How to Help Them Deal With Bullying

Children with autism and aspergers have a great number of positive characteristics. Unfortunately, the sensitivities of children on the playground and the social scene in middle and high school can be very different from adults who have a lot more education and sensitivity toward those who are different.

Parents may suspect that their children are being bullied when the show some of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Missing or broken possessions
  • Torn clothing or clothing and other items that have been scribbled on
  • Frequent cuts and bruises
  • Increased anxiety
  • School refusal, cutting classes
  • Complaints of digestive upset or headaches
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Depression
  • Morbid or suicidal thoughts
  • Personality change, modeling bullying behavior at home

What is a parent to do if they suspect that some of this is going on?

1) Help the child understand his/her diagnosis. It’s important for the child and the parents to have a working understanding of how the child’s mind works and why s/he may be having some of the difficulties in school. Understanding the plusses and being able to work on areas of growth are key in addressing the bullying.

2) Help the teacher, school social worker, and principal understand your child’s diagnosis. Present them with articles such as this one to help them understand some of the unique struggles that your child may be going through. Request that the social worker and/or teacher incorporate education about tolerance with persons who have disabilities, who are differently abled.

3) Seek to network and connect with other families who have children on the spectrum. Google autism or aspergers support groups in your area. You may find that there are children on the spectrum who have successfully navigated through the social landmines of middle and high school. Wrong Planet is an online forum started by and for Aspies. You may find additional support and solutions there.

4) If you child with Aspergers or autism is seeing a counselor or child psychologist, that therapist can work with your child in the context of social skills training to learn how to be assertive and how to deal with bullying. Izzy Kalman, a school psychologist has written some free material at his site, Bullies2Buddies, that can provide your child with the scripts and mindset to handle the mental and social challenges that come with bullying.

5) Ask the school social worker or home room teacher if there are students who are assertive and compassionate enough to serve as social mentors and friends to your child with Aspergers.

6) Encourage your child to join extracurricular activities at school which are in sync with their interests and abilities. By joining these activities they may connect with peers who can become a safe haven for them at school.

This is a partial list of suggestions that is open to feedback from you, the reader. What have been your experiences, and what are some solutions you recommend?