Wednesday, February 25, 2015

PLF Annual Report for 2014

Our Annual Report for 2014 is finished.  I hope you guys are pleased.   

Barbara Ochoa
Executive Director, P. Luna Foundation

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New DNA technique may reveal face of killer in unsolved double-murder

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sexual Abuse of Children with Autism: Factors that Increase Risk and Interfere with Recognition of Abuse

Vol 30, No 1 (2010) > Edelson

Willamette University, Department of Psychology, 900 State Street, Salem, OR 97301


Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorders, sexual abuse
Abstract Two main arguments are made with regard to children with autism and risk for sexual abuse. First, some children with autism may be targeted for abuse by sexual offenders who may view them as vulnerable children. Second, when children with autism are sexually abused, they may show this in ways that get ignored or misattributed to autism rather than to possible sexual abuse. Because of these two issues, there need to be reliable methods established for determining whether or not a child on the autism spectrum has been sexually abused, and these protocols need to be informed by the challenges encountered by individuals with autism, voiced by those along the spectrum as well as by researchers in the autism field.
Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention suggest that 1:150 children have autism or an Autism Spectrum Disorder (CDC, 2008). The rate at which autism is diagnosed has been steadily increasing in the past twenty years, with reported increases in autism ranging from three- to twenty-fold in that time (Waterhouse, 2008). Originally identified by Kanner (1943), autism has been characterized by challenges in communication, social ability, and behavior (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000), although there can be great variability in the extent to which difficulties are manifested. In addition to autism, there is a spectrum of disorders related to autism including Asperger's Disorder, Rett's Syndrome, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder (APA, 2000). In total, these four disorders are referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), and approximately 560,000 individuals in the U.S. between the ages of 0 to 21 years meet criteria for one of the ASDs (CDC, 2008).
In the past few decades, there has also been a steady increase in the number of firsthand accounts written by self-advocates who self-identify as individuals on the autism spectrum (e.g., Grandin & Scariano, 1986; Mukhopadhyay, 2008; Newport & Newport, 2002; Prince-Hughes, 2002). These accounts show not only that these challenges are often present because the social world is designed for typical individuals, with few adaptations for those who are not typical, but also how difficulties with sensory processing and overwhelming anxiety have a significant impact on their experience. As is illustrated in these accounts, autism and ASDs are heterogeneous in presentation. Additionally, although not considered as part of the autism diagnosis, cognitive ability in individuals with autism can also vary greatly; some individuals with autism have mental retardation while others score in the average, above average, or superior range of intelligence (Edelson, 2006). The heterogeneity in symptom presentation and severity, the heterogeneity in cognitive abilities, and the fact that even individuals with superior intelligence may not be able to decode and/or engage in typical social interaction can result in considerable variability in the ability of individuals with autism to interact and communicate successfully with others.
Most typical children have social, communication, and cognitive skills that allow them to navigate the complexities of the social world with success. Despite these skills, there are some children who will be victims of unwanted and harmful social interactions such as child sexual abuse. Current estimates suggest that 1:3 girls and 1:10 boys will be sexually abused by the time they are 18 years old (Tang, Freyd, & Wang, 2007). Given the nature of sexual abuse and the hesitancy to disclose its occurrence (Alaggia, 2004), the rates of child sexual abuse are likely underreported (Tang et al., 2007). Furthermore, when sexual abuse does occur, the sexual offender is usually someone who is known and trusted by the child (Cavanagh Johnson, 1999).
Although there are no empirical data assessing the frequency with which children with autism specifically are sexually abused, there is information about those with developmental disabilities in general. Mansell, Sobsey, and Moskal (1998) note that the rates of sexual abuse for children with developmental disabilities are nearly two times greater than for typical children. Moreover, Mansell et al. suggest that the effects of sexual abuse in developmentally disabled individuals may be exacerbated by social isolation and alienation.
When there are concerns that a typical child may have been sexually abused, there are protocols for how to evaluate whether or not abuse has occurred. Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) or Child Abuse Assessment Centers (CAACs) that offer medical examinations of children and forensic interviews to make a determination regarding sexual abuse are often utilized (Cronch, Viljoen, & Hansen, 2006; Walsh, Jones, & Cross, 2003). These determinations are based on medical evidence obtained, which is rare in cases of sexual abuse (Finkel & Dejong, 1996; Myers, 1998); a previous history provided by the child and his/her family; and statements the child makes during the evaluation. In order for a valid determination to be made regarding whether or not sexual abuse has occurred, the child has to be able to participate effectively in the entire evaluation. Some children with autism may have difficulty with the models currently used to assess whether sexual abuse has occurred because of the use of lengthy, one-time interviews and the need for sustained reciprocity and verbal exchanges (Cronch et al., 2006; Cross, Jones, Walsh, Simone, & Kolko, 2007). For these reasons, it is important to develop protocols for use with individuals with autism that are sensitive to the way in which individuals with autism most easily interact and communicate with others.
The goal of the present paper is to highlight the reasons why children and adolescents with autism may be vulnerable to sexual abuse and to raise awareness about the lack of adequate protocols for evaluating children and adolescents with autism when there are concerns of sexual abuse. For the purposes of this paper, the discussion will be limited to those with autism or Asperger syndrome only, not the other ASDs. In the current paper, two main points will be argued: (a) that children with autism are at risk for sexual abuse and may have challenges being understood if they make a disclosure of abuse should it occur; and (b) that when children with autism are sexually abused, they may show this in ways that get missed or misattributed to autism rather than to possible sexual abuse. Furthermore, when there are concerns about possible sexual victimization, there are challenges in evaluating individuals with autism due to the unique ways in which individuals with autism communicate, making the use of traditional strategies for assessing whether or not a child has been sexually abused inadequate. This issue will be briefly addressed in the conclusion of the paper.

Characteristics of Autism and Risk for Sexual Abuse

Individuals with autism encounter behavioral, social, and communicative challenges (APA, 2000) largely because the social world is designed for typical individuals. Although not an issue for all individuals with autism, certain social-emotional and communication challenges, when present, may be interpreted by sexual offenders as vulnerabilities that they can exploit. The current section highlights the increased risk for sexual abuse that might be present for those children with autism who have the specific social-emotional and communication challenges discussed.
For example, interpreting the emotions of others may help a child identify safe from unsafe individuals. Although some self-advocates describe a keen ability to process and intuit others' emotions (Mukhopadhyay, 2008), other self-advocates (Prince-Hughes, 2002) describe their own significant challenges in this area. Research has also shown that emotional processing can be difficult for some individuals with autism. Begeer, Koot, Rieffe, Meerum Terwogt, and Stegge (2008) conducted a review of the literature related to the emotional competence in children with autism with regard to four areas required to be successful in social interactions: (a) expression of emotion; (b) perception of emotion; (c) responding to emotion; and (d) understanding emotion. Begeer et al. (2008) noted that laboratory studies of those with autism generally reported that those who have few symptoms of autism are able to express simple emotions and respond to others' emotions, whereas those who have many symptoms of autism are more likely to encounter difficulties in emotional processing. Begeer et al. also found that in natural settings, many individuals with autism may encounter challenges in identifying emotions and responding empathically to others.
It can be even more difficult for individuals with autism to understand the emotions of others when the emotions expressed are deceptive (as may be the case when interacting with a possible sexual offender). Dennis, Lockyer, and Lazenby (2000) found that high functioning children with autism were less able to identify facial expressions that depicted deceptive emotions and were less able to understand the reasons why someone would display a deceptive facial expression compared with age- and gender-matched control children. Offenders attempt to gain trust from potential victims and often do so by being deceptive. Therefore, they may display deceptive emotions that may not be recognized by some children with autism.
In addition to difficulty with emotional processing, children with autism may encounter communication challenges that may make them particularly desirable targets of sexual offenders because of the perception that they would be unable to disclose the abuse. Research indicates that up to 50% of children with autism are functionally nonverbal (APA, 2000). Although there are alternative and augmentative methods used by many children with autism to communicate effectively, the seeming inability of nonverbal children with autism to communicate may increase the likelihood that sexual offenders would target them for abuse.
Even verbal children with autism may have difficulty reporting abuse if they have certain communication difficulties. For example, Dahlgren and Dahlgren Sandberg (2008) examined referential communication in children with autism and ASDs. Referential communication requires a speaker to provide enough specific information to a listener so that the listener knows to what the speaker is referring. This skill is especially important in communicating information not already known by another party, as in the case of a sexual abuse disclosure. Dahlgren and Dahlgren Sandberg found that children with autism or ASDs had greater difficulty communicating relevant information about a referent and were less efficient referential communicators than typical children. Thus, some children with autism who attempt to disclose sexual abuse may not have the skills to effectively communicate what happened to them in a way that will be understood by others. Furthermore, Hale and Tager-Flusberg (2005) note that some children with autism have difficulties with the pragmatic use of language and in the ability to maintain social discourse with others. These difficulties are especially likely to be manifested in conversation, again increasing the likelihood that some children with autism may be unable to understand the nuances of reciprocal conversation needed to disclose sexual abuse should it occur.
Social-emotional and communication challenges are just part of the reason why some children with autism may be at risk for sexual abuse. Stevens (1997) studied the selection techniques predatory rapists used to target victims. He classified the selection characteristics into one of four broad categories: (a) "easy prey" (e.g., vulnerable victims such as being young and female); (b) victim attributes (e.g., sexual desirability); (c) situational characteristics (e.g., opportunity); and (d) circumstance or manipulation (e.g., the use of victim manipulation such as violence or intimidation prior to the sexual assault). Because children with autism may be seen as "easy prey," may be easily accessible to offenders, and may be easily manipulated or intimidated because of social challenges related to autism (APA, 2000), they may be seen as particularly desirable targets of sexual abuse by offenders.
Moreover, sexual offenders who target children often have cognitive distortions that allow them to justify their offending and not identify the offending as "wrong" or "harmful" to the child (Burn & Brown, 2006). The offenders' cognitive distortions serve to justify their offending by minimizing or rationalizing the offending behavior (Burn & Brown, 2006). In the adult sexual assault literature, it has been shown that one cognitive strategy employed by sexual offenders to "allow" them to offend is the "objectification" of their victims, viewing them as objects rather than people (Russell, 1998). Some children with autism may exhibit certain repetitive or stereotyped behaviors that seem unusual to others (APA, 2000). Therefore, a sexual offender may find it much easier to objectify a child who engages in these behaviors than to objectify a typical child.
According to Cavanagh Johnson (1999), there are two main types of child sexual offenders. The first is the offender who "grooms" the child prior to offending. Grooming behaviors have the function of introducing the child to pleasant forms of physical contact and of establishing a positive relationship with the child over time to mold the child into a potential victim. By grooming the child, the offender is able to test whether or not the child will resist or disclose the abuse early in the offending process. A child who resists grooming efforts is typically discarded by the offender as a potential victim because he/she is perceived to be a risk to disclose the abuse. In this instance, the tactile defensiveness experienced by some children with autism (Grandin & Scariano, 1986) might work in the children's favor; however, children with autism who do not speak may not be perceived by offenders as carrying the same risk of disclosure as a typical child, and therefore, offenders may choose not to engage in grooming behaviors. The second type of child sexual offender is the "opportunistic" offender, who takes advantage of opportunities to offend vulnerable children (Cavanagh Johnson, 1999). Both the social-emotional and communication challenges previously discussed place children with autism at increased risk of sexual abuse by opportunistic offenders and may make children with autism particularly desirable — or even "ideal" — targets for opportunistic offenders.
Children with autism may also be at greater risk of being sexually abused than typical children because of the increased contact with opportunistic offenders who are service providers. Goldman (1994) cites evidence that over 50% of offenders of individuals with developmental disabilities had contact with their victims through some type of disability services with which they were involved. The specific nature of the offenders' contact with their victims included serving as paid service providers, as foster care providers, and as transportation providers. Because children with autism often require specialized services such as those cited by Goldman (1994), they may come into frequent contact with potential abusers. Moreover, although there are not data specific to autism, those with developmental disabilities who live in institutional settings may be at even greater risk for sexual abuse than those who reside with their nuclear family (Goldman, 1994). This is likely due to increased contact with opportunistic offenders in the institutional milieu.
Finally, regardless of offender type, children with ASDs may be at increased risk of being sexually abused compared with typical children because of the desire to be accepted socially despite the social challenges they often face. If a sexual offender presents him/herself as a "friend," the child may see the relationship with the perpetrator as an opportunity to have the social relationship he/she desires. Just as is the case for typical children, a child with an ASD might become the victim of an offender who initiates sexually inappropriate behaviors in order to keep the "friendship." Similarly, due to a lack of proper sex education, which is often not provided to children with autism due to an erroneous belief that children with autism are asexual (Irvine, 2005), a child with an ASD may not recognize that the offender's behaviors are, in fact, inappropriate. This risk is noted by Newport and Newport (2002) who state, "the relative naiveté of autistic girls or their possible wish to trade sex for 'popularity' may initiate them far earlier [into sexual activity] but rarely in a healthy way" (p. 34).
Given the increased risk of sexual abuse that children with autism may face, it is important to identify when sexual abuse has occurred. However, due to the constellation of symptoms associated with autism, children with autism who are sexually abused may not be identified as abuse victims. The next section details why behavioral signs of sexual abuse in children with autism may be missed or misattributed to the child's autism.

Misattributed or Missed Behavioral Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children with Autism

Children with autism sometimes display self-stimulatory behaviors, self-injurious behaviors, and stereotypic and repetitive behaviors (APA, 2004; Cunningham & Schreibman, 2008). Should a child with autism be sexually abused, the child's attempts to cope with or make sense out of that abuse may lead to an increase in the intensity and frequency of these behaviors or to the development of new behaviors that were not previously present.
Research suggests that children with autism who are nonverbal exhibit more behavioral difficulties than those who have verbal communication abilities (Dominick, Davis, Lanihart, Tager-Flusberg, & Folstein (2007). This may relate to frustration caused by the inability of others to understand what the child is trying to communicate. For example, Dominick et al. (2007) found that there was a significant inverse relationship between the display of self-injurious behaviors and expressive verbal language ability in a sample of children with autism. For children with autism who wish to disclose their abuse, behavioral reactions to sexual abuse may develop if others cannot understand their communication about the abuse, but these behaviors may be misinterpreted by others as merely a manifestation of autism. Therefore, the fact that the child was, or continues to be, sexually abused may be missed.
Some have suggested that the presence of sexualized behaviors is indicative of sexual abuse. For example, Bow, Quinnell, Zaroff, and Assemany (2002) note that the presence of sexualized behaviors occurs more frequently in sexually abused children than non-sexually abused children. However, researchers have also found that sexualized behaviors can occur in response to physical abuse, not just sexual abuse (Merrick, Litrownik, Everson, & Cox, 2008). Additionally, the presence of sexualized behaviors does not necessarily mean that any abuse has occurred (Cavanagh Johnson, 1999). Cavanagh Johnson (2002) discusses a continuum of sexual behaviors that children can display, including typical sexual behaviors; sexually-reactive behaviors; excessive, but mutual, peer sexual behaviors; and sexually abusive behaviors. The first category on the continuum is developmentally normative, and the other three categories can develop in reaction to traumatic events in general or to over-stimulating environmental experiences, not just in reaction to abuse (Cavanagh Johnson, 2002).
Historically, those with developmental disabilities were not believed to have sexual feelings (Irvine, 2005). Nario-Redmond (in press) conducted a study that examined empirically the cultural stereotypes individuals have of individuals who are and are not disabled. Part of her investigation sought to identify which characteristics of individuals with disabilities would be offered spontaneously by the participants, some of whom had disabilities and some of whom did not. Consistent with the historical views of individuals with disabilities, Nario-Redmond found that the three most commonly offered stereotypes of both men and women with disabilities were that they were dependent, incompetent, and asexual.
Nario-Redmond (in press) notes that there are challenges present for individuals who differ from the norm not because of any biologically-based disabilities they may manifest but because the environments and policies which they encounter can "systematically exclude" them from full participation in the world. Because of this exclusion and the stereotype that individuals with disabilities are asexual, individuals with autism may not be given opportunities for appropriate displays of, or education related to, sexual behaviors. Thus, they may manifest sexually inappropriate behaviors that others may misattribute as indicative of sexual abuse. Furthermore, children who are sexually abused do not always display sexualized or concerning behaviors at all (Kendall-Tackett, Meyer Williams, & Finkelhor, 1993). Therefore, the presence or absence of sexualized behaviors cannot be used as a marker for whether or not a child has been sexually abused.
Unfortunately, there is no research on the behavioral manifestations of sexual abuse in children with autism. In fact, a PsycInfo search attempting to obtain literature on the sexual abuse of children with autism revealed no empirical articles on this topic. Sexuality, in general, has been rarely discussed in the scholarly literature on autism as well; only four references were found when doing a combined search for sexuality and autism (see Gabriels & Van Bourgondien, 2007; Koller, 2000; Rhodes, 2006; Stokes & Kaur, 2005). There has been slightly more attention paid to sexuality in the non-scholarly literature but not much.
Jerry and Mary Newport, a married couple with autism/Asperger syndrome, have written a book that provides information and practical advice on sexuality given their experiences (Newport & Newport, 2002). The Newports provide pragmatic information on developing social and sexual relationships, how to address the first sexual feelings, and how parents should talk about sexuality with their children with ASD. They also have a chapter on rape, molestation, and abuse. The Newports are evidence that individuals with ASDs are sexual and can and do encounter multiple kinds of sexual abuse.
The scholarly literature on sexuality in individuals with autism that does exist focuses mainly on the perceptions and concerns of parents with regard to sexual education. In one of the few studies on sexuality in autism, Ruble and Dalrymple (1993) analyzed 100 surveys of parents with children with autism from 9 to 38 years of age, assessing the parents' (usually mothers') views of their children's sexual awareness, education, and behaviors. The survey results revealed that the more verbal the child, the more the parents reported that the child had knowledge of body parts and functions, understood the difference between public and private behaviors, and had received some form of sex education. It is possible that these results were obtained because parents of children with greater verbal abilities had talked with their children more about sexuality than did parents of children with less developed verbal skills. Ruble and Dalrymple also found that the more verbal the child, the more the parents reported that the child displayed inappropriate sexual behaviors, with 66% of the parents of verbal children with autism observing at least some inappropriate sexual behaviors in their children. As is the case with those with developmental disabilities in general (Irvine, 2005), this may be due to the lack of opportunity for appropriate sexual behaviors, possibly because of the stereotype that individuals with autism are asexual (Nario-Redmond, in press).
In Ruble and Dalyrmple's (1993) study, parents of children with autism were concerned about their child being taken advantage of sexually, experiencing unwanted pregnancy and STDs, having sexual behaviors misunderstood, and questioning whether sexual relations were even relevant for individuals with autism. However, most parents did not have concerns related to typical sexual development in their child, again possibly due to a reflection of the societal view that individuals with autism are asexual.
Sexualized behaviors may appear at various stages of sexual development for typical children (Cavanagh Johnson, 1999) and may seem more pronounced in children with autism because the ages at which children with autism reach various developmental stages may be delayed compared to typical children. For example, although it is fairly common for preschool children to explore and stimulate their own bodies, sometimes in public (Cavanagh Johnson, 1999), children and adolescents with autism may also engage in these behaviors although at an older age. The presence of these behaviors may then be misinterpreted as signs of sexual abuse, especially if parents maintain the belief that children with autism are asexual (see Ruble & Dalrymple, 1993). Conversely, there may be times when sexualized behaviors do indicate sexual abuse, but parents and professionals may instead conclude that the behaviors are just part of a delayed progression of typical sexual development. It is, therefore, easy to note why it may be difficult to determine if a child with autism has been sexually abused on the basis of observed behaviors.
In addition to the difficulty in determining whether or not a child with autism has been sexually abused based solely on behavior, there is also the potential for behavioral signs of sexual abuse to be misattributed as signs of autism. There is evidence in the psychiatric literature that when individuals have a mental illness, their behavior may be interpreted in light of their disorder (Rosenhan, 1973). Rosenhan (1973) conducted a classic study in which he sent "pseudopatients" into psychiatric facilities complaining of hearing existential voices saying "empty," "hollow," or "thud." With the exception of masking the fact that the pseudopatients worked in the mental health field, all other personal information provided to the psychiatric facilities was accurate. All pseudopatients were deemed mentally ill (most diagnosed as having schizophrenia) and admitted to a psychiatric facility. However, once admitted, the pseudopatients no longer complained of hearing voices and, with the exception of note-taking to document the results of the study, did not act in any way different from how they typically acted.
Among other interesting results that Rosenhan (1973) noted was that the note-taking was assumed to be a manifestation of their schizophrenia. Rather than question a behavior such as note-taking in a psychiatric facility, the mental health professionals merely saw it as a symptom of the patient's disorder. Even the pseudopatients' personal histories were interpreted in a way that seemed to support their diagnoses. According to Rosenhan (1973), "one tacit characteristic of psychiatric diagnosis is that it locates the sources of aberration within the individual and only rarely within the complex of stimuli that surrounds [the person]. Consequently, behaviors that are stimulated by the environment are commonly misattributed to the patient's disorder" (p. 253).
In the field of autism, there have been many historical examples where environmental conditions led to assumptions about the abilities of individuals with autism. Perhaps the best example of this is the oft-reported belief that the majority of individuals with autism are mentally retarded despite a lack of evidence for these claims (Edelson, 2006). The assumption of mental retardation was often made when communication, behavioral, or attention challenges prevented examiners from obtaining valid estimates of intelligence. Researchers would attribute low test scores to the intellectual abilities of the children with autism rather than to the fact that the measures used to assess intelligence were not appropriate for the children or that the examiners did not account for the symptoms of autism when attempting to determine intelligence (Edelson, 2006). Similarly, it is quite probable that a child with autism who has been sexually abused and subsequently displays behaviors deemed concerning by others may have those behaviors misattributed to his/her autism.
There have been a number of individuals with autism who have been able to share their frustrations when their behaviors have been misattributed, misunderstood, or pathologized. Temple Grandin, an adult with autism, has written a number of books about what it is like to have autism. In her book, Emergence labeled autistic, she describes many challenging situations when she was a child and teased because of her autism. One example she recalls was a time when a girl in her junior high school called her a "retard." Grandin relates how she became so angry that she hurled her history book at the girl and, in the process, hit the girl in the eye. Her principal, Mr. Harlow, expelled her from school following this incident. As she relays the situation, Temple notes, "anger and frustration surged through me and I trembled, sick to my stomach. Mr. Harlow hadn't even asked to hear my side of it. He just assumed that since I was 'different' I was entirely to blame" (Grandin & Scariano, 1986, p. 64). Just as Mr. Harlow attributed the negative interaction with the school girl to Temple's autism, there are many times when researchers, mental health professionals, teachers, and perhaps even parents attribute behaviors seen in the child to his/her autism rather than to a myriad of other factors that may account for these behaviors.
More recently, there have been self-advocates who have discussed the challenges they have faced when their behaviors have been misunderstood or pathologized by typical individuals. Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay has written a number of books detailing his experiences as someone with autism who is required to interact in the typical world. In his most recent book, How can I talk if my lips don't move? Inside my autistic mind (Mukhopadhyay, 2008), Tito describes his frustration at how his mother viewed autism as something to be cured, rather than as something to be accepted. Tito states, "How could she [my mother] participate in a system that classified me as sick? Did Mother really think I was less of a person?" (p. 176). Often, typical individuals will characterize the behaviors of individuals with autism as "pathological" or "sick." Not only is this damaging to the individual, it may result in the misattribution of concerning behaviors to the "sickness" of autism rather than to an environmental cause for the behaviors, such as sexual abuse.
Finally, some individuals with autism may feel they need to adapt behaviors that are comforting to "fit in" with the typical world. For example, in her edited book, Aquamarine blue: Personal stories of college students with autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes shares the stories of many adults with autism and ASDs (Prince-Hughes, 2002). One person whose story she shares is Darius who describes his frustration with the fact that he must "disguise" self-stimulating behaviors because of the pressures by those in the typical world who do not understand the "reassuring feeling" such behaviors can provide. Darius describes an episode at school when he was 11, and he was bouncing with his back to the wall. His teacher told him not to bounce, and Darius states, "I remember not understanding why I could not bounce, as it was such a reassuring feeling. I had already decided to stop publicly engaging in some of the more clearly autistic 'stimming' behaviors and only did them in my room. This was the last one to go. I had by that time learned to 'disguise' some of the 'stimming' and repetitive behavior" (Prince-Hughes, 2008; p.13). Darius' story reflects the conflict between engaging in behaviors that help allay anxiety (as was the case with his "bouncing") and hiding those behaviors because others did not understand them. It is possible and, in fact, likely that a child with autism who is sexually abused may turn to behaviors that provide comfort such as "stimming" or self-soothing behaviors, the reasons for which may be misattributed to an increase in the severity of the child's autism rather than to the abuse. Moreover, the pressures to "cure" these behaviors may increase which may obfuscate the search for any environmental reasons for these behaviors.
There may also be misattributions with regard to the origins of offending behaviors sometimes seen by individuals on the autism spectrum. Most victims of child sexual abuse do not become sexual offenders; however, some offenders do have a history of child sexual abuse victimization (Burn & Brown, 2006; Coxe & Holmes, 2001; Glasser, Kolvin, Campbell, Glasser, Leitch, & Farrelly, 2001). This is especially true for male victims of child sexual abuse (Glasser et al., 2001). Coxe and Holmes (2001) found that male child sexual offenders were nearly twice as likely to offend a child under the age of 10 years old if they had a history of being sexually abused as a child compared to offenders who did not have a history of childhood victimization. Therefore, it is essential to identify those children who have been sexually abused so that they both can obtain treatment to help them heal from the abuse and not become offenders of young children themselves.
There is recent literature to suggest that some adults with high functioning autism or Asperger's Disorder engage in offending behavior, although the frequency with which this occurs has been the subject of debate (Allen, Evans, Hider, Hawkins, Peckett, & Morgan, 2008). Allen et al. studied a small group of adults with Asperger's Disorder and obtained data from informants about the sample's offending behaviors. Among other findings, the informants offered predisposing factors that they believed led to the offending, most of which were attributed to the Asperger's Disorder. The predisposing factors included such variables as social naiveté, lack of awareness of outcome, and misinterpretation of rules.
What is of interest in the Allen et al. (2008) study is the failure to note the possible role of sexual victimization as a predisposing factor for offending. Consistent with Rosenhan's (1973) assertion, the informants' attributions for the offending behaviors were congruent with the symptoms associated with Asperger's Disorder, and there was little attempt to consider other explanations for why the adults, all of whom were male, may have engaged in offending behaviors. Clearly, the majority of individuals with Asperger's Disorder do not engage in offending behavior. Therefore, it is logical to suspect that, at least some of the time, variables unrelated to Asperger's Disorder symptomatology account for offending when it occurs. Because of the history of child sexual abuse victimization in some adult offenders (Burn & Brown, 2006; Coxe & Holmes, 2001), it is reasonable to assume that this link might exist in some individuals with autism and Asperger's Disorder who offend. It is, therefore, vital that sexual abuse of children with Asperger's Disorder and autism be identified so that appropriate intervention can help children heal without developing offending behaviors.

Conclusions and Implications

The world of autism research and education has devoted little attention to sexuality in general and the possibility of sexual abuse in particular. The lack of research does not mean, however, that the issue does not exist. Due to the particular manifestations of ASDs, children on the spectrum are likely to be at greater risk for sexual abuse than other children. Because of this risk, it is incumbent upon researchers to identify strategies to prevent sexual abuse, to develop protocols to assess accurately if abuse has occurred, to educate people with ASDs about sexual health and abuse, to ensure children with autism are taught to use augmentative and alternative means of communication, and to develop methods to help children heal so that they do not develop offending behaviors themselves in response to abuse.
When sexual abuse is suspected in children with autism, there must be valid protocols established to assess whether or not it has occurred. There are many models used to assess typical children when there are concerns of sexual abuse. Cronch, Filjoen, and Hansen (2006) reviewed different techniques frequently used in forensic interviews to determine whether or not sexual abuse has occurred. Some of these include the use of cognitive interviews, anatomically detailed dolls, and structured interviews.
Unfortunately, these techniques may not work well for children with autism and ASDs. First, sexual abuse evaluations are often one-time experiences in which a child meets with a previously unknown person. Many children with autism prefer consistent routines and may have difficulty with new environments (Richler, Bishop, Kleinke, & Lord, 2007) and/or unfamiliar people. Temple Grandin describes difficulty with changes in routines and the anxiety new situations or people would cause her as a child with autism (Grandin & Scariano, 1986). Thus, the one-time nature of the evaluation may be problematic. Second, the standards of practice in forensic interviewing are based on the utilization of structured protocols with an emphasis on open-ended questions designed to elicit free narratives (Cronch et al., 2006). These protocols require a child to have sufficient verbal skills and the ability to engage in referential communication and conversational discourse which some children with autism may not be able to do (Dahlgren & Dahlgren Sandberg, 2008; Hale & Tager-Flusberg, 2005). Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay discusses the difficulty he has with facial perception and recognition. In fact, Tito describes how he creates stories of the sensory experiences he has when talking with others, sensory experiences often relating to vibrant colors because of the fact that he experiences synesthesia. Tito notes that "without those stories, recognizing and recalling a person or a situation is very difficult" (Mukhopadhyay, 2008; p. 109). The currently utilized protocols for sexual abuse assessment would not be reliable or valid for a person like Tito, given his way of recalling the "stories" of the people in his world. Therefore, the creation of new protocols that reliably enable individuals with autism to disclose sexual abuse is imperative. Firsthand accounts of people with ASDs, such as Temple Grandin, the Newports, Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay, and the adults whose stories appear in Dawn Prince-Hughes' book, some of whom have been sexually abused, must inform how these protocols are structured.
The ineffectiveness of current protocols may also be due in part to the fact that children with autism, like typical children, have short attention spans and have not encountered situations in the real world that mirror a forensic interview. An extended forensic evaluation model has been suggested by the National Children's Advocacy Center (Cronch et al., 2006) in which multiple interviews are used to address those with shorter attention spans and/or those who need to establish a rapport with their communication partners before meaningful and personal communication will occur. Although the impetus of the extended forensic evaluation model was the need to find a process that worked better for young children than those currently employed, it could be adapted for use with children with autism. Certainly, modifications to address the various challenges discussed in this paper would be necessary. Difficulty identifying faces and places (Mukhopadhyay, 2008), the tendency to shut down all communication if the interviewer is condescending (Mukhopadhyay, 2008; Prince-Hughes, 2002), and a significant lack of body awareness (Grandin & Scariano, 1986; Newport & Newport, 2002; Prince-Hughes, 2002), are additional challenges individuals on the autism spectrum often face, and these also must be recognized and incorporated in the establishment of new protocols. Moreover, firsthand accounts of, and feedback from, self-advocates who identify as being on the spectrum will help design the protocols most likely to enable reliable disclosure of sexual abuse by both speaking and non-speaking children with ASDs.
Without an acknowledgement that sexual abuse is a real risk for children with autism, there cannot be adequate measures taken to ensure the safety of these children, to help those who have been sexually abused heal from the abuse, and to prevent possible future victimization of other children. Angie, an adult with autism who scores in the "very superior" range on intelligence tests, recounts the aftereffects of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse as a child (Prince-Hughes, 2002). She states, "I am frightened to be put into a situation where I have to explain anything to anyone…. Most of the time I just keep it to myself because I just make too many enemies when I say something…. I am not really interested in anything anymore (although I once had the remarkable ability to be interested in anything). In fact, I truly wish I had mental retardation because most people get what the hell that is and my life probably would have turned out better" (Prince-Hughes, 2002; pp. 77-78). Angie is able to articulate both the frustration at not being understood because of her autism and the despair that abuse as a child has caused or at least contributed to. For individuals with autism like Angie who can articulate the effects of abuse and for those with autism who cannot, it is imperative that we as a community of researchers, educators, parents, and self-advocates find a way to increase the awareness of the risk of sexual abuse for those with autism and ASDs, to allow for a diversity of communication styles and voices to "hear" when abuse has happened, and most importantly, to prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.
The author wishes to express considerable thanks and appreciation to Ralph and Emily Savarese for comments on previous drafts of the current manuscript.


Why Autistic Kids Make Easy Targets for School Bullies

Bullying can lead to depression, low grades, behavioral problems and even physical illness because of the stress it causes — and kids with autism may be suffering the brunt of the harm

A new study finds that children with autism spectrum disorders are bullied far more often than their typically developing peers — nearly five times as often — but parents of autistic kids think the rate is even higher than that.
In the study, about 46% of autistic children in middle and high school told their parents they were victimized at school within the previous year, compared with just over 10% of children in the general population. Calling it a “profound public health problem,” lead author Paul Sterzing of Washington University in St. Louis told the New York Times that the “rate of bullying and victimization among these adolescents is alarmingly high.”
Many people with autism have trouble recognizing social cues, which makes them awkward around others. They also often engage in repetitive behaviors and tend to be hypersensitive to environmental stimuli, all of which makes kids with the disorder ripe targets for bullies who home in on difference and enjoy aggravating their victims. About a third of autism cases are severely disabling — those affected may suffer from low IQ and be unable to talk — but most autistic people have average or high intelligence and many can function well, if their social and sensory issues are appropriately addressed.
(MORE: Autism: Why Some Children ‘Bloom’ and Overcome Their Disabilities)
That may help explain why the highest functioning children in the current study were at greatest risk of being bullied. While their social awkwardness was more obvious because they actually interacted more with mainstream peers, this made their actual disability less visible, likely making their condition harder for their peers to understand.
Children with autism who could speak well, for example, were three times more likely to be bullied than those whose conversational ability was limited or absent. Further, those who were mainly educated in mainstream classrooms were almost three times more likely to be bullied than those who spent most of their time in special education.
The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, involved survey data from 920 parents of autistic children, who were asked about their children’s experience of bullying.
(MORE: Older Fathers Linked to Children’s Autism and Schizophrenia Risk)
About 15% of autistic children were reported to be bullies themselves — roughly the same rate as in the general teen population — and 9% were both bullies and victims. Bullying, which can take the form of teasing, exclusion, humiliation or physical assault, can lead to depression and other mental health problems, along with poor grades and even physical illness in victims because of the severe stress it causes.
Parents of autistic children think that the true rates of victimization are far higher than what the study found, and that the rates of perpetrating bullying are lower, precisely because autism disorders are characterized by an inability to read subtle social cues and by difficulty with communication. In order to report being bullied, you need to understand when you’re being targeted, for example; in contrast, you also need to understand and effectively deploy harassing social information in order to be a bully — things that autistic children generally cannot do.
“The only thing I can figure out is that maybe the parents are misinterpreting their children’s clumsy attempts [to socialize],” says Eileen Riley-Hall, a high-school teacher with an autistic daughter and author of Parenting Girls on the Autism Spectrum: Overcoming the Challenges and Celebrating the Gifts, regarding the rate of bullies among autistic kids in the new study. “I think of bullying as systematic manipulation. But [autistic children] are so candid, they’re typically not capable of that kind of forethought and malice.”
Impaired language skills and inability to read social cues also mean that many autistic children are bullied without ever realizing it or being able to report it. Riley-Hall recalled an incident involving her daughter in elementary school. “Little boys were getting her to say dirty words and laughing at her. She thought this was a good thing and that they were being friendly, but they were really making fun of her,” she says, describing how another girl, who knew it was wrong, told the teacher. But until the classmate reported it, Riley-Hall had no idea that her daughter was being bullied.
(MORE: How Pets Can Help Autistic Children Learn to Share and Comfort Others)
With recent national focus on the toll of school bullying, including bullying-related suicide, many school districts are updating their anti-bullying policies and states are giving the issue renewed legislative attention. Research finds that the best anti-bullying programs are comprehensive, involving the entire school and not just individual students. Programs that work well tend to encourage a warm school environment in which diversity is celebrated; they also rely on adults at the school, from the principal to the lunch ladies, to set a tone that clearly indicates that bullying isn’t acceptable. Studies find that students in schools that create such a welcoming atmosphere not only perform better academically, but also have lower rates of behavior problems like alcohol and drug use.
But despite efforts to encourage inclusion, acceptance of students with disabilities remains low overall. “There’s still a sense that they are not as fully human as other people,” says Riley-Hall.
Another factor that often leads to exclusion and derision is fear. “We have many generations who have had no personal experience with people with special needs, and they fear them,” Riley-Hall notes. “They pass that ignorance on to their children.”
As the study’s authors conclude: “Inclusive classrooms need to increase the social integration of adolescents [with autism] into protective peer groups while also enhancing the empathy and social skills of typically developing students towards their peers with [autism] and other developmental disabilities.”
Indeed, although autistic people are often claimed to lack empathy, their problems usually relate to an inability to understand the minds of others— not an actual lack of care when they know someone is suffering. Meanwhile, people without autism aren’t supposed to be impaired in understanding others’ pain, so what’s our excuse?
MORE: What Genius and Autism Have in Common
Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.


Life with Aspergers (Adult Bullying)

Understanding Adult Bullying 

Monday, November 4, 2013


Understanding Adult Bullying

You could be forgiven for thinking that bullying is “something that happens to kids”. After all, that’s how the media portrays it.  The theory is that if bullying happens to adults, it’s rare, it’s obvious and it’s generally the work of “rednecks” or similar people who lack the education and/or social exposure to be more accepting of others. 

In reality, bullying is as common, as pervasive and as destructive amongst adults as it is among kids. The difference is that the vast majority of adult bullying goes undetected - or at least unchallenged by most adult bystanders. We expect our children to report bullying and yet we fail to do it ourselves.

In order to really understand bullying, you have to know what it means. Google defines bullying as to; “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something”.

Bullying is Intentional
I think this is a very good definition. It makes it clear that there is an intended result to bullying. It’s not accidental, nor unintentional, and for those of us who have kids with ADHD, it’s thankfully not simple impulsivity.  No. Bullying is an act with an intended outcome - even if that outcome is merely “to make a particular person cry”.

Bullying amongst kids is reasonably easy to see, after all, kids are generally transparent about the things they want, control of the playground, their favourite toy, someone’s lunch money etc.  Kids are also quite good at articulating these wants and will open directly with a request, for example, for lunch money before they move onto bullying in earnest.

Adults on the other hand are much less direct.  They know that direct methods won’t work and instead resort to less obvious ones from the outset.  Often adults have a need for control and they generally won't walk up to you and say; "I want to control your department" or "I want to control you". Instead, they'll just start bullying until your reaction makes you give them what they want.

Bullying Requires Superior Strength
Then there’s the position of superior strength. It’s no coincidence that in the playground, the bully is often the biggest kid - or the strongest, or the loudest. The measurement of superior strength in the playground in generally based upon physical aspects, though as kids, particularly girls,  move into the later school years, bullying strength relies increasingly on popularity.

In adult bullying, superior strength is often achieved by “being popular” or team-building. This is frequently seen in companies where people who have the ear of the CEO are feared by their colleagues. Sometimes bullies will do favours for others so that they can call them in if needed.  Workplace bullies like to sit in the middle of the office and will often place candies or other incentives on their desks to attract others so that they can be included in conversations and office politics.

If a victim tries to take action against a bully with friends, it’s easy for the bully to convince people to take their side.  Having high numbers of supporters makes it easy for a bully to throw out an accusation with a catchphrase like, “not bullying, just adults behaving badly”.

Sometimes bullying strength, particularly in the workplace, comes from the job description. Human resources managers are often bullies as their access to personnel files allows them to “dig dirt” on their colleagues while suppressing negative reports of their own.  This can happen in other departments too, such as IT where it becomes easy to sabotage the work of another. Unscrupulous bullies in IT departments often use their privileged access rights to snoop on the files of other employees.  It's all about power.

Aspergers and Bullying
People with asperger’s syndrome are particularly prone to bullying for two main reasons;

  • Naivety; Many people with Asperger’s syndrome are completely oblivious to indirect communication. They usually believe the lies spun by bullies and can often be manipulated into doing a bully’s dirty work for them.  It’s also very easy for bullies to bait or otherwise manipulate naive aspie victims into situations which are difficult to defend. 

  • Differences; Bullies often pick on people who are different. It’s no longer politically correct to pick on people of different races, creeds or sexuality. There are laws against that. There are also laws covering physical disability but those laws become blurred when a disability is less obvious. Since people with Asperger’s syndrome generally look the same as everyone else, it’s easy for a bully to say “I didn’t know” in their defence.

How to Help
The following quote has been attributed to many people over the years and as far as I can tell, the origin is still hazy. Nevertheless, it’s a quote which applies extremely well to bullying situations.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

If you witness adult bullying and fail to act then your actions are no less wrong than a boy who witnesses his friend being bullied at school and fails to report or intervene. We want our children to step in - so why can’t we do the right thing as adults?  Why can’t we teach by example?


Help For Aspergers Students Who Are Bullied

What do you know about the bullying of Aspergers children in schools?  Here are the facts:

1. Although there is no consistent evidence that bullying overall is increasing, one area of growing concern is cyber-bullying, especially among older children.

2. Being bullied at school typically has negative effects on the physical and psychological well-being of those kids who are frequently and severely targeted.

3. Bullying can be categorized as physical, verbal and gestural.

4. Bullying has been reported as occurring in every school and kindergarten or day-care environment in which it has been investigated.

5. Aspergers kids typically report being bullied less often as they get older, although being victimized tends to increase when they enter secondary school.

6. Gender differences have been found indicating that Aspergers boys are bullied physically more often than Aspergers girls. Female bullies are generally more often involved in indirect forms of aggression (e.g., excluding others, rumor spreading, manipulating of situations to hurt those they do not like).

7. There are differences in the nature and frequency of victimization reported by Aspergers kids according to age. Generally, bullying among younger kids is proportionately more physical; with older kids, indirect and more subtle forms of bullying tend to occur more often.

Bullying usually has three common features:

• it is a deliberate, hurtful behavior
• it is difficult for those being bullied to defend themselves
• it is repeated

There are three main types of bullying:

• indirect / emotional; spreading nasty stories, excluding from groups
• physical; hitting, kicking, taking belongings
• verbal; name-calling, insulting, racist remarks


• Are often attention seekers.
• Bully because they believe they are popular and have the support of the others.
• Find out how the teacher reacts to minor transgressions of the rules and wait to see if the ‘victim’ will complain.
• If there are no consequences to the bad behavior, if the victim does not complain, and if the peer group silently or even actively colludes, the bully will continue with the behavior.
• Keep bullying because they incorrectly think the behavior is exciting and makes them popular.
• Will establish their power base by testing the response of the less powerful members of the group, watching how they react when small things happen.


• Are desperate to ‘fit in’.
• Blame themselves and believe it is their own fault.
• Don’t have the support of the teacher or classmates who find them unappealing.
• Rarely seek help.
• Lack the confidence to seek help.
• Often have poor social skills.

Bullying commonly begins when an Aspergers youngster is (a) ‘picked on’ by another youngster or by a group of kids, (b) is unable to resist, and (c) lacks the support of others. It will continue if the kids doing the bullying have little or no sympathy for the peer they are hurting, and especially if they are getting some pleasure out of what they are doing – and if nobody stops them.

Bullying takes place mostly outside the school building at free play, recess or lunchtime. It may also happen on the way to or from the school, and especially on the school bus if there is not adequate supervision.

Bullying may sometimes occur in the classroom. Here it is usually of a more subtle, non-physical kind (e.g., cruel teasing, making faces at someone, repeatedly making unkind and sarcastic comments).

If the bullying is severe and prolonged, and the targeted youngster is unable to overcome the problem or get help, the following can happen:

• For years to come, the youngster may distrust others and find it impossible to make friends.
• He or she may lose friends and become isolated.
• School work may suffer.
• The youngster may become seriously depressed, disturbed or ill.
• The youngster may lose confidence and self-esteem.
• The youngster may refuse to go to preschool or school.
• The youngster may seek revenge, and in extreme cases, may use a weapon to get even.

How Parents Can Help—

1. Don't talk to the parents of the bullies. Parents become defensive when their youngster is accused of bullying, and the conversation will generally not be a productive one. Let the school administrators manage the communication with the parents.

2. Explore with the Aspergers youngster what leads up to the bullying. Very occasionally a youngster may be provoking others by annoying or irritating them, and can learn not to do so.

3. Find out what has been happening and how the youngster has been reacting and feeling.

4. Children are almost always reluctant to have a parent intervene, because they fear the social stigma of having their mothers/fathers fight their battles. However, it is up to you to intervene on your youngster's behalf with school administrators to ensure your youngster's physical and emotional well-being.

5. It never helps to say it’s the youngster’s problem and that he or she must simply stand up to the bullies, whatever the situation. Sometimes this course of action is impractical, especially if a group is involved. Nor does it help the youngster to be over-protective, for example, by saying: ‘Never mind. I will look after you. You don’t have to go to school’.

6. Maintain open communication with your kids. Talk to them every day about details small and large. How did their classes go? What do they have for homework that night? Who'd they sit with at lunch? Who'd they play with at recess? Listen carefully and be responsive to show interest. Your children will know if you're distracted or just going through the motions, so pay attention.

7. Make a realistic assessment of the seriousness of the bullying and plan accordingly.

8. Be observant and notice changes in mood and behavior. For instance, an Aspergers youngster may cry more easily, become irritable or experience difficulty sleeping. Younger kids may find it difficult to explain what is wrong. Talking it over with a youngster’s teacher may lead to a better understanding of what is happening. Simply listening sympathetically helps. Such support can reduce the pain and misery.

9. Some children in middle school or junior high would actually rather endure the bullying than have a parent intervene on their behalf just to avoid the social stigma of having mom or dad fight their battles. Leaving your youngster on his own to deal with bullying could result in a decline in academic performance, depression and, in extreme cases, suicide. You are the parent. Support your youngster lovingly, but do take the bully by the horns.

10. Sometimes it is wise to discuss with the youngster what places it might be best to avoid, and, on occasions, whom to stay close to in threatening situations.

11. Suggest to the youngster things to do when he or she is picked on. Sometimes by acting assertively or not over-reacting, the bullying can be stopped. It is always much better if kids, with a bit of good advice, can do something to help themselves.

12. Take complaints seriously, whether they be stories of physical bullying or verbal or psychological bullying. If your youngster is telling you about problems she has at school, you can bet that there is plenty that she hasn't told you about. By the time a youngster reveals her pain to you, the bullying has almost always been going on for a prolonged period.

How the School Can Help—

Early intervention and effective discipline and boundaries truly are the best way to stop bullying, but mothers/fathers of the victims cannot change the bully’s home environment. Some things can be done at the school level, however. Here are some tips for teachers:

1. Get the kid’s parents involved in a bullying program. If parents of the bullies and the victims are not aware of what is going on at school, then the whole bullying program will not be effective. Stopping bullying in school takes teamwork and concentrated effort on everyone’s part. Bullying also should be discussed during parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings. Parental awareness is key.

2. Hand out questionnaires to all children and educators and discuss if bullying is occurring. Define exactly what constitutes bullying at school. The questionnaire is a wonderful tool that allows the school to see how widespread bullying is and what forms it is taking. It is a good way to start to address the problem.

3. In the classroom setting, all educators should work with the children on bullying. Oftentimes even the teacher is being bullied in the classroom and a program should be set up that implements teaching about bullying. Kids understand modeling behaviors and role-play and acting out bullying situations is a very effective tool. Have children role-play a bullying situation. Rules that involve bullying behaviors should be clearly posted. Schools also could ask local mental health professionals to speak to children about bullying behaviors and how it directly affects the victims.

4. Most school programs that address bullying use a multi-faceted approach to the problem. This usually involves counseling of some sort, either by peers, a school counselor, educators, or the principal.

5. Schools need to make sure there is enough adult supervision at school to lessen and prevent bullying.

Aspergers students who have to endure bullying usually suffer from low self-esteem, and their ability to learn and be successful at school is dramatically lessened. Schools and parents must educate kids about bullying behaviors. It will help all kids feel safe and secure at school. Kids who bully need to be taught empathy for others’ feelings in order to change their behaviors – and the school must adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding bullying of all children, with or without Aspergers.

Question: Hi. I go to the 8th grade. I have Aspergers and get picked on a lot. I have been bullied since kindergarten. How can I get the other kids to leave me alone?

Answer: Here’s what you do if someone is picking on you:

1. As much as you can, avoid the bullies. You can't go into hiding or skip class, of course. But if you can take a different route and avoid him, do it.

2. Don't hit, kick, or push back to deal with the bullies. Fighting back just satisfies them – and it's dangerous too. Someone could get hurt. You're also likely to get in trouble. It's best to stay with safe people and get help from an adult.

3. It’s very important to tell an adult. Find someone you trust and go and tell them what is happening to you. Teachers at school can all help to stop the bully. Sometimes bullies stop as soon as a teacher finds out because they're afraid that they will be punished. Bullying is wrong and it helps if everyone who gets bullied or sees someone being bullied speaks up.

4. Try your best to ignore the bullies. Pretend you don't hear them and walk away quickly to a safe place. Bullies want a big reaction to their teasing and meanness. Acting as if you don't notice and don't care is like giving no reaction at all, and this just might stop a bully's behavior.

5. Try distracting yourself (counting backwards from 100, spelling the word 'turtle' backwards, etc.) to keep your mind occupied until you are out of the situation and somewhere safe where you can show your feelings.

6. Pretend to feel really brave and confident. Tell the bully "No! Stop it!" in a loud voice. Then walk away, or run if you have to.

7. Two is better than one if you're trying to avoid being bullied. Make a plan to walk with a friend or two on the way to school or recess or lunch or wherever you think you might meet the bully.

8. When you're scared of another person, you're probably not feeling very brave. But sometimes just acting brave is enough to stop a bully. How does a brave person look and act? Stand tall and you'll send the message: "Don't mess with me."

9. Kids also can stand up for each other by telling a bully to stop teasing or scaring someone else, and then walk away together. If a bully wants you to do something that you don't want to do — say "no!" and walk away. If you do what a bully says to do, they will likely keep bullying you. Bullies tend to bully kids who don't stick up for themselves.

10. Feel good about yourself. A lot of kids get bullied. It doesn’t just happen to you.

The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook 

Best Comment:

My son Jonathan is 11 years old and in the sixth grade. He was diagnosised with Asperger's last year. But, school has been a traumatic, difficult, terrible journey since kindergarten. Until last year we thought Jonathan was just Jonathan, and was surprised there was a diagnosis for his "personality". He has been bullied severely in the school system. At first, we thought it was kids being kids in kindergarten. But, by third grade we knew there was something that made bullies come running to pick on him. The counselor said, if he would just be like the other kids this wouldn't happen. The principal and teachers denied seeing any bullying happening to Jonathan and took the attitude that if they didn't see it, it didn't happen. Jonathan would come home with bruises on him sometimes, but the principal and teachers would say that the fighting was caused by both Jonathan and what ever bully it was that day. The thing is my son has the most forgiving heart I have ever seen, and would stick out his hand to the bully to shake hands and forgive him before they left the principals office. He cannot bear the thought of anyone being upset with him. He always blames himself for the bullying, saying if I had done such and such or would be such and such, the bullies wouldn't say or do mean things. He, also, has a way of plastering on a smile when he is stressed or upset. He is almost expressionless with a smile on his face if that makes sense. We let the school "experts" talk us into thinking it wasn't so bad, kids will be kids, and that Jonathan is making a molehill out of a mountain. Jonathan was always punished alongside the bully. This was almost more painful to him than the "bullying incident". It really bothered his sense of justice, and he would obsess over it for days, until the next bullying episode would happen. We had endless meetings and it wasn't until I caught my son undressing in the third grade and saw that he had layers and layers of socks on and numerous pairs of underwear on, that it home how serious the situation was. I said "Jonathan why on earth are you dressed that way?" My heart just broke when he said "It doesn't hurt as bad when they hit and kick me." We moved him to a different school that very day!

At the new school, the bullying continued with a whole new group of kids. But, the principal did something different. She would listen to Jonathan's side, the bully's side AND she would bring in witnesses. The witnesses without fail would confirm Jonathan's take on the incident, time after time. Jonathan became know for his honesty. The principal said that Jonathan's explanations were huge and filled with long winded speeches on how he was right and how the bully was wrong and he would get off topic on moral issues or health issues, but if you listened long enough, you got the story. She also said that Jonathan (even though she could not explain why) attracted every bully in the school. This principal always took strong action against the bully. We thought that it wasn't a perfect situation because bullies were still picking on him, but we thought it was better that at least the bullies had swift punishment and Jonathan wasn't being punished for being bullied.

Then, last year, Jonathan had what the psychiatrist said was a mental breakdown. He became suicidal and actually tried to suffocate himself with a pillow. He developed bipolar symptoms. My child was unrecognizable as my child. It was the most painful, horrible, terrible thing for him to go through. It was so scary for me and my husband, and very hard and confusing for our other kids. Three doctors wanted to hospitalize him in a mental hospital. We refused because we would not be allowed to stay with him at a facility, and he was absolutely terrified of this idea (plus I could not bear to leave him with total strangers). We dedicated ourselves to a 24/7 suicidal watch for months and still to this day I feel that I am on this watch, even though he isn't suicidal. Jonathan has besides his pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a psychologist who specializes in Asperger's, three therapists that do pragmatic speech and occupational therapy, and a tutor for school. He was taken out of school (5th grade) from October last year to last of April. He returned to school, and to our surprise and everlasting gratefulness, a handful of classmates that embraced him and have become protective of Jonathan. He takes daily medication and is in a lot of therapy. He stills struggles with depression.

We were excited about the sixth grade for Jonathan. Finally, he had friends! Protective ones at that, who stopped others from bullying him. He had friends! I still love saying that. Finally, he was going to have a good year in elementary school, after 6 years of suffering (K-5).

But, no this is not happening!! Why? He does get picked on by kids, but his friends step in and stop it so Jonathan has been able to handle it. He is being bullied by a teacher and this he cannot handle. I am still shocked a teacher would do this!!!! He is afraid of this teacher. My son is not afraid of anyone. He loves all people! Even people who he should not love, like the bullies. He is very affectionate if he is the one initiating the affection. He is always hugging everyone in these long bear hugs, even total strangers he just met. He has no fear of strangers, of anyone. For him to say he is afraid of a teacher, clangs the alarm bells in my head! I have documented incidents. The thing about it is, most of it is he said, she said and is verbal and is intimidation. We went to the teacher about it. Then, the principal about it. Nothing is being done. Jonathan sees his Asperger psychologist every other week for therapy, and now she says ties must be cut with this teacher because of the severe mental anguish being caused.

The principal says Jonathan can either change schools or he can go back into homebound schooling. The doctors say Jonathan needs to be around his peers for the socialization and needs to be in school (i would homeschool in a minute if I thought this was in his best interests). I refuse to change his schools when he finally has protective friends. I will not put him through the bullying he endured all over again at a new school. The principal said he is no longer welcome at the school until this is resolved. Now bear in mind, Jonathan is an honor roll student and not a discipline problem (per letter written by his homeroom teacher to one of Jonathan's doctors). The matter is not settled. My son is out of school as of the moment. We are going over the principal's head. If that doesn't work, Jonathan's amazing doctor is going to bring in an advocate to help us and start some legal proceedings.

What do you think about all of this? Do you have any advice? My biggest regret is that we did not know enough at the beginning and we did not change Jonathan's first school immediately!

Jonathan's diagnosises are: Asperger's, Bipolar, OCD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the severe bullying he has already endured in the schools, and ADHD.


Monday, December 22, 2014

3 adults plead not guilty to sodomizing 15-year-old boy at house party in Kentucky