By Dr. Heather Hurd
Kids with Autism and Social Skills Deficits are especially at risk for being bullied. Bam. They have trouble enough with things already, but being bullied on top of it all? Darn it, but yes.
A common misperception about children, teens, and adults with Autism is that they do not pick up on social cues, so they do not understand or feel bullying. It is just the opposite, actually. An adult with Autism reported to me a few years back that he had been at a party in which the other men were laughing at his expense. He did not realize it at the time. But when it dawned on him later it was devastating. Even as adults words can sting us.
Recent research has revealed that children with Autism are bullied at a higher rate than the rest of the population. They are especially at risk for being on the receiving end of relational aggression. And even though they sometimes say things that appear hurtful without meaning to, they often take it the hardest when they are bullied (or people say hurtful things to them). Parents of children with Autism often times describe the kids as “sensitive”and often
“internalizing” of negative comments. These are traits that put children/teens with Autism at greater risk for depression symptoms and low self-esteem and self-image.
In addition to the steps in the previous Blog
(Bullying 101: Is your child being bullied? Take it seriously), other immediate
1. Building up self-esteem/decreasing
depression symptoms. Many teens with Autism have diagnosable depression along
with Autism. These symptoms should be treated and monitored by a mental health
2. Find a niche and pursue it. Many children
with Autism have a highly preferred interest. There are others out there that have the same interest. This niche can bring kids together in a natural, real way and foster real social connections. If a club for your child’s
niche does not yet exist, start one. Lego Club, Star Wars Club, Naruto Club, etc.
There are always others with the same interest out there!
3. Discuss Autism with your child/teen.
Explain what is hard for them and what is related to Autism. Many children, teens, and
adults I have worked with have found a sense of relief that some of the things they find really hard is not their fault. In addition, telling even young children (in a light, non-threatening way) can be very helpful to them in that even at young ages children can sense that they are different. It often times helps to talk about why they feel that way and how some things seem hard for them, while also pointing out a plethora of their strengths.
4. Find a way to connect your child with
similar children with Autism. It has
been repeatedly reported to me by children with ASD that they think there is nobody else in the world that feels like them. When they meet other children with ASD and make connections, and friendships with guidance from mentors they come to relate to each other and not feel so alone.
If you think your child with Autism is at risk for being bullied and you need assistance please give me a call 608-228-0882.
Wishing you and yours health and
Dr. Heather D. Hurd
Please watch for my next blogs:
---Guess Who Needs Intervention As much as the One Being Bullied? The Bully, Actually.
---How to talk to your child about having a disability, disorder, or challenge