Children with Asperger’s (autism spectrum disorders) have great difficulty interpreting social cues involving even routine social interactions. This is why bullies target children on the spectrum three times more often than other children.
Until our schools and communities are able to eradicate bullying, it is up to us to protect our children with Asperger’s from bullies.
It is difficult for any child to experience bullying, but for a child with ASD, the challenge can be very overwhelming. When classmates tease them or bully them, the resulting emotions can cause a child with ASD to meltdown or react aggressively.
What makes things worse is that children on the spectrum often have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. Your child may never tell you or their teachers that they are being bullied. Research has shown that 63% of children on the spectrum are bullied at some point.
What you can do to help your child with Asperger’s stop bullies
Be alert to the possibility that bulling is taking place. Routinely ask your child with Asperger’s whether they are being bullied. Be ready to lend an ear and step in with help for your child.
The suggestions listed below are designed primarily for the higher functioning Asperger’s population, as they tend to be in mainstream settings where they are quite vulnerable to bullying, but don’t be shy.
Don’t be afraid to contact us for more specific suggestions for your child.
Talk to your child
First, make it part of the normal routine to talk to your child about how things are in the school yard, gym, lunchroom and of course the classroom. Ask directly whether anyone is bothering/bulling him. Follow up with your child to see if the situation is improving or if you need to get more involved.
Talk to teachers and community leaders
Ask for feedback from teachers and aides that supervise the lunchroom, school yard, and classroom. Ask your child’s teachers and school administration to discuss solutions to make your child’s school a friendlier, safer environment.
Bullying happens in communal spaces as well. Talk to your local clergy and community centers about what they can do to create a safe space for your child with Asperger’s.
Develop social awareness
Help your child develop his or her social skills by attending social skills training groups, attending individual counseling designed to improve social awareness, and participating in extra-curricular activities.
At home, you can help your child analyze social situations that come up at home, at school, and in your community. Discuss social situations that you watch together on TV or on movies; work together to develop real life solutions for the challenges that the characters faced. This will help improve your child’s ability to read social cues and avoid being bullied.
You can help your child with Asperger’s stop bullies
A child with ASD generally needs to learn even basic social skills through discussion, role play and observation followed by instruction.
While children with ASD are more vulnerable to being bullied, when you work together with teachers and other school staff and have a game-plan for how to help your child at home, you can protect your child from being an easy target of bullies.
If your child is being bullied, please read our blog, what parents can do, for specific strategies that can be utilized to help your child with Asperger’s stop bullies.
A therapist with experience in this area can help. Click here to find a therapist in your area.