46.3 % of kids with an autism spectrum disorder have been bullied

If you think no kid is cruel enough nowadays to pick on a kid with special needs, think again.

The American Medical Association just published a reporter in its Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine citing that nearly half of youth with an ASD has been a victim of bullying.

That's significantly higher than the percantage for kids in general being bullied.

The study doesn't tell much, but here's an article about bullying and kids with learning disabilities:

Why bullies target struggling students (and how you can help!) 

We’ve seen examples of “old-fashioned” bullying since the TV made its appearance in the American household; the mean boy shoving the weaker child on the playground, or the rich girl making fun of the orphan dressed in rags. But modern bullying often takes the form of less obvious taunting or uses multimedia to spread photos, videos and gossip like wildfire. Even worse, with tactics that include social media, the hurtful weapons of choice can reach more people, more quickly, and there’s seldom recourse to address the permanence of items that reach the Internet.

What is bullying?

The definition of bullying has changed over the years, most recently to accommodate the use of communication technologies (like Facebook, blogs, texting), or “cyberbullying.” But overall, the term “bullying” is defined as “the ongoing physical and/or emotional victimization of a person by another person or group of people.”

In addition to cyberbullying, there is verbal, social and physical abuse. Verbal abuse usually involves teasing , threats or name-calling. Social abuse (one of the more common forms of bullying by girls) includes things like ruining relationships (with friends or boyfriends), spreading rumors (with the intention to hurt) or excluding the victim on purpose (e.g. from sleepovers, parties, lunch in the cafeteria). Physical abuse, the most obvious and telling form of bullying, can include shoving, punching, robbing (lunch money, personal items), slapping or punching.

Who gets bullied?

Bullying doesn’t necessarily happen to the smallest kids on the playground. In fact, sometimes the target is big for his age but has physical, intellectual or emotional challenges. It might also be that a child is overweight, particularly shy or gay or lesbian. Other common targets include the new kid at school, children of a certain race or ethnicity, or even those of a religious minority. In a study of 15,000 U.S. students, found that of children bullied at least once a week, about 20 percent were targeted because of their looks or speech.

Why are kids with learning struggles common targets?

While the victim of bullying in a 1950s TV show might eventually see a happy ending (the bully learns his lesson or the poor orphan gets adopted by a rich family), today’s victims of bullying often endure years of depression, anxiety, fear or humiliation. (According to BullyingStatistics.org, some 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying and bully victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than nonvictims.) 

In particular, an all-too-common victim scenario is that the struggling student. These children – already coping with low self-esteem, decreased confidence, shame, anxiety and sometimes, parental disappointment – can easily get caught in an endless cycle: they’re bullied because their low self-esteem (and perhaps poor performance in school) makes them easy targets, and their fear of being bullied can cause them to avoid school, participate less in class, lose interest in academic achievement or develop an inability to concentrate. It’s the literal translation of “being kicked while you’re down.”

According to Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center, children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. One study even found that 60 percent of students with disabilities reported being bullied regularly (vs. only 25 percent of all students).

A 2009 study on bullying that was published in “Pediatrics” went into even more detail citing that hyperactivity and emotional outbursts are “the two factors most likely to annoy and provoke peers … [and] Such provocation increases the likelihood of being victimized and not supported by peers over time.” This may explain why children with ADHD are 10 times as likely as their peers to be picked on at school (Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, Feb. 2008).

Why do kids bully?

There are lots of reasons that kids (and teens and adults) bully and each situation is different. But research has found some of the more common causes to be:

• A culture focused on winning, power and violence

• A climate that tolerates bullying (a fraternity, an athletic department, a school or home)

• A personal history of being abused or bullied

• A need for attention

• Jealousy

• Parental neglect or lack of boundaries and discipline

• To deflect attention (e.g. Kids with ADHD are four times more likely to BE bullies!)

How do you know if your child is being bullied?

Ideally, your son or daughter would immediately come to you to discuss the situation, share their feelings and enlist your help. In the real world, kids may be too embarrassed or scared to involve you (or another person of authority). They may not want you to find out about the photo that’s been posted on the Internet or the rumor (true or untrue) that’s been circulating around school. They may fear how you’ll react or that you’ll make things worse by confronting or reporting the bully. There’s also the possibility that your child is worried about being perceived as weak, or that they don’t even recognize that their mistreatment is considered bullying (e.g. your daughter not being invited to that birthday party).

Barring no direct request for help, here are some signs and symptoms to look for:

• making excuses to avoid school

• decreased appetite or sudden binging

• unexplained injuries or ripped clothing

• returning from school without belongings

• difficulty sleeping

• avoiding being alone

• increased time alone

• appears depressed or anxious

• talking about suicide or giving items away

• marked change in grades

What can parents do to help?

Your approach can be three-pronged: end the bullying, fix the learning disabilities and build your child’s confidence.

1. Initiate a conversation with your child. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Try to listen more than you talk and work together to find a solution that helps your child feel empowered. Don’t assume that they want you to talk to the parents of the bully (or the bully).

2. Monitor your child’s activities – especially online. It’s true, there’s a fine line between snooping and monitoring, and parents need to decide for themselves where that is. At the very least, look to see what your child’s classmates are saying or posting.

3. Enroll your child in cognitive skills training. Also known as “brain training,” intensive, one-on-one programs can significantly increase confidence, raise IQ and virtually eradicate common learning disabilities like ADHD, dyslexia and dyscalculia (trouble with math). Unlike tutoring, which rehashes subject material, cognitive skills training actually changes the brain to make a stronger, faster and more efficient learner in ANY subject or situation.

4. Teach your children to be more assertive. A bully’s goal is generally to provoke a reaction from their victim. Teaching a child to remain composed, firm and assertive can be enough to deflate a bully’s interest.

To teach assertiveness skills, do some roleplaying with your child. Have them practice saying “No” firmly and loudly while looking you in the eye. Teach them how to respond nonchalantly to insults and teasing with a shrug and “That’s your opinion” or “Maybe.” Talk about the importance of walking away (and reporting the incident) rather than allowing the bully to see reaction emotions (like anger, fear, sadness).

Self-defense classes or martial arts are great at building confidence. In addition to getting physically stronger, children of any age often find that martial arts strengthens cognitive skills like attention, processing speed and problem-solving abilities, which often transfer to academics as well.

5. Report the bullying to the school. This will be tricky if your child is worried that “tattling” will only make the bullying worse. But schools are getting better about implementing zero-tolerance policies to work against creating a culture of fear and intolerance. Chances are that the bullying isn’t just going to stop on its own and getting the school involved validates your child’s fears and demonstrates your support.

If you child struggles with a learning disability, life is hard enough. Tack on a playground (or online) bully and going to school can leave your child feeling weak on all fronts. In the case of bullying and learning struggles, it can sometimes be the age-old chicken and the egg question of which came first. But it’s a moot point. The only answer you need is how to help your child feel safe, supported and hopeful about their potential!

Resources

-        http://www.stopbullying.gov/

-        http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/info-facts.asp

-        http://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/SEL-and-Bullying-Prevention-2009.pdf

-        http://www.bullyingstatistics.org

Comments

In order to comment on BlogHer.com, you'll need to be logged in. You'll be given the option to log in or create an account when you publish your comment. If you do not log in or create an account, your comment will not be displayed.