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Autism and bulling, a specialist module for schools and the wider children’s workforce.

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Presentation on theme: "Autism and bulling, a specialist module for schools and the wider children’s workforce."— Presentation transcript:

1 Autism and bulling, a specialist module for schools and the wider children’s workforce

2 Purpose of this presentation To support the guidance document written for school staff and the wider children’s workforce Outline what is autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder Share what we know about bulling and autism Share the experiences of children and young people with autism and bulling Outline action that school leaders can take/oversee

3 Aims and objectives The participants will: gain an understanding of autism and Autism Spectrum Conditions and bullying in the context of autism leave will a greater understanding of ways to support children with autism in the context of school bullying leave with an awareness of some anti-bullying interventions that can be implemented in a school setting feel more able to identify and tackle bullying of children with autism.

4 What is autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder? It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share certain difficulties or traits, their condition will affect them in different ways Some people with autism are able to live relatively independent lives whilst others may have accompanying learning disabilities and need a lifetime of specialist support People with autism may also experience over - or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours which can cause huge problems on a daily basis. Autism is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

5 What is autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder? More than 1 in 100 people have autism This is about one child in approximately every 3 school classes This means that around 700,000 people in the UK have Asperger syndrome Asperger syndrome is a form of autism. People with Asperger syndrome are often of average or above average intelligence. People with Asperger syndrome have fewer problems with speech than people with autism but may still have difficulties with understanding and processing language.

6 What is bullying? The Anti-Bullying Alliance describes bullying as: The repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involved an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or through cyberspace.

7 What do we know about bulling and autism? A response from a survey by the NAS in 2013, one young person with Asperger’s said: “Bullies can be made out of anyone. There is no prerequisite for a bully. If you hurt or offend someone with malicious intent, you are bullying”

8 What do we know about bulling and autism? Bancroft (2012) found that: 63% of young people with autism have been bullied at school This rises to 75% when we look at secondary school age alone Schools’ responses to bullying vary greatly. While some schools have excellent strategies, others do not always recognise the seriousness of the issue.

9 Types of bullying experienced by children with autism Verbal: name calling/discrimination, threats Physical: throwing things, tripping, bumping, violence Psychological: rumour spreading, whispering, exclusion and isolations Cyber (online) Peer pressure Controlling / intimidating behaviour of others Teachers taking a dislike to you Results from a NAS focus group of children with autism who have been bullied. August 2013

10 What our children said about bullying: “Bulling can be sustained or one off and the waiting and uncertainty knowing that is will happen again is very difficult” “Sticks and stones may break my bones and words leave emotional scars that never heal” “If you bully people you have no excuse. It does not matter how your life had panned out so far, it gives you no reason to hurt other people”

11 Real life affects of bullying… Feeling sad Feeling depressed Feeling alone Feeling nervous Reduced self esteem Being self-conscious Having trust issues Being scared Feeling suicidal Being ready to “snap” Reduced confidence Being on edge Results from a NAS focus group of children with autism who have been bullied. August 2013

12 Reporting and occurrence of bullying for children with autism Children with autism are at a greater risk than other children of being bullied The more socially isolated the more at risk children are at being bullied (Humphrey and Symes 2010) There must be clear routes for pupils, staff and parents and carers to report incidents of bullying. One point of contact can be helpful in this.

13 Some reasons why children with autism may be bullied Increased gullibility Lack of social support and friendship Obvious lack of confidence presence an easy target The young person has less developed social and communication skills Motor difficulties/particular gait Less developed hand/eye co-ordination means not very good at sport/ activities Demonstrations of anger or what might be considered ‘strange’ behaviours make people a target Meltdowns (when resources have been drained and there becomes a real risk of `losing it` Dubin 2007,p97) It is thought ‘fun’ to cause anger outbursts/meltdowns.

14 An example of bullying a child with autism Heinrichs (2003) found that: A girl with autism in a school playground is cajoled by three classmates, masquerading as ‘friends’, of putting drawing pins on a teachers chair being told that Miss (the teacher) like jokes.

15 Children with autism as perpetrators of bullying To understand why someone might bully others there is a need to focus on motivation not on the child's aggressive and externalising behaviour (Zablotsky 2012). There is a need to take into account that the child with autism may: have problems knowing how to join in have problems understanding the other persons perspective have a need for rules and routines and may get anxious and frightened if these are not adhered to or changed be worried about being bullied themselves (Selected from Rowley 2012, Reid and Batten 2006).

16 How does bullying make children with autism feel? More judgemental about people Miss being able to trust somebody Trust and doubt issues Don`t want to go to school Gives you a thick skin Gives you a killer instinct Limits what you might do/achieve Loss of innocence Suspicious of people Creates anger management issues Want to meet people on neutral terms Being in social situations feels like a punishment, but you have to be there to overcome bullying. Results from a NAS focus group of children with ASD who have been bullied. August 2013

17 Action that school leaders can take/oversee – p1 Bystanders and Bullies Autism Awareness Young people from our focus group felt that autism awareness training and peer support were amongst the most effective strategies to help tackle bulling It is imperative for the school to be aware that pupils with autism have needs that are distinct from those pupils with SEN and also those without SEN Promoting a greater understanding of autism amongst peers in the classroom is a useful strategy in both primary and secondary schools

18 Action that school leaders can take/oversee p2 Schools, staff and infrastructure: Strategies There appears to be a direct link between children who get angry, ‘lose their temper’ and become aggressive and their being bullied Children with an autism should be taught strategies that help them to stay calm in difficult situations This may involve them having a quiet area that they can remove themselves too when they need reduced stimuli, or just to escape other people.

19 Action that school leaders can take/oversee p3 Schools, staff and infrastructure: Primary School Interventions A ‘circle of friends’: who will volunteer to support and include the child with ASD. A ‘friendship bench’: where people will sit who want to join in a game. This will be monitored by the circle of friends. Have some structure to break times for those who want it e.g. ball games, skipping etc. Increase the level of break time supervision by well trained break time supervisors. Create a quiet space in the playground. For breaktime supervisors to be aware of any issues so they can think about seating arrangements. A selection of: Stobart 2009, Hattersley 2009, Dubin 2007, Heinrichs 2003

20 Action that school leaders can take/oversee p4 Schools, staff and infrastructure: Secondary School Interventions: Careful transition from primary to secondary school. Early/adequate preparation. Being in same class as friends from primary school. Try to ensure that bullying dynamic does not transfer schools. Introduce mentors (either groups or individuals). Have ‘buddies’ who will travel to school with the young person with ASD. Moving classes for lessons particularly difficult, Increased staffing (if possible), ‘buddies’, reduce amount of changes needed in timetable. Stagger break times to reduce numbers Have structured events such as lunch clubs Have a safe quiet area. A selection of: Stobart 2009, Hattersley 2009, Dubin 2007, Heinrichs 2003

21 Action that school leaders can take/oversee p5 Parent support: Parents of children with autism need to be included in schemes being implemented to support their child, such as: – Peer mentoring schemes – inviting experts on bullying to speak at parent meetings raises awareness of the issues – Information session about autism “bullies need sorting out at school……as soon as a bully is noticed parents should be making sure it ends” child with autism

22 Conclusion A multi layered approach could help: Improve autism awareness for everyone within the school and community Build a close partnership with parents Identify and implement peer support and strategies that address the most pressing autism specific needs Enable each pupil with autism to engage socially and be better understood by other pupils.

23 More information Find more information and resources about bullying and children and young people with special educational needs and / or bullying at bullyingalliance.org.uk/send-programmewww.anti- bullyingalliance.org.uk/send-programme

24 References Dubin, N. (2007) Asperger syndrome and bullying: strategies and solutions. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley. Hattersley, C. (2009) Autism fact file. Special, (Nov). pp Heinrichs, R. (2003) Perfect targets: Asperger syndrome and bullying: practical solutions for surviving the social world. Shawnee Mission, Kansas: Autism Asperger Publishing Company. Humphrey, N. and Symes, W. (2010). Perceptions of social support and experience of bullying among pupils with autistic spectrum disorders in mainstream secondary schools. European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol.25, no.1 (Feb). pp The National Autistic Society. (2013) What is Autism. Downloaded 30/7/2013www.autism.org.uk Reid, B. and Batten, A. (2006). B is for bullied: the experiences of children with autism and their families. London: National Autistic Society, 8pp.

25 References continued Rowley, E. and others (2012). The experience of friendship, victimization and bullying in children with an autism spectrum disorder: associations with child characteristics and school placement. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Vol.6, Issue 3, July–September, pp1126–1134. Smith, P.K. Sharp, S. (1994). The Problem of school bullying. In P.K. Smith and S. Sharp (Eds), School Bullying: Insights and perspectives (pp. 2-19). London: Routledge. Stobart, A. (2009). Bullying and autism spectrum disorders: a guide for school staff. London: National Autistic Society. Zablotsky, B. (2013b). Risk factors for bullying among children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism published on line 30 July DOI: /


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