Bullying Prevention: Autism and Bullying

What Can a Parent Teach their Child/Teen to do to Respond to Bullying?A colleague of mine asked for tips on how to help her young son who has Autism deal with bullying at school. She asked, “What more can I do?” Given that the question was asked on my Facebook page,  I needed to reply with brevity. I thought the same answer might be beneficial here. In my martial arts class, there are two things that I focus on that are so simple, yet so profound in importance. Bullying prevention requires us to teach youth how NOT to be a victim.

Bullying Prevention: Teaching About Body Language

1. Body language. Teaching children to walk with confidence, head held high – but not too high, shoulders back, strong steps – don’t shuffle – are important in conveying an image of confidence. If you look more confident, you are less likely to be teased. I will literally role-play how to walk. If I have kids who shuffle into position in class, I use it as a teachable moment. No form or kata is more important than teaching a youth how to walk with confidence.

Bullying Prevention: Teach What To Say and How To Say It

2. Teach verbal self-defense skills. What can (s)he say and how should (s)he react to put-downs, refusal to allow him to join a game, etc. Even if children “ignore” bullying by saying nothing, often their body language gives away their power because they “show” they are hurt or dejected. So, teach youth some safe responses and role-play how to say the words with confidence and a calm neutral tone.
Here are some examples of what youth might use as responses to bullying language:

Comebacks that don’t escalate the conflict

  •  I see.
  •  Thank you for letting me know how you feel.
  •  Perhaps you are right.
  •  I hear you.
  •  Ouch! (Cues the other person that they are being hurtful. Sometimes they don’t realize.)
  •  I can see this upsets you.
  •  I’m sorry you were hurt. That was not my intent.

Be careful to stress the importance of tone of voice. Sarcasm can take the most innocuous words and turn them into inflammatory remarks.

What is your experience? What do you advice parents and teachers teach their children about bullying prevention?

Free the Children, Conflict Education for Strong, Peaceful MindsFor more information about conflict education and caring communities, see Susan Fitzell’s book, Free The Children, Conflict Education for Strong and Peaceful Minds. Available in both print and electronic versions!

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