HelpFor Aspergers Students Who Are Bullied
What do you knowabout the bullying of Aspergers children in schools? Here are the facts:
1. Although there is no consistent evidence that bullying overall isincreasing, one area of growing concern is cyber-bullying, especially amongolder children.
2. Being bullied at school typically has negative effects on the physical andpsychological well-being of those kids who are frequently and severelytargeted.
3. Bullying can be categorized as physical, verbal and gestural.
4. Bullying has been reported as occurring in every school and kindergarten orday-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 arebullied physically more often than Aspergers girls. Female bullies aregenerally more often involved in indirect forms of aggression (e.g., excludingothers, rumor spreading, manipulating of situations to hurt those they do notlike).
7. There are differences in the nature and frequency of victimization reportedby Aspergers kids according to age. Generally, bullying among younger kids isproportionately more physical; with older kids, indirect and more subtle formsof 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 theothers.
• Find out how the teacher reacts to minor transgressions of the rules and waitto see if the ‘victim’ will complain.
• If there are no consequences to the bad behavior, if the victim does notcomplain, and if the peer group silently or even actively colludes, the bullywill continue with the behavior.
• Keep bullying because they incorrectly think the behavior is exciting andmakes them popular.
• Will establish their power base by testing the response of the less powerfulmembers 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 themunappealing.
• 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 anotheryoungster or by a group of kids, (b) is unable to resist, and (c) lacks thesupport of others. It will continue if the kids doing the bullying have littleor no sympathy for the peer they are hurting, and especially if they aregetting 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 orlunchtime. It may also happen on the way to or from the school, and especiallyon the school bus if there is not adequate supervision.
Bullying may sometimes occur in the classroom. Here it is usually of a moresubtle, 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 isunable to overcome the problem or get help, the following can happen:
• For years to come, the youngster may distrust others and find it impossibleto 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 geteven.
How Parents Can Help—
1. Don't talk to the parents of the bullies. Parents become defensive whentheir youngster is accused of bullying, and the conversation will generally notbe a productive one. Let the school administrators manage the communicationwith the parents.
2. Explore with the Aspergers youngster what leads up to the bullying. Veryoccasionally a youngster may be provoking others by annoying or irritatingthem, and can learn not to do so.
3. Find out what has been happening and how the youngster has been reacting andfeeling.
4. Children are almost always reluctant to have a parent intervene, becausethey fear the social stigma of having their mothers/fathers fight theirbattles. However, it is up to you to intervene on your youngster's behalf withschool administrators to ensure your youngster's physical and emotionalwell-being.
5. It never helps to say it’s the youngster’s problem and that he or she mustsimply stand up to the bullies, whatever the situation. Sometimes this courseof action is impractical, especially if a group is involved. Nor does it helpthe youngster to be over-protective, for example, by saying: ‘Never mind. Iwill look after you. You don’t have to go to school’.
6. Maintain open communication with your kids. Talk to them every day aboutdetails small and large. How did their classes go? What do they have forhomework that night? Who'd they sit with at lunch? Who'd they play with atrecess? Listen carefully and be responsive to show interest. Your children willknow 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 planaccordingly.
8. Be observant and notice changes in mood and behavior. For instance, anAspergers youngster may cry more easily, become irritable or experiencedifficulty sleeping. Younger kids may find it difficult to explain what iswrong. Talking it over with a youngster’s teacher may lead to a betterunderstanding 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 endurethe bullying than have a parent intervene on their behalf just to avoid the socialstigma of having mom or dad fight their battles. Leaving your youngster on hisown to deal with bullying could result in a decline in academic performance,depression and, in extreme cases, suicide. You are the parent. Support youryoungster lovingly, but do take the bully by the horns.
10. Sometimes it is wise to discuss with the youngster what places it might bebest to avoid, and, on occasions, whom to stay close to in threateningsituations.
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 bestopped. It is always much better if kids, with a bit of good advice, can dosomething to help themselves.
12. Take complaints seriously, whether they be stories of physical bullying orverbal or psychological bullying. If your youngster is telling you aboutproblems she has at school, you can bet that there is plenty that she hasn'ttold you about. By the time a youngster reveals her pain to you, the bullyinghas almost always been going on for a prolonged period.
How the School Can Help—
Early intervention and effective discipline and boundaries truly are the bestway to stop bullying, but mothers/fathers of the victims cannot change thebully’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 thebullies and the victims are not aware of what is going on at school, then thewhole bullying program will not be effective. Stopping bullying in school takesteamwork and concentrated effort on everyone’s part. Bullying also should bediscussed during parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings. Parentalawareness is key.
2. Hand out questionnaires to all children and educators and discuss ifbullying is occurring. Define exactly what constitutes bullying at school. Thequestionnaire is a wonderful tool that allows the school to see how widespreadbullying is and what forms it is taking. It is a good way to start to addressthe problem.
3. In the classroom setting, all educators should work with the children onbullying. Oftentimes even the teacher is being bullied in the classroom and aprogram should be set up that implements teaching about bullying. Kidsunderstand modeling behaviors and role-play and acting out bullying situationsis a very effective tool. Have children role-play a bullying situation. Rulesthat involve bullying behaviors should be clearly posted. Schools also couldask local mental health professionals to speak to children about bullyingbehaviors and how it directly affects the victims.
4. Most school programs that address bullying use a multi-faceted approach tothe problem. This usually involves counseling of some sort, either by peers, aschool counselor, educators, or the principal.
5. Schools need to make sure there is enough adult supervision at school tolessen and prevent bullying.
Aspergers students who have to endure bullying usually suffer from lowself-esteem, and their ability to learn and be successful at school isdramatically lessened. Schools and parents must educate kids about bullyingbehaviors. It will help all kids feel safe and secure at school. Kids who bullyneed to be taught empathy for others’ feelings in order to change theirbehaviors – and the school must adopt a zero-tolerance policy regardingbullying of all children, with or without Aspergers.
Question: Hi. I go to the 8th grade. I haveAspergers and get picked on a lot. I have been bullied since kindergarten. Howcan I get the other kids to leave me alone?
Answer: Here’s what you do if someone is picking onyou:
1. As much as you can, avoid the bullies. Youcan't go into hiding or skip class, of course. But if you can take a differentroute and avoid him, do it.
2. Don't hit, kick, or push back to deal withthe 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 staywith safe people and get help from an adult.
3. It’s very important to tell an adult. Findsomeone you trust and go and tell them what is happening to you. Teachers atschool can all help to stop the bully. Sometimes bullies stop as soon as ateacher finds out because they're afraid that they will be punished. Bullyingis wrong and it helps if everyone who gets bullied or sees someone beingbullied speaks up.
4. Try your best to ignore the bullies. Pretendyou don't hear them and walk away quickly to a safe place. Bullies want a bigreaction to their teasing and meanness. Acting as if you don't notice and don'tcare is like giving no reaction at all, and this just might stop a bully'sbehavior.
5. Try distracting yourself (counting backwardsfrom 100, spelling the word 'turtle' backwards, etc.) to keep your mindoccupied until you are out of the situation and somewhere safe where you canshow your feelings.
6. Pretend to feel really brave and confident.Tell the bully "No! Stop it!" in a loud voice. Then walk away, or runif you have to.
7. Two is better than one if you're trying toavoid being bullied. Make a plan to walk with a friend or two on the way toschool or recess or lunch or wherever you think you might meet the bully.
8. When you're scared of another person, you'reprobably not feeling very brave. But sometimes just acting brave is enough tostop a bully. How does a brave person look and act? Stand tall and you'll sendthe message: "Don't mess with me."
9. Kids also can stand up for each other bytelling a bully to stop teasing or scaring someone else, and then walk awaytogether. 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 willlikely keep bullying you. Bullies tend to bully kids who don't stick up forthemselves.
10. Feel good about yourself. A lot of kids getbullied. It doesn’t just happen to you.