Time Magazine highlights Bullying and Autism
The National News has been flooded with stories of bullying in recent years. Parents and professionals range from demanding extreme forms of punishment for "bullies", to brushing it off as the newest "buzz word" introduced by the media.
As professionals often working in school settings, we find this issue to be a timeless, but highly imperative one to address in children with autism.
What does your child need to know about bullying?
Depending on the age and ability level of your child, there are some basic skills that should be taught as a foundation for friendship and social cues. Children as young as 2 and 3 years old can be taught to identify emotions and their associated facial expressions. Teens can learn how to choose friends and what qualities a friend would possess in contrast with qualities someone who is not a good friend would portray.
How do you teach children to pick up on social cues?
Our learners are often oblivious to subtle social cues and because they take things so literally, may not pick up on information that is pertinent to interpretting peer interactions. Not only does this create situations where the child may behave or say things that are awkward, but it also makes it hard for these students to distinguish whether a peer is a friend or a bully. Often programming includes role playing and learning to identify and comprehend sarcasm. We may use social stories to explain the difference between friendly teasing and hurtful teasing. We may also work with typical peers and have students learn to attend to and identify different facial expressions as well as body language.
What precautions should I put in place for my child?
As parents we want to protect our children and feel its our duty to ensure their lives are happy and carefree. Having a child with special needs may make us even more sensitive to the emotional pains of bullying. Our children already struggle enough, so we feel the need to protect them from everything else, understandably. It is often beneficial to teach your child that if they feel uncomfortable or attacked, where they should go, who they can call, or how to find help.
As Behavior Analysts, we want to address the issue further, on a much deeper level in some cases. The goal of Applied Behavior Analysis is to break skill acquisition goals down into simple steps, allowing a child to learn at their individual pace and be successful more frequently. This promotes greater levels of independence and self-confidence. Students can learn to handle "bullying" situations effectively and become more confident that they can solve their problems themselves, when given a skill set to:
1. Identify "red flag" situations
2. Choose friends wisely
3. Identify sarcasm and mockery
4. Remain calm and in control in volatile situations
5. Be Assertive
6. Learn Skills that Target Social Competency