Asperger Syndrome and School Bullying

Asperger syndrome is a neurological condition on the autistic spectrum that affects a childs ability to effectively socialize, conform to trends, and recognize the facial expressions and moods of others. Bullies target students diagnosed with Asperger syndrome (AS) at a rate that is at least four times higher than their peers, with the top reported maltreatment being shunning, and one in ten AS teenagers are likely to experience a peer gang attack [1].

Why Children with AS are Targets for School Bullies

Kids with Asperger syndrome are targets for bullying in the classroom for many reasons. Clearly the awkward social skills and lack of self-confidence play a huge role, but there are many other issues that attract the attention of bullies, such as the tendency for children with AS to be isolated, to willingly give up their rights and possessions without a contest, and to be easily fooled into thinking that a bully is their friend.

In adolescence, kids with Asperger syndrome may not follow the trends and styles of their peers. Clothing, hairstyles, and intense unique interests that are not typical of other kids their age are all magnets that can attract teasing.

Signs of Teasing and Bullying in Kids with Asperger Syndrome

Kids with Asperger syndrome may not even realize they are being maltreated, especially if it is subtle in nature. Furthermore, children with AS wont always report bullying to teachers or parents even if they know it is happening. Therefore it is important to recognize the signs of teasing and bullying so that it can be eliminated. Here are some common signs of bullying to look for:

Missing or broken possessionsTorn clothing or clothing and other items that have been scribbled onFrequent cuts and bruisesIncreased anxietySchool refusal, cutting classesComplaints of digestive upset or headachesSleep deprivationDepressionMorbid or suicidal thoughtsPersonality change, modeling bullying behavior at homeMain Strategies to Prevent Bullying of Students with AS

How can a teacher help the student with AS and deter teasing and bullying in the classroom? There are many effective strategies that can have a lasting positive outcome for children with Asperger syndrome. Try these ideas to address classroom bullying:

Be clear that bullying and maltreatment of others will not be tolerated in the classroom.Educate all students about autism and Asperger syndrome.Assign a classroom buddy with strong social skills to the child with AS.Teach AS child to be more assertive with others, and to communicate needs and rights.Help child with AS to report bullying and seek safety in groups.Assemble a team that includes a school counselor, recess and lunch monitors, and parents to watch over and work with the student with Asperger syndrome.Enact role-playing techniques to discourage teasing, and have kids invent their own positive ways of dealing with bullies.Students who have Asperger syndrome are at a disadvantage when it comes to socializing and fitting in with their peers. As children get older, bullying and teasing may become even more sinister. Early intervention and vigilant anti-bullying instruction will be of vital importance. Using strategies that combine assertiveness training for children with Asperger syndrome, with empathy and understanding for fellow classmates will help teachers stop the bullying/teasing of students with AS in school.

See these articles for more information about social skills training and autism/Asperger syndrome in the classroom:

Classroom Social Skills Training for Autism Raising Autism Awareness in the Classroom Meltdowns in Students with Asperger SyndromeSources:

1. Attwood, Tony, The Complete Guide to Aspergers Syndrome. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007.

2. Cooley, Myles L., Teaching Kids withketamine treatment for depression & Learning Disorders in the Regular Classroom. MN: Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., 2007.