Bullying and teasing is a very real fear for children with autism and their parents. While many parents and teachers offer suggestions with the best of intentions, it’s often horrible advice – and our teens and preteens know it! Just tell the teacher? Ask them to stop teasing me? Unfortunately, in most situations, we are setting our teens up for further social stigma.
Teasers engage in non-physical teasing – insults, making fun of appearance or behavior, verbal taunting – to get a reaction out of their target. Asking them to stop, telling the teacher, or telling the teaser that it hurts your feelings will typically add fuel to their fire. Physical bullying and intimidation tactics occur less frequently but are very serious and should be handled differently.
Responding to Verbal Teasing
- Act unimpressed – shrug your shoulders or roll your eyes. Act like what they are saying doesn’t bother you!
- Give a comeback – say something like “Whatever” or “If you say so” as if what they are saying is boring.
- Walk away – if the teaser continues after not getting a reaction from you, just walk away casually as if you have better things to do with your time.
Responding to Physical Bullying
- Stay away from the bully – don’t talk to them, don’t walk down the same hallway, and don’t try to become friends with them.
- Don’t act unimpressed or use comebacks with a bully – it’s likely to just upset them more, and result in physical aggression.
- Stick with the pack – stay close to other kids when the bully is nearby. Even if you aren’t super close friends with the other people, there’s safety in numbers.
- Hang out near teachers – stay close to adults when the bully is nearby. If a bully has made threats to hurt you after school or on the bus, inform an adult so they can help keep you safe.
For more information on bullying and children with disabilities, visit StopBullying.gov by clicking here.
To purchase or download a copy of The Science of Making Friends: Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults, click here.
For a list of certified PEERS ® providers offering social skills groups in your area, click here.