Schena

Q: With so much focus on anti-bullying in the media today, I am surprised by a recent statistic I just heard - that nearly 1 in 4 students report being bullied during the school year. That number is even greater for students diagnosed with Autism or students with special needs. What can we do as parents on a local level?

A: We can begin by teaching our children at an early age that not everyone learns the same way. It is our job as parents to help our children distinguish differences and coach them to make appropriate responses. Many schools offer programs to try to reinforce this life-long lesson of being kind and patient.

Buddy or peer programs are available for students to develop compassion and understanding through hands-on experiences and interactions. The goal for these types of programs is that by giving "typical" learners the chance to work with an "atypical" learner they will stand up for a student who may be bullied and learn to treat others with respect, regardless of their individual challenges or differences.

We can also help as adults, by being understanding and patient with other parents whose child may be a different learner. Parents of children diagnosed with Autism often have worries beyond typical situations. Will my child make friends? Will he graduate from high school? Will she be able to get a job?

There isn't a lot of positive information in the media for them to hold on to or to give them hope. Support and kindness from other parents can help alleviate negativity.

Anthony Ianni gives parents a reason to hope. Diagnosed with Autism at 4 years old, his parents were told he would most likely be in a group home or at best, a janitor. His parents never gave up hope. Through their perseverance and his hard work, he graduated from high school and went on to college at Michigan State University where he played basketball.

Anthony is now married with a child and works for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Anthony travels across the country with his Relentless Tour - presenting a powerful message about anti-bullying and living your dreams. Join him on Tuesday, August 2, along with The Family Center, Kids on the Go, and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights at this powerful evening designed to help eradicate bullying.


The Relentless Tour - with Anthony Ianni

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Assumption Cultural Center 21800 Marter Road, St. Clair Shores


For more information: 313.332.1026 or

Kristy Piana Schena, MS, CCC-SLP is the executive director of Kids on the Go which she founded in 1999. Kristy has also been a speech language pathologist for over twenty years. She can be reached at 313.332.1026 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Kids on the Go is a member of The Family Center's Association of Professionals.

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