In a recent interview with Jeff Deutsch (an adult with Aspergers and a coach to people with Aspergers) revealed 3 key reasons why children with Aspergers can be vulnerable to bullying:
1. Problems in reading danger signals – Children with Aspergers can fail to pick up the social cues or hints that they should avoid a certain person or situation (because it could be dangerous for them).
2. They are less likely to have friends – Jeff feels that bullies are predatory and will “hunt” for the easiest or weakest “prey”. If children are with friends they are less easy to bully. But if a child is alone and struggling with social groups then they are more likely to be seen as a target by the bully.
3. They may provoke others – In an interesting stance Jeff quotes a well known U.S. self defense expert Marc “Animal” McYoung on the subject of “dual culpability”. Which means that in any instance of aggression/conflict then both parties are in some way responsible. Jeff says that in reference to Aspergers this could be an unconscious act – for example standing physically close to someone, refusing eye contact, or having poor personal hygiene. Often such deficits in social skills can be seen to play a role in the bullying of that child.
And as you may imagine from that list above there is a common ground. All of them could be much better handled and hopefully avoided by better social skills. So Jeff feels that the key to helping your child is by improving his/her social skills. Jeff says that such social skills teaching has to be very explicit and clearly set out for the child to be able to learn. Several areas that he mentions are:
1. Eye contact – Children with Aspergers may offer no eye contact or in the other extreme stare for much longer than is socially comfortable for people.
2. Personal space – Many children with Aspergers may physically stand too close to other people and cause them in turn to feel uncomfortable and negative to the child.
3. Voice volume – Children with Aspergers may not differentiate that the voice that you use indoors (in the class room) should generally be quieter than the one you would use outdoors (in the playground).
Obviously there are many different areas of social skills for children to develop over time. But the key is that children with Aspergers can learn these skills if broken down into easy-to-follow basic steps. So equipping your child with relevant social skills maybe the biggest single thing you can do to help them avoid or cope with bullying.
You can hear more from Jeff in my upcoming Aspergers Eduation program…
But if you just can’t wait until then please check out Jeff’s website at www.asplint.com
Thanks for reading,