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15 Ways to Bully-Proof Your Aspie

Over 25% of public schools report that bullying among students occurs on a daily basis. Also, one in five middle school students with Aspergers (high-functioning autism) report being bullied in the past 3 months.

The good news is that, since bullying has made national headlines, schools and communities – and even celebrities – are taking a strong anti-bullying stance. Parents can do their part at home, too.

Bullying Facts:
  • Bullies - and victims of bullying - have difficulty adjusting to their environments, both socially and psychologically.
  • Bullies are more likely to smoke and drink alcohol, and to be poorer students.
  • Bullying occurs most frequently from sixth to eighth grade, with little variation between urban, suburban, town and rural areas.
  • Females are more likely to be verbally or psychologically bullied.
  • Males are more likely to be physically bullied.
  • Males are more likely to be bullies - and victims of bullying - than females.
  • Students who are both bullies - and recipients of bullying - tend to experience social isolation.
  • Victims of bullying have greater difficulty making friends and are lonelier.

Here are 15 anti-bullying strategies to keep your Aspergers child from becoming a target – and to stop bullying that has already started:

1. Avoid the bully. There are some situations where bullying is worse because it is an ideal situation for a bully to go after their victim without any consequences. If there is no grown-up around, then he can bully without fear of getting caught. So, avoid these situations. For example, on the playground, stay where other kids can hear and where the playground monitor is around.

2. Buddy up for safety. Two or more friends standing at their lockers are less likely to be picked on than a youngster who is all alone. Remind your Aspie to use the buddy system when on the school bus, in the bathroom, or wherever bullies may lurk.

3. Confront the bully. Ask him why he is bullying you. Ask him what the problem is. Ask him to stop. Bullies are rarely asked to face the reality that they are being a bully, so make them face it.

4. Control your feelings. Bullies look for reactions, don’t give them one. Soon they will grow bored and move on.

5. Don’t bully back. It is good to say “stop it” – but don’t bully in return. You don’t want to be on the same level. Instead, tell someone that the bully is bullying you, and then do your best to ignore.

6. Don't try to fight the battle yourself. Sometimes talking to a bully's mom or dad can be constructive, but it's generally best to do so in a setting where a school official (e.g., a counselor) can mediate.

7. Make friends with one of the bigger guys in your school (some 8th graders, for example, may stand nearly 6 foot tall). Bullies are reluctant to go after someone who has backup. Bullies usually pick out the weakest person they can find, and there is strength in numbers. So, stop a bully by having a tall friend on hand most of the time.

8. Ignore bullies. A lot of what bullies do is for a reaction. They say or do things to see what you will do. If you want to stop a bully, just ignore their efforts, soon they will find someone else. Whether it is bullying online or in person, ignore, ignore, ignore.

9. Improve your self-esteem. Bullies usually pick on kids who have low self-esteem. They look for students who are weak, isolated, that feel alone, and have few friends. There is less chance of them being caught that way. Work on your self-esteem, and you won’t be picked on long.

10. Keep calm and carry on. If a bully strikes, a kid's best defense may be to remain calm, ignore hurtful remarks, tell the bully to stop, and simply walk away. Bullies thrive on hurting others. A youngster who isn't easily ruffled has a better chance of staying off a bully's radar.

11. Put on a brave face. When you let a bully know that you are afraid of him, it is like giving him power. If you give him a little power, you will find that the bullying gets worse. So, put on a brave face, and never show your fear.

12. Remove the bait. If it's lunch money or gadgets that the school bully is after, you can help neutralize the situation by encouraging your Aspie to pack a lunch or go to school gadget-free.

13. Report the bullying. Bullies can’t bully for long if they are getting caught. The beginning of getting a bully to stop has to start with an authority figure. So, each time someone bullies you, tell a grown-up. If it happens at school, tell a counselor, a teacher, or the principal.

14. Stand up for yourself when it gets really bad. If a bully is physically harming you, ruining your reputation, or something else, then don’t put up with it. Instead, say the words like, “Stop” or “Don’t” and make sure they know you are done taking their bullying.

15. Talk about it. Talk about bullying with your children and have other family members share their experiences. If one of your children opens up about being bullied, praise him for being brave enough to discuss it and offer unconditional support. Consult with the school to learn its policies and find out how staff and teachers can address the situation.

Being the Target of Teasing, Bullying and Peer-Rejection: Preparing Your ASD Child for the Inevitable

Many parents learn that their child with High-Functioning Autism or Asperger’s is being teased and/or bullied by one of the other students. In some cases, school officials don’t seem to address the problem adequately, thus the “special needs” child is left to fend for himself/herself.

Here’s a recent email from a very concerned mother on the matter:

“My 12-year-old son has been a target of bullying since the 4th grade. He is fully mainstreamed because he is academically "high functioning". I send him to school for the socialization. However, I am questioning that, because he is only learning that his peers are "not o.k.". He hates school, and is being treated for anxiety and depression. Bullying is constant and "below the radar", being mostly relational. I feel that I send him into a war zone each day. School officials try to address targeted incidents, but are mostly ineffective. Any suggestions on how I can help my son?”

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s to be the target of teasing, bullying, and peer-rejection in the school environment. This happens for several reasons, for example:
  • Low-frustration tolerance can lead to meltdowns for the HFA or Asperger’s student, and children who “meltdown” in school may be viewed as “odd” by the other classmates
  • The HFA child’s interests may be boring to his peers, so it’s hard for him to find other kids with similar interests
  • Due to having a low social IQ, the child may let things build up …then retaliate without an awareness of what the consequences will be
  • The child processes information at a different pace than expected, therefore, he may appear “space-out” or “disconnected” – then when he does respond, it is too late 
  • He appears different than his “typical” peers
  • The child may have motor difficulties, so participating in athletics is difficult – even games at recess may be a challenge
  • The child can’t tell the difference between good-natured teasing versus someone being mean, or he is oblivious to an act of bullying
  • He may not even be aware that he is being teased (i.e., he may assume that this is how he is supposed to be treated)
  • Because of built-up frustration, the child may over-react to most provocations, thus the bully knows he can always push the “special needs” student’s buttons at will
  • The child may have difficulty with multi-tasking and interpreting other’s intentions

In selecting the appropriate strategies to deal with the offender(s), you will need to determine the specific strengths and weaknesses your HFA son has socially. The best strategies will fit your son’s situation, age, skills, temperament, and the seriousness of the bullying incidents. 
==> Parenting System that Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Teaching your son the skills described below takes time and effort. The behaviors must be modeled and practiced if he is going to be successful. The payoffs are significant though. Payoffs include safety, self-confidence, resiliency, ability to handle difficult or frightening situations, and the ability to master and to change challenging situations.

Always teach more than one strategy to combat teasing and bullying so that your son always has a second one to try if the first doesn’t work out (3 to 5 well-mastered strategies from the list below works best).

How to help kids with HFA and Asperger’s handle teasing, bullying, and peer-rejection:

1. Teach your son how to report bullying. Bullies can’t bully for long if they are getting caught. The beginning of getting a bully to stop has to start with an authority figure. So, each time someone bullies your son, he should tell a grown-up.

2. Ask your son to picture himself as a ball, and the words that the bully is saying are bouncing off -- or he can pretend that there is a shield or bubble around him so that the words can’t get through. Teach your son that he can refuse to listen to the insults, protecting himself with an imaginary bubble or an invisible protective shield. Some children can imagine themselves as a super-power figure that is safe from insults and mockery.

3. Teach your son by modeling “talking to yourself.” This is a silent “pep-talk” strategy. Help your son practice self-talk such as, “I don’t like this, but I can handle it” … “I don’t believe what this kid is saying about me” … “I have a lot of talents” …and so on. This strategy requires an ability to concentrate when under a lot of stress.

4. Have your son “buddy-up” for safety. Two or more friends standing at their lockers are less likely to be picked on than a child who is all alone. Remind your son to use the buddy system when on the school bus, in the bathroom, or wherever bullies may lurk.

5. “Reframing” is a technique that changes your son’s perception about the negative statement. He can turn the insult into a comment. For example, if your son is being teased about wearing glasses, he could say something like, “Thanks for noticing my glasses” … “That’s cool that you noticed me” …and so on.

6. “Positive thinking” is a technique for the youngster who is less reactive and feels okay about himself. Explain to your son that he has the power to choose how to act when someone is teasing or bullying. He can decide that it isn’t worth the trouble to get upset, or he can decide that there is no way that the bully is going to win by seeing him upset. Help your son see that he doesn’t have to let the other person have power. The person who has the power is the one who stays in control.
==> How to Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

7. Teach your son to talk about something else to distract or divert the focus of the peer’s negative comments. Your son can make a short comment about a nearby game or activity, a class, or what is going to be served for lunch.

8. See if your son can make friends with one of the bigger guys in the school (some 8th graders, for example, may stand nearly 6 foot tall). Bullies are reluctant to go after someone who has backup. Bullies usually pick out the weakest student they can find, and there is strength in numbers. So, your son may be able to stop a bully by having a tall friend on hand most of the time.

9. Show your son how to use humor, laugh about the teasing, and make it playful. A witty one-liner can be enough to make the teaser stop. Laughing can turn a hurtful situation into a funny one. For example, your son could use clever comebacks like, “Thanks, I love compliments”… “Hard to believe, isn’t it?”… “Old clothes are in, didn’t you know?”… “You made my day” … “Tell me something I don’t already know” …and so on.

10. Teach your son to compliment the bully by saying something like, “Wow, you’re better than me, I’m still learning” … “You’re good at this, how about helping me?”…and so on.

11. Teach your son to agree with everything that the bully is saying. Say something like, “Yes that’s true”… “I see what you mean” … “Makes sense to me.”

12. “I feel” statements work best when the HFA or Asperger’s child uses it within earshot of a grown-up. If it is used when there is no help around, it can invite more teasing. Your son should practice checking to see that an adult is within earshot, making eye contact, speaking clearly, using a polite tone of voice, and saying, “When you ___ I feel ___ because ___ so please stop” (e.g., “When you keep calling me stupid, I feel sad, because I thought you were my friend …so please stop”).

13. Teach your son a script to say over and over until the teasing stops (because it’s no longer fun for the teaser). For example, “This is getting very boring” … “Stop it” … “Don’t you have anything else to do.” The script needs to be assertive.

14. Teach several relaxation techniques (e.g., deep breathing, counting backwards, thinking of a pleasant scene, etc.). Relaxation methods do not work in stressful situations unless they are practiced in situations that are not stressful. Practice with your son several times a day, making a game of the methods, or calling them “daily exercises.”

15. Help your HFA child to improve his self-esteem. Bullies usually pick on kids who have low self-esteem. They look for those who are weak, isolated, that feel alone, and have few friends. There is less chance of them being caught that way. If your son works on his self-esteem, he will be less of a target.

16. Teach your son to comment on what the teaser is doing (e.g., "You’re kicking my chair" … "You’re standing on my foot"). This requires an accompanying nonverbal gesture (e.g., raised eyebrows).

17. Teach your son the importance of showing no emotion during the incident. Anger and tears usually make teasing and bullying worse. Staying in control is very difficult for many children on the autism spectrum. It requires active and intense effort. Your son must have adequate emotional control to pull this off. For this technique to work, he needs to be careful not to look at -- or respond to -- the bully. It is important that the bully does not see that your son is upset or afraid. Control of emotions needs to be taught first. This takes lots of practice, especially for children who are emotionally reactive, timid or impulsive.

18. Teach your HFA son to ask questions, which are designed to neutralize what is being said by the bully. For example, “Why are you so interesting in my glasses?” … “Why would you care that I didn’t comb my hair today?” … “Are you always a joker, or are you just making a special effort with me?” …and so on. An innocent expression works well with this strategy.

19. Practice assertive body language with your son. Find pictures in magazines in which the person looks powerless, and ones in which the models appear assertive. Point out body posture and facial expressions. Act-out assertive postures (e.g., standing tall, looking directly at the other person, tightening the jaw and arms, relaxing the rest of the body, etc.).

20. DO NOT confront the student who is doing the bullying. Why? Because: (a) your son may become friends with the bully next week (you know how children are – mortal enemies one minute, inseparable buddies the next), (b) the bully’s parents may view the situation much differently than you do, (c) it makes your son even more powerless (e.g., the teaser may say something like, “Your ‘mommy’ is trying to save you”), and (d) it makes it difficult for the kids to “make up.”

21. Make sure that your son understands that reporting something that is cruel or hurtful is not “tattling,” rather it’s “standing up for your rights.” If your son has issues around tattling, and the situation is not immediately dangerous, suggest that he warn the bully that he will tell if the bullying doesn’t stop. Once warned, it is more acceptable to tell.

22. Teach your son to leave assertively. This technique is for situations when the bully is in your son’s face. Teach your son to say things like, “I’m leaving” … “I have more important things to do” … “Go bother someone else” … “I’m out of here” … “See you later!” … “Leave me alone” … “I don’t have to listen to this” … “Quit bugging me” …and so on. Teach your son to use one of these statements, and then to walk away quickly. Be sure that your son understands that this technique may not work all the time. If it doesn’t work, a different technique needs to be used immediately. Thus, when practicing, teach several techniques at the same time.

23. Show your son how to confront the bully. “Confrontational” statements are designed to stop bullies in their tracks. For examples, “I didn’t do anything to you, why are you bugging me?” … “That’s not funny at all” … “I don’t like this” … “Could you please stop?” … “Cool it.” The nonverbal behavior used with this strategy is important. Practice standing tall, using direct eye-contact and setting a firm expression.

24. Help your son learn how to deal with whispers. Teach your son to ask, “Do you have something to say about me?” when peers are whispering and laughing. Assertive body language and an exaggerated facial expression works well here.

25. Just shrug. A quick technique is to shrug your shoulders and walk away.

==> Teaching Social-Skills and Emotion-Management to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

26. If your child admits to being bullied, take action. Tell him that you'll do everything in your power to help, for example: (a) find out how bullying is addressed in the school's curriculum, as well as how staff members are obligated to respond to known or suspected bullying; (b) instead of finding blame, ask for help to solve the bullying problem, keep notes on these meetings, and remember that it can take time for educators and administrators to investigate bullying in a fair and factual way; (c) start with the teacher who knows your child well, ask whether your child’s classroom behavior has changed or if there are any other warning signs, and consult a school dean, counselor or other school contact; and (d) write down the details (e.g., the date, who was involved, what specifically happened, etc.) and record the facts as objectively as possible.

27. Teach your child to “put on a brave face.” If your son lets the bullies know that he is afraid of them, it is like giving them power. If he gives them a little power, he will find that the bullying gets worse. So, he can put on a brave face, and never show his fear.

28. Help your son understand when it is dangerous to try to manage the bully (e.g., when the bully is older or much stronger, or when the bullying takes place in isolated areas with no one around).

29. You should not assume that your son’s teachers don't want to get the bullying problems in the school resolved. Most do! However, a wide range of need combined with limited resources often create the potential for conflict between what reasonably can be provided versus the parent wanting what she believes is "best" for her child. Do everything possible to establish a positive, partnership-based approach and team together with staff. Also, understand that the school’s Principal is a key player. You must have the loyalty, support, faith, and cooperation of the Principal in order to advocate effectively.

30. Help your child understand the difference between teasing, harassment and bullying. When teasing is excessive – it’s harassment. When harassment continues over time – it’s bullying.

31. You may have to simply remove the bait. If it's lunch money or gadgets that the school bully is after, you can help neutralize the situation by encouraging your son to pack a lunch or go to school gadget-free.

32. Another good strategy is to simply say, “So?!” …in response to teasing. This technique must be executed with appropriate nonverbal communication. Thus, it needs practice. The nonverbal gestures could include a quick smile, a slight tip of the head, or a slight shrug of the shoulder before walking away.

33. Simply avoiding the bully is an important strategy for some situations. Remind your son to go a different way, and to stay near other children or grown-ups. This is a safety strategy for teasing verging on bullying, and for the child who does not yet have the skills or confidence to use the strategies that he is learning.

The mental torment that HFA and Asperger’s victims feel is genuine. But possibly because a lot of us have experienced some kind of schoolyard cruelty and lived to tell the tale, peer-harassment is still generally written off as a “soft” type of abuse - one that leaves no apparent injuries and that most victims simply overcome.

Dealing with teasing and bullying erodes a youngster's confidence. To help restore it, encourage your child to spend time with friends who have a positive influence. Provide a listening ear about problematic situations, but encourage your child to tell you about the good parts of his day as well. Make sure your child knows you believe in him and that you'll do what you can to address any bullying that occurs.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:


Anonymous said... My 12 year old son goes to mainstream secondary school but it has an Autism unit attached to it where depending on ability, kids are either educated there full time or just access it at breaktimes and lunchtime to use the quiet areas or games consoles. He is high functioning so in mainstream for all his lessons and there were a few issues when he started, mainly with his sensory problems with noise and crowds. He now has passes to leave lessons a few minutes early to avoid the crowds and has his dinner early with other kids from the unit. It's not perfect but seems to working ok and he's made a few friends and doing very well academically. It would be great if there was some provision for kids with Aspergers to be taught together the same way other kids with special needs are as I'm sure they would do much better without all the noise and distractions.

Anonymous said... My daughter did too, but the things she used would get my son expelled (beating one kid bloody) and she is not oriented socially at all and could care less if kids liked her, so she basically told them to F off or laughed at their idiocy, but my son does care about what kids think and I have wondered how it looks for a social kid to deal with this.
Anonymous said... Some teachers schools need to be more aware of this us as parents of these children stand up for our kids as we are the only ones they trust ..everyone needs someone ...even if they take their frustration out on us ...just not fair x
Anonymous said... Sounds exactly like what goes on with my daughter. She is 15 now and was mainstreamed until this last school year, which was her 9th grade yr. That school yr. attended a private school and was considered to academically on point and beyond. She is also high functioning, but still has trouble socially and emotionally, due to the fact of all the teasing and bullying that went on in previous yrs. That being said...we are back to square one and headed to back to her public school with extra support from an outside agency. She is not thrilled with this idea, simply because she is worried about the other kids and experiencing the same problems. We have an advocate representing her. We as parents are praying for other children to be a little more mature by high school, but we all know that won't be the case for all students, or are we sending her into a war zone as well. Teachers, and school officials all need a better handle on how things go for HFA children who are in need of extra support to stay mainstreamed. Well, here we go 10th grade. Hoping and praying for a descent yr. for my daughter.
Anonymous said... We just pulled our son out and he will now go to a much smaller charter school.
Anonymous said... I also have been bullied like this as an adult in a professional environment. I had to go through multiple investigations when I first started my job. Then all went away, but I did have a mini breakdown and still hardly trust anyone because of it. I wish we could say to our kids "it gets better" but it doesn't always get better. My daughter has gotten better, but she is in a flexible job, so if she doesn't like the people she changes work. But I am not and so I have to endure this person (going on 20 years) and they never get in trouble for the lies they spread. NEVER. If I had money, I'd sue them for defamation.
Anonymous said... i feel the same, but I'm getting triggered all over the place because you can't really protect your kid. Trying to figure out the line of when to pull because I would absolutely pull if needed, but where is that line? I was also bullied by teachers and if that happened, I'd be pulling him right away, but it is harder to know when with kids.
Anonymous said... I was bullied mercilessly at school and even now, over 20 years since I graduated high school there are ramifications. Pull your child out. Enrol them elsewhere, get them into counselling where the counsellor understands that there is HFA at play here and work like hell on their self esteem. If another school is not an option, look for online schools or homeschooling. As for socialising, if you think about it, school socialisation is about teaching 10 and 11 year olds to socialise with 10-11 year olds, and 5yos with 5yos. In homeschooling where socialisation is often criticised, kids are taught to be social with all ages. They learn to speak with younger and older children, their peers in either learning or age and also the adults with whom they interact. Food for thought.
Anonymous said... I was bullied severely as a child. I've also been through other traumas. But the bullying had the most effect on my life. I'm almost 40 and it still affects me. Do whatever you have to do to protect your children. Sure wish someone had protected me.
Anonymous said... I'm lucky mine can stick up for himself. He also sticks up for his older NT brother  ;)
Anonymous said... My daughter experiences this everyday. We've taught her lots of strategies but she is very smart and gets incredibly frustrated that she's the one that always had to think about and change her behaviour and the ones in the wrong don't. There needs to be a greater focus on accountability on those in the wrong. They are the ones who need to change.
Anonymous said... my daughter was bullied in school and in college and now out of college the new trick is to contact the police and accuse her of plotting to attack people it always happens near christmas to spoil our holidays she is so anxious now she is under a psycologist
Anonymous said... My son was bullied verbally, isolated from peers, and ignored by teachers. He was constantly on the defensive and reached a breaking point. It was a horrible experience and as a parent one of my biggest regrets. Don't make him go and find an alternative.
Anonymous said... My son's school was awful, he was in kindergarden and got punched in the face on more than one occasion. I informed the school to watch him at break times and even gave them the names of the kids that were bullying him. The very day I warned them he got punched in the face again, he is homeschooled now.
Anonymous said... online school - all the academics none of the bullying - find other social outlets with like minded kids
Anonymous said... our sons school is so ignorant there still putting he lacks concentration, he is better in some lessons not in others and the classic my son needs to listen more and join in with making friends hes leaving soon I feel for others going to my sons school no hope
Anonymous said... Private schools don't know how to deal with this either, unfortunately. It infuriates me!
Anonymous said... Pvt and public need more education on children with Aspie.
Anonymous said... School will be starting soon. Oh the horror!
* Anonymous said... Public schools don't know how to deal with our children that are aspie's. He is going into 5th grade and last yr in elementary, last yr in public school also. Him and his twin will be homeschooled or pvt school. I won't tolerate any bullying at all. He eas bullied the beginning if 4th grade by a 120lb kid and he is 56lbs. Ummm ni thats wint happen again. The principal heard from us about that issue. If he is bullied and explodes cause he is tired of it, he won't get in trouble by me.

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Help For Aspergers Students Who Are Bullied

What do you know about the bullying of Aspergers (high functioning autistic) children in schools?  Here are the facts:

1. Although there is no consistent evidence that bullying overall is increasing, one area of growing concern is cyber-bullying, especially among older children.

2. Being bullied at school typically has negative effects on the physical and psychological well-being of those kids who are frequently and severely targeted.

3. Bullying can be categorized as physical, verbal and gestural.

4. Bullying has been reported as occurring in every school and kindergarten or day-care environment in which it has been investigated.

5. Aspergers kids typically report being bullied less often as they get older, although being victimized tends to increase when they enter secondary school.

6. Gender differences have been found indicating that Aspergers boys are bullied physically more often than Aspergers girls. Female bullies are generally more often involved in indirect forms of aggression (e.g., excluding others, rumor spreading, manipulating of situations to hurt those they do not like).

7. There are differences in the nature and frequency of victimization reported by Aspergers kids according to age. Generally, bullying among younger kids is proportionately more physical; with older kids, indirect and more subtle forms of bullying tend to occur more often.

Bullying usually has three common features:
  • it is a deliberate, hurtful behavior
  • it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves
  • it is repeated

There are three main types of bullying:
  • indirect / emotional; spreading nasty stories, excluding from groups
  • physical; hitting, kicking, taking belongings
  • verbal; name-calling, insulting, racist remarks

  • Are often attention seekers.
  • Bully because they believe they are popular and have the support of the others.
  • Find out how the teacher reacts to minor transgressions of the rules and wait to see if the ‘victim’ will complain.
  • If there are no consequences to the bad behavior, if the victim does not complain, and if the peer group silently or even actively colludes, the bully will continue with the behavior.
  • Keep bullying because they incorrectly think the behavior is exciting and makes them popular.
  • Will establish their power base by testing the response of the less powerful members of the group, watching how they react when small things happen.

  • Are desperate to ‘fit in’.
  • Blame themselves and believe it is their own fault.
  • Don’t have the support of the teacher or classmates who find them unappealing.
  • Rarely seek help.
  • Lack the confidence to seek help.
  • Often have poor social skills.

Bullying commonly begins when an Aspergers youngster is (a) ‘picked on’ by another youngster or by a group of kids, (b) is unable to resist, and (c) lacks the support of others. It will continue if the kids doing the bullying have little or no sympathy for the peer they are hurting, and especially if they are getting some pleasure out of what they are doing – and if nobody stops them.

Bullying takes place mostly outside the school building at free play, recess or lunchtime. It may also happen on the way to or from the school, and especially on the school bus if there is not adequate supervision.

Bullying may sometimes occur in the classroom. Here it is usually of a more subtle, non-physical kind (e.g., cruel teasing, making faces at someone, repeatedly making unkind and sarcastic comments).

If the bullying is severe and prolonged, and the targeted youngster is unable to overcome the problem or get help, the following can happen:
  • For years to come, the youngster may distrust others and find it impossible to make friends.
  • He or she may lose friends and become isolated.
  • School work may suffer.
  • The youngster may become seriously depressed, disturbed or ill.
  • The youngster may lose confidence and self-esteem.
  • The youngster may refuse to go to preschool or school.
  • The youngster may seek revenge, and in extreme cases, may use a weapon to get even.

How Parents Can Help—

1. Don't talk to the parents of the bullies. Parents become defensive when their youngster is accused of bullying, and the conversation will generally not be a productive one. Let the school administrators manage the communication with the parents.

2. Explore with the Aspergers youngster what leads up to the bullying. Very occasionally a youngster may be provoking others by annoying or irritating them, and can learn not to do so.

3. Find out what has been happening and how the youngster has been reacting and feeling.

4. Children are almost always reluctant to have a parent intervene, because they fear the social stigma of having their mothers/fathers fight their battles. However, it is up to you to intervene on your youngster's behalf with school administrators to ensure your youngster's physical and emotional well-being.

5. It never helps to say it’s the youngster’s problem and that he or she must simply stand up to the bullies, whatever the situation. Sometimes this course of action is impractical, especially if a group is involved. Nor does it help the youngster to be over-protective, for example, by saying: ‘Never mind. I will look after you. You don’t have to go to school’.

6. Maintain open communication with your kids. Talk to them every day about details small and large. How did their classes go? What do they have for homework that night? Who'd they sit with at lunch? Who'd they play with at recess? Listen carefully and be responsive to show interest. Your children will know if you're distracted or just going through the motions, so pay attention.

7. Make a realistic assessment of the seriousness of the bullying and plan accordingly.

8. Be observant and notice changes in mood and behavior. For instance, an Aspergers youngster may cry more easily, become irritable or experience difficulty sleeping. Younger kids may find it difficult to explain what is wrong. Talking it over with a youngster’s teacher may lead to a better understanding of what is happening. Simply listening sympathetically helps. Such support can reduce the pain and misery.

9. Some children in middle school or junior high would actually rather endure the bullying than have a parent intervene on their behalf just to avoid the social stigma of having mom or dad fight their battles. Leaving your youngster on his own to deal with bullying could result in a decline in academic performance, depression and, in extreme cases, suicide. You are the parent. Support your youngster lovingly, but do take the bully by the horns.

10. Sometimes it is wise to discuss with the youngster what places it might be best to avoid, and, on occasions, whom to stay close to in threatening situations.

11. Suggest to the youngster things to do when he or she is picked on. Sometimes by acting assertively or not over-reacting, the bullying can be stopped. It is always much better if kids, with a bit of good advice, can do something to help themselves.

12. Take complaints seriously, whether they be stories of physical bullying or verbal or psychological bullying. If your youngster is telling you about problems she has at school, you can bet that there is plenty that she hasn't told you about. By the time a youngster reveals her pain to you, the bullying has almost always been going on for a prolonged period.

How the School Can Help—

Early intervention and effective discipline and boundaries truly are the best way to stop bullying, but mothers/fathers of the victims cannot change the bully’s home environment. Some things can be done at the school level, however. Here are some tips for teachers:

1. Get the kid’s parents involved in a bullying program. If parents of the bullies and the victims are not aware of what is going on at school, then the whole bullying program will not be effective. Stopping bullying in school takes teamwork and concentrated effort on everyone’s part. Bullying also should be discussed during parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings. Parental awareness is key.

2. Hand out questionnaires to all children and educators and discuss if bullying is occurring. Define exactly what constitutes bullying at school. The questionnaire is a wonderful tool that allows the school to see how widespread bullying is and what forms it is taking. It is a good way to start to address the problem.

3. In the classroom setting, all educators should work with the children on bullying. Oftentimes even the teacher is being bullied in the classroom and a program should be set up that implements teaching about bullying. Kids understand modeling behaviors and role-play and acting out bullying situations is a very effective tool. Have children role-play a bullying situation. Rules that involve bullying behaviors should be clearly posted. Schools also could ask local mental health professionals to speak to children about bullying behaviors and how it directly affects the victims.

4. Most school programs that address bullying use a multi-faceted approach to the problem. This usually involves counseling of some sort, either by peers, a school counselor, educators, or the principal.

5. Schools need to make sure there is enough adult supervision at school to lessen and prevent bullying.

Aspergers students who have to endure bullying usually suffer from low self-esteem, and their ability to learn and be successful at school is dramatically lessened. Schools and parents must educate kids about bullying behaviors. It will help all kids feel safe and secure at school. Kids who bully need to be taught empathy for others’ feelings in order to change their behaviors – and the school must adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying of all children, with or without Aspergers.

Question: Hi. I go to the 8th grade. I have Aspergers and get picked on a lot. I have been bullied since kindergarten. How can I get the other kids to leave me alone?

Answer: Here’s what you do if someone is picking on you:

1. As much as you can, avoid the bullies. You can't go into hiding or skip class, of course. But if you can take a different route and avoid him, do it.

2. Don't hit, kick, or push back to deal with the bullies. Fighting back just satisfies them – and it's dangerous too. Someone could get hurt. You're also likely to get in trouble. It's best to stay with safe people and get help from an adult.

3. It’s very important to tell an adult. Find someone you trust and go and tell them what is happening to you. Teachers at school can all help to stop the bully. Sometimes bullies stop as soon as a teacher finds out because they're afraid that they will be punished. Bullying is wrong and it helps if everyone who gets bullied or sees someone being bullied speaks up.

4. Try your best to ignore the bullies. Pretend you don't hear them and walk away quickly to a safe place. Bullies want a big reaction to their teasing and meanness. Acting as if you don't notice and don't care is like giving no reaction at all, and this just might stop a bully's behavior.

5. Try distracting yourself (counting backwards from 100, spelling the word 'turtle' backwards, etc.) to keep your mind occupied until you are out of the situation and somewhere safe where you can show your feelings.

6. Pretend to feel really brave and confident. Tell the bully "No! Stop it!" in a loud voice. Then walk away, or run if you have to.

7. Two is better than one if you're trying to avoid being bullied. Make a plan to walk with a friend or two on the way to school or recess or lunch or wherever you think you might meet the bully.

8. When you're scared of another person, you're probably not feeling very brave. But sometimes just acting brave is enough to stop a bully. How does a brave person look and act? Stand tall and you'll send the message: "Don't mess with me."

9. Kids also can stand up for each other by telling a bully to stop teasing or scaring someone else, and then walk away together. If a bully wants you to do something that you don't want to do — say "no!" and walk away. If you do what a bully says to do, they will likely keep bullying you. Bullies tend to bully kids who don't stick up for themselves.

10. Feel good about yourself. A lot of kids get bullied. It doesn’t just happen to you.

Best Comment:

My son Jonathan is 11 years old and in the sixth grade. He was diagnosised with Asperger's last year. But, school has been a traumatic, difficult, terrible journey since kindergarten. Until last year we thought Jonathan was just Jonathan, and was surprised there was a diagnosis for his "personality". He has been bullied severely in the school system. At first, we thought it was kids being kids in kindergarten. But, by third grade we knew there was something that made bullies come running to pick on him. The counselor said, if he would just be like the other kids this wouldn't happen. The principal and teachers denied seeing any bullying happening to Jonathan and took the attitude that if they didn't see it, it didn't happen. Jonathan would come home with bruises on him sometimes, but the principal and teachers would say that the fighting was caused by both Jonathan and what ever bully it was that day. The thing is my son has the most forgiving heart I have ever seen, and would stick out his hand to the bully to shake hands and forgive him before they left the principals office. He cannot bear the thought of anyone being upset with him. He always blames himself for the bullying, saying if I had done such and such or would be such and such, the bullies wouldn't say or do mean things. He, also, has a way of plastering on a smile when he is stressed or upset. He is almost expressionless with a smile on his face if that makes sense. We let the school "experts" talk us into thinking it wasn't so bad, kids will be kids, and that Jonathan is making a molehill out of a mountain. Jonathan was always punished alongside the bully. This was almost more painful to him than the "bullying incident". It really bothered his sense of justice, and he would obsess over it for days, until the next bullying episode would happen. We had endless meetings and it wasn't until I caught my son undressing in the third grade and saw that he had layers and layers of socks on and numerous pairs of underwear on, that it home how serious the situation was. I said "Jonathan why on earth are you dressed that way?" My heart just broke when he said "It doesn't hurt as bad when they hit and kick me." We moved him to a different school that very day!

At the new school, the bullying continued with a whole new group of kids. But, the principal did something different. She would listen to Jonathan's side, the bully's side AND she would bring in witnesses. The witnesses without fail would confirm Jonathan's take on the incident, time after time. Jonathan became know for his honesty. The principal said that Jonathan's explanations were huge and filled with long winded speeches on how he was right and how the bully was wrong and he would get off topic on moral issues or health issues, but if you listened long enough, you got the story. She also said that Jonathan (even though she could not explain why) attracted every bully in the school. This principal always took strong action against the bully. We thought that it wasn't a perfect situation because bullies were still picking on him, but we thought it was better that at least the bullies had swift punishment and Jonathan wasn't being punished for being bullied.

Then, last year, Jonathan had what the psychiatrist said was a mental breakdown. He became suicidal and actually tried to suffocate himself with a pillow. He developed bipolar symptoms. My child was unrecognizable as my child. It was the most painful, horrible, terrible thing for him to go through. It was so scary for me and my husband, and very hard and confusing for our other kids. Three doctors wanted to hospitalize him in a mental hospital. We refused because we would not be allowed to stay with him at a facility, and he was absolutely terrified of this idea (plus I could not bear to leave him with total strangers). We dedicated ourselves to a 24/7 suicidal watch for months and still to this day I feel that I am on this watch, even though he isn't suicidal. Jonathan has besides his pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a psychologist who specializes in Asperger's, three therapists that do pragmatic speech and occupational therapy, and a tutor for school. He was taken out of school (5th grade) from October last year to last of April. He returned to school, and to our surprise and everlasting gratefulness, a handful of classmates that embraced him and have become protective of Jonathan. He takes daily medication and is in a lot of therapy. He stills struggles with depression.

We were excited about the sixth grade for Jonathan. Finally, he had friends! Protective ones at that, who stopped others from bullying him. He had friends! I still love saying that. Finally, he was going to have a good year in elementary school, after 6 years of suffering (K-5).

But, no this is not happening!! Why? He does get picked on by kids, but his friends step in and stop it so Jonathan has been able to handle it. He is being bullied by a teacher and this he cannot handle. I am still shocked a teacher would do this!!!! He is afraid of this teacher. My son is not afraid of anyone. He loves all people! Even people who he should not love, like the bullies. He is very affectionate if he is the one initiating the affection. He is always hugging everyone in these long bear hugs, even total strangers he just met. He has no fear of strangers, of anyone. For him to say he is afraid of a teacher, clangs the alarm bells in my head! I have documented incidents. The thing about it is, most of it is he said, she said and is verbal and is intimidation. We went to the teacher about it. Then, the principal about it. Nothing is being done. Jonathan sees his Asperger psychologist every other week for therapy, and now she says ties must be cut with this teacher because of the severe mental anguish being caused.

The principal says Jonathan can either change schools or he can go back into homebound schooling. The doctors say Jonathan needs to be around his peers for the socialization and needs to be in school (i would homeschool in a minute if I thought this was in his best interests). I refuse to change his schools when he finally has protective friends. I will not put him through the bullying he endured all over again at a new school. The principal said he is no longer welcome at the school until this is resolved. Now bear in mind, Jonathan is an honor roll student and not a discipline problem (per letter written by his homeroom teacher to one of Jonathan's doctors). The matter is not settled. My son is out of school as of the moment. We are going over the principal's head. If that doesn't work, Jonathan's amazing doctor is going to bring in an advocate to help us and start some legal proceedings.

What do you think about all of this? Do you have any advice? My biggest regret is that we did not know enough at the beginning and we did not change Jonathan's first school immediately!

Jonathan's diagnosises are: Asperger's, Bipolar, OCD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the severe bullying he has already endured in the schools, and ADHD.

Post your comment below...

The Bullying of Aspergers Children

A sad fact: The majority of children with Aspergers will experience repeated bullying and/or victimization at school. 

Aspergers students are easy targets for a variety of reasons:
  • Due to having a low social IQ, they let things build up …then retaliate without an awareness of what the consequences might be
  • They appear different than their “typical” peers
  • They are not always aware of teasing or bullying behavior
  • “Intimidation” is not in their vocabulary
  • The need to dominate or control others is not part of their personality

Aspergers (high-functioning autistic) children who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They struggle in school (when they decide to show up at all). They're more likely to carry weapons, get in physical fights, and abuse drugs. But when it comes to the actual damage bullying does, the picture becomes more clouded.

One  individual with Aspergers (now an adult) recounts here childhood experience with bullies:

As an adult on the spectrum, I will say the only thing that ever worked was fighting back, physically if necessary. Teachers normally did not intervene when they witnessed bullying. Parent and teacher intervention was not effective, and the teachers didn't really care. Teachers generally did not take insults, kicking, or another student threatening to stab me with a pocket knife seriously. Their responses: "Just ignore them" and (if I was merely being called a "psycho retard nerd" or being told to go to a mental institution) talking about sticks and stones.

When I was 9, I did stupid things because I thought my classmates had a right to order me to. When I was 11, bullies made my life a living hell. By the time I was 13, I knew to hit back and the turds found other kids to pick on. I later unlearned this behavior in high school (no longer necessary), and about half the kids who picked on me went on to (found this out by searching public records online) have criminal records. My boyfriend (also on the spectrum) had a similar experience, except that he started fighting back a couple years later and his school life became tolerable a couple years later.

If the school is truly interested in intervening that's one thing, but more often they gave it lip service and then turn a blind eye. And the kids know it.

The mental torment that Aspergers victims feel is genuine. But possibly because a lot of us have experienced this kind of schoolyard cruelty and lived to tell the tale, peer harassment is still generally written off as a “soft” type of abuse - one that leaves no apparent injuries and that most victims simply overcome. It’s easy to imagine that, agonizing as bullying can be, all it affects is a person’s feelings.

However, a new influx of research into the effects of bullying is now indicating something more than “hurt feelings” - actually, bullying may leave an indelible imprint on a teen’s brain at a time when it's still developing. Being ostracized by one’s friends, it appears, can throw teenage hormones even further out of whack, lead to decreased connectivity in the brain, as well as sabotage the growth of new neurons.

These neurological scars, as it happens, bear much resemblance to those carried by children who are physically and sexually mistreated in early childhood. Neuro-scientists now realize that the human brain continues to develop and change long after the initial few years of life. Scientists are recasting bullying not as simply a regrettable rite of passage, but as a severe form of childhood trauma that triggers inner physiological damage.

This change in viewpoint might have a variety of ripple effects for moms and dads, children, and schools; it provides a different way to consider the pain experienced by ostracized children, and may spur new anti-bullying policies. It provides the prospect that peer harassment, similar to abuse and other distressing experiences, may increasingly be seen as more than simply a social problem - one that can be measured with brain scans, and which might yield to new types of medical treatment.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, even serious child abuse was regarded as a mostly mental problem in its long-term effects, denting children emotionally in a manner that made it difficult for them to develop into happy grownups. Gradually, however, researchers started to look at the brains of grownups that had been abused as children and realize that the harm wasn’t simply psychological: Their brains had gone through distinguishing long-term modifications. In the last two decades, neuro-scientists have marshaled lots of proof that severe physical and sexual abuse throughout early childhood may short-circuit normal brain development.

Research reveals that children who had been bullied reported more the signs of depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems compared to children who hadn’t. In fact, psychological abuse from friends ended up being as harmful to mental health as psychological abuse from mothers and fathers.

People who reported having been roughed up by their peers had observable irregularities in a part of the brain known as the corpus callosum (i.e., a thick bundle of fibers that connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain, and which is vital in visual processing, memory, and more). The neurons within their corpus callosums had less myelin, a coating that speeds communication between the cells (vital in an organ like the brain where milliseconds matter). It’s not yet completely clear what these types of changes in the corpus callosum can lead to, or whether they’re connected to the greater rates of depression of bullied children.

Being tormented by other kids may recalibrate a child's level of cortisol, a hormone pumped out by the body during times of stress. Boys who are occasionally bullied have higher levels of cortisol than their peers. Bullied girls, on the other hand, seem to have abnormally low levels of the hormone. (It’s not entirely clear why this is the case, but low cortisol levels are sometimes a sign of a body that has been so chronically stressed that it has learned to make less of the hormone.)

Cortisol may, in fact, underlie many of the negative effects of bullying. It may weaken the functioning of the immune system, and at higher levels can harm and even destroy neurons in the hippocampus, possibly resulting in memory problems that might make academics more challenging. Teens who're bullied perform worse on exams of verbal memory compared to their peers.

There's still a lot that neuro-scientists have to sort out. It remains difficult to completely disentangle cause and effect. It’s feasible, for instance, that children with certain hormonal levels or brain characteristics are more inclined, for reasons unknown, to be bullied to begin with. And, encouragingly, alterations in the brain don’t always result in long-term injury. Certainly, a few of the subjects who had what scientists suspect are bullying-related brain changes are actually happy, wholesome grownups.

However the findings are definitely attention grabbing, plus they raise a few serious questions regarding the way you should think about bullying. Does being wronged have subtle effects on cognitive functioning that we haven’t even noticed yet? Might some children become more prone to develop the neurological hallmarks of bullying? Since we know that victims are going through serious physiological changes, are there medical interventions that might be as beneficial, or even more so, than counseling and therapy? Would demonstrating that bullying scars the brain make it easier to prosecute bullies in court?

What about the bully?

Anti-bullying experts agree that school officials need to put the safety of victims first, but they should also concentrate more on the actual accused bullies. Expelling the bully from school is usually not the easiest method to deal with the issue. Rather than coming down hard on the bully, school authorities must think of a solid plan that holds bullies responsible, holds bystanders responsible, and keeps the targets safe.

Schools ought to institute “restorative justice,’’ which supports the victim and helps him/her stay safe while teaching bullies about the effect of their actions and giving them the chance to (a) make right what they’ve done, (b) to own what you did, and (c) attempt to fix it.

Recently there's been an epidemic of suicides by pupils who were bullied. Students who've been bullied, then also have bullied others, are at a high risk of harming themselves. Schools in many cases are in a no-win scenario with regards to accusations of bullying. When their child is a victim, parents want schools to be very authoritative, take control, and remedy the situation. But when their child is the bully, parents often undercut the authority of schools by challenging school officials when they discipline their child.

It’s essential for school officials to investigate accusations of bullying completely to determine the part each pupil played, and then try to discipline the bullying child in a manner that helps him and holds him responsible. We should not be focusing on the good guys and the bad guys, and how the good guys are totally innocent and the bad guys are totally guilty. If we want to prevent children from committing suicide over bullying, we have to interact with them to comprehend what’s happening with them, and help them by using the bullying episode a teachable moment.

What about the bystanders?

Bystanders are living up to their name by standing there and doing absolutely nothing - and this is really a problem. Numerous specialists today say that bystanders possess the capacity to significantly decrease bullying at schools. Their research provides strategies for parents and schools regarding how to get bystanders to take a stand.

Bystanders are essential because:
  • Bullies like an audience. If the audience shows disapproval, bullies are discouraged from continuing.
  • Bullying most often takes place in front of peers.
  • It almost never happens when adults are watching.
  • Most bystanders want to do something to stop the bully.

However, bystanders, particularly children, should be empowered to do something. The majority of children will not act for a number of reasons, possibly because they are frightened, confused or unclear about how to proceed.

Scientists are studying the role of the bystander and discovering precisely how critical it may be in creating a psychologically healthy atmosphere. If the status quo at any school is that children notice bullying behavior in others and do nothing at all about it, then they wind up tacitly giving their support to the bully.

Without having any kind of training or assistance from grownups, most children won't take any action if they see bullying. The percentage of kids who'll automatically intercede is about one in five. Children overall feel bullying is wrong and unjust, and many wish to intercede, but there are a variety of explanations why they do not.

The initial step in empowering bystanders to do something would be to help them see that their friends also feel bullying is wrong. Once they realize that many of their buddies would like them to intercede, they're prone to.

The second step is training them that intervening in a bullying scenario can make a difference. Research has shown that if a bystander discourages the bully there's a 50% probability that the bully will stop. The majority of bullies bully simply because they wish to make an impression on people and they like an audience. Therefore if the audience is booing rather than clapping, they recognize they are losing their audience.

However, with no bullying-prevention education, as much as 25% of kids will actually encourage the bully. These children are usually friends with the bully. They're also prone to have low self-esteem. But the larger issue is that more than half of kids will do absolutely nothing if they see somebody being bullied, and by doing nothing they motivate the bully.

Empowering the bystander is really about bridging the gap between what children believe is appropriate and what they really do. When asked what they should do in a bullying scenario, about two-thirds of kids say they ought to intercede, but only one-third of elementary school children really do. In high school, the percentages are even lower: only one-quarter of high school students will intercede.

Why do teenagers act less often to prevent bullying? Because bullying gets a lot more sophisticated and subtle in high school. It's more relational. It gets to be more difficult for teenagers to know when to intervene, whereas with younger children bullying is much more physical and for that reason more obvious.

It is critical to teach children about the power of the bystander early, before they begin to display signs of lack of empathy. Some children may protect themselves by becoming numb to bullying. There's an organic process of moving away emotionally and disengaging. Compounding this issue is the fact that in early teenage years bullying has a tendency to increase. There is an upsurge in the desire to dominate in early secondary school.

In conversations amongst teachers, parents and kids about what to do when bullying happens, the conventional advice is to tell the bully to stop. A few grownups may even go as far as to say that confronting the bully is really a brave thing to do. But there are other methods which may be simpler - and less dangerous - for kids to utilize.

We ought to take a look at an array of options apart from simply telling the bully to stop it. For instance, informing a grownup is good. If they are not comfortable providing lots of details, they can merely say, “Please watch the locker room at third period. There are bad things going on there at that time, but I'm not giving my name.”

An additional option for a child who witnesses bullying would be to distract the bully, or he can provide a getaway for the target by saying something to the target like, "Mr. Smith needs to see you right now."

Frequently children who're repeatedly bullied begin to wonder if they deserve it or somehow bring it on themselves. A bystander can combat these feelings by showing support to the bullied youngster, either during a bullying occurrence or afterward. A bystander can choose to sit down with the youngster at lunch or sit down by him in the classroom. He can call the target at home to say, “I saw what happened and I didn't know what to do, but I don't think you deserved it.” Any kind of expression of support is great.

Whenever bullying assumes a more subtle facade, as it often does in high school, bystanders ought to be asked to intercede by speaking up in support of a bullied classmate. For relational hostility - name calling and gossiping - bystanders should to take a stand. A large piece of this intervention is training kids that other kids are feeling exactly the same way they're about the bullying.

Kids shouldn't be asked to intercede physically in a fight or any harmful situation. As soon as things escalate into physical altercations, grownups ought to be summoned. Do not have kids intercede physically because you don't know where it's going to go. Discourage conflict, unless of course the bystander is a friend of the bully and can say something like, “Remember how much trouble you got in the last time you did something like this?”

Each and every school has a bully-victim issue. Mothers and fathers can get a sense of how healthy the school atmosphere is when they visit. They are able to decide if the school is promoting respect for others by searching for anti-bullying posters and observing how respectful pupils are towards others. They can look to find out if the children are playing happily together. Mothers and fathers should inquire if there is an anti-bullying policy and if they can view it. Parents have to be assertive to find out how the school is teaching anti-bullying programs.

Schools need to make a public commitment against bullying. Children need to know that the bully is going to be disciplined. Additionally, schools can educate anti-bullying conduct via role-playing. Schools ought to motivate students to be aware of sources of assistance.

It's also important that schools notify parents concerning the philosophy of bystander empowerment, to ensure that parents do not get the wrong impression. A few parents may be concerned, convinced that children are being asked to break up fights, which is not the case.

Children require grownups to show them to speak up against injustice. They need to realize that doing so isn't tattling or snitching, but doing what's right. Kids also need grownups to assist them to understand that they aren't alone in thinking that bullying is troubling and inappropriate, and that they will be supported by their friends when they speak up.


Why do children turn into a bully?
  • Because it makes them feel stronger, smarter, or better than the student they are bullying
  • Because it's one of the best ways to keep others from bullying them
  • Because it's what kids do if you want to hang out with the “cool” crowd
  • Because they see others doing it

What does bullying look like?
  • Getting others to exclude a particular person from the “group”
  • Getting shoved, pushed, or kicked
  • Spreading rumors about a particular person via e-mail, instant message, chat rooms, etc.
  • Teasing in a mean way, especially in front of an audience
  • Cyber-bullying happens over the internet or on cell phones out of the view of grown-ups

What are some of the negative effects of bullying?
  • Bullied kids are frequently distracted from schoolwork, thus they make poor grades
  • Bullied kids often complain of headaches, concentration difficulties, depression, stomach aches, etc.
  • Bystanders often feel guilty that they couldn’t or didn’t help
  • Bystanders often mention feeling afraid that they will be next
  • Many bullied kids who are bullied have low self-esteem, which may continue for many years

Why is an Aspergers child a likely target for bullies?
  • Because he seems “out of step” with the other students
  • Because of built-up frustration, he may over-react to most provocations, thus the bully knows he can always push the Aspergers student’s buttons at will
  • Because he has difficulty with multi-tasking and interpreting other’s intentions
  • He cannot tell the difference between good natured teasing versus someone being mean, or he is oblivious to an act of bullying or teasing behavior
  • He may have motor difficulties, so participating in athletics is difficult …even games at recess may be a challenge
  • His interests may be boring to others, so it’s hard for him to find other children with similar interests
  • Low frustration tolerance can lead to a meltdown, and kids who meltdown in school are looked at as “freaks”
  • He processes information at a different pace than expected, as a result, he may appear “space-out” or “disconnected”…then when he does respond, it is too late

Why is bullying allowed to continue?
  • Many students report no “bullying-intervention” by school officials
  • Many teachers report that they intervene – but they don’t!
  • There is a lot of misinformation and ignorance about “bullying behavior” (e.g., “If I don’t see it, then I can’t do anything about it” … “There’s nothing we can do unless we catch the bully in the act” … “We can’t be everywhere at all times” …etc.)
  • Research reveals that only about 4% of teachers intervene in episodes of bullying on the playground, and only about 14% of teachers intervene in episodes of bullying in the classroom
  • Socially savvy children bully “under the radar”

What needs to be done to stop bullying?
  • A network of like-minded professionals and community members to join in a partnership should be developed
  • A survey for teachers, parents and students should be devised to assess the level of the school’s bullying problem
  • Support, support, support …because children who feel supported by their teachers are more likely to report an incident than seek revenge
  • If a child reports an act of bullying behavior, it needs to be acted upon immediately
  • School officials need to learn more about the Aspergers condition and how it affects children in the learning environment
  • School officials should host an evening for parents to get together and hear what they have to say
  • Schools that have instituted bullying prevention programs that are working should be visited and copied
  • Support groups for students should be implemented
  • Suspected bullying should never be ignored by school staff
  • The Aspergers child needs to learn how to identify bullying or teasing behavior
  • The school should host a knowledgeable speaker on the topic of bullying

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Note: If you have an Aspergers child who has been - or is being - bullied, please comment using the comments button below. Your feedback is valuable!


 RE: “What happens to adults with Asperger’s who have been severely bullied as children?” 

Mark Hutten said… The bullying of children on the autism spectrum has become a worldwide concern, drawing the attention of researchers, teachers, policymakers, moms and dads, as well as the victims themselves. The list of ill effects that result from being bullied is extensive. Here are just a few of the outcomes that adults who have experienced childhood bullying may have to deal with to some degree or another:

• alcohol and drug abuse
• anxiety
• depression
• loneliness
• low self-esteem
• physical health complaints
• poor academic performance
• poor social self-competence
• psychosomatic symptoms
• running away from home
• school absenteeism
• school refusal
• social withdrawal
• suicide

When examining the comments from grown-ups who describe their childhood bullying experiences, it appears that over time, many victims have a reduction in their hurt feelings (e.g., less depression, decreased anxiety, diminished feelings of shame, etc.). However, for those victims who considered the bullying to be ongoing and extremely distressing, the negative feelings continue with reported long-term damaging effects on both personality and attitudes. Thus, childhood bullying appears to be a highly memorable experience. Memories of childhood bullying are associated with high rates of depression, social anxiety, pathological perfectionism, and greater neuroticism in adulthood. The negatively-affected Asperger’s adult would do well to seek counseling from a professional who specializes in PTSD.

Anonymous said… I am interested in the number of people who are bullied that end up in abusive romantic relationships, I think the numbers would be staggering - I doubt that adult relationship domestic violence is the first form of abuse most people suffer. I firmly believe that bullying primes people to be targets for future abuses, both self abuse and from other relationships, including business dealings and workplace dominance, people cannot underestimate the long lasting impacts. People who are 'losers' in life frequently good people who are being taken advantage of and taken for granted on more than 1 front, it can feel like a conspiracy, like everyone else gets it, but you're left out of the joke, like you don't know the secret handshake to a happy life. People who are targets feel like they wear a tattoo everyone but them can see, too trusting, too honest to conceive of the lies and deceit being perpetrated on them. The most perplexing part is, being above average in intelligence is a required component of Asperger's, but frequently they must use their powers for good and not evil, because so many of the smartest people on the planet are targeted. I teach my 8 year old that how he treats his little brother is also setting the stage for how his little brother will interact with others, I tell him that if he bullies and bosses he is training his brother to be a target. Boys will be boys, but bullies will be bullies and victims will be victims!

Anonymous said… I don't know if my husband was bullied but he experiences all of these things, and I myself find it very hard to deal with him.

Anonymous said… My 11 year old daughter was bullied just last night..While at a skating party for her school she went to play with two other girls in her class, they ran from her and sat in front of me and I heard them say we hate her she is weird lets trip her when she skates. I then said Hi I am her Mom. It took all I had not to say anything else. My daughter said they were her friends.

Anonymous said… Was scary reading this as I was bullied all through primary and secondary (high school) and I have/still am experiencing some of these is sad that nobody understands and think you are just making it up to gain some sympathy unless you have gone through it. For just once I would love to see the bullies experience what they dished out to others and get a taste of their own medicine and see how they feel then. I abhor bullying and do my best to put an end to it if I see it happening to my kids, especially my aspie son, and to others.

Anonymous said… I have always told my son, now 15, that most bullies are bullies because they are the unhappy ones. Many times kids bully because they are bullied and/or mistreated at home. I would give him examples of things that the bully could possibly be facing at home. I told him some kids are just mean and have a wonderful home life, but often times not so much. This helped him have a different outlook on the bullies/mean kids. It helped him to not let them bother him so much. He stopped reacting so much to them, he has stood up for himself more plus he's gotten older and a lot of the bullying has gotten better as kids mature.  I do fear loneliness to be a factor for my son due to he has spent most of his school life isolated. Not only by others but he's isolated himself. However, I have seen a huge difference in the last 12-16 months of coming out of his shell. I think my son will grow up to strive in life and I will take some credit as to how I've always dealt with the issues as they've come up. I've been very real and honest with him. I think all kids need that, especially those with struggles.

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