Health & Lifestyle

‘Devastated’ mum calls for better autism awareness in schools after young daughter bullied at pool

A heartbroken mother is calling for better awareness about disabilities to be taught in school after her autistic six-year-old daughter was taunted at a local swimming pool.

NSW Central Coast mum Shannon Allen was at a community swimming pool last month with her daughter Shayla Firth when she saw her child being bullied on the water slide.

Ms Allen said the children, aged between six and 10 years old, were shoving Shayla as she lined up for the slide and telling her to “pull her pants up”.

“The lifeguards were aware she’s autistic and I don’t want to point the finger at anyone,” Ms Allen told Yahoo7.

Ms Allen wants children to have a better understanding of autism. Source: Facebook/Shannon Allen

“But it was heartbreaking to watch Shayla being treated this way.”

Ms Allen tried to teach the children about her young daughter’s autism, telling them Shayla had only ”recently been taught about waiting”.

The mother-of-one explained Shayla goes to a special school, and doesn’t show emotion because “she doesn’t know how to”.

“For me, that’s what made this so devastating. She didn’t understand what was going on,” Ms Allen said.

Ms Allen said she wants primary schools to teach children how to better understand people with disabilities.

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Autism Awareness Australia CEO Nicole Rogerson said Ms Allen “isn’t wrong” and schools needed to take a “leadership role”.

“The best point we can make is that the US has taken a stance on this through introducing an autistic character on Sesame Street,” Ms Rogerson said.

A long-time trailblazer in covering difficult life issues in ways for children to understand, in 2015 Sesame Street introduced “Julia”, a young girl with autism, to the neighbourhood of popular characters.

“Julia has been instrumental in demystifying autism,” Ms Rogerson said.

“It would be excellent if the Australian Government did similar.”

Ms Rogerson said Autism Awareness Australia released a film in 2012, with help from the government, to educate children about autism.

“It was called, ‘What are you doing?’ and it was sent to every school,” she said.

“So the resources are there. They just need to remember to show it.”