Friday, May 30, 2008

Bullying: Resources for positive action

Yesterday, I recieved an email from a father of a young man with Asperger syndrome. He included the text of this email, which he sent to his son's school, and which he thought might be useful to other parents struggling with feelings of rage and frustration, along with concerns for the safety of thier children. He has kindly agreed to have it posted here, in case others would be interested in taking similar action:

Good Morning,

As most of you are aware my son, his name, has Asperger’s Syndrome. He is now 16 years old and can still tell you word for word the cruel things that some of the kids in his kindergarten class and our neighborhood said to him. He is also now doing very well in school and is popular with both teachers and the few friends who spend any time getting to know him.

This link will take you to the CBS newscast of the story that has broken my heart for 5 year old Alex Barton and his Mom, Melissa Barton, too:

This link will take you to an Asperger’s Syndrome support site with some additional details about the story, as well as links regarding the card and letter writing campaign I am asking each of you to consider taking part in:

Additionally, I would like to ask you to forward this information to your own School system’s School Board and ask that they initiate some kind of educational requirement or in service training for the teachers so that more situations like this can be avoided for these beautiful young people as they try to take their place in the

Thanks in advance for your


Of course this can be edited to suit individual needs; linking to this blog is certainly not a requirement for using it!

I have been planning to update my sidebar for some time, and am in the process of doing so now. I have added a link list of anti-bullying resources. I also recommend visiting lastcrazyhorn's blog, Odd One Out. She has written some very insightful posts on bullying and its consequences, and also has a link list focusing on specific articles on bullying.

The topic of teachers who bully their students has not been widely researched, but there are a couple of interesting papers available online. One is a very recently submitted master's thesis by Susan Marie Reschny of the University of Saskatchewan. Lengthy, but well worth the read, this is a qualitative study focusing on parents' perceptions and concluding with suggestions for administrators, school boards and other stakeholders to address the problem.

Alan McEvoy's Teachers Who Bully Students: Patterns and Implications has a lot to say about the abuse of power and tactics used by these teachers, tactics that will come as no surprise to anyone who has experienced bullying of any variety (shifting attention to the victim's behavior, attempts to convince victims they are "paranoid or crazy"). This is a pilot study which used convenience sampling, but it surely supports the need for more extensive research in the area of teachers who bully.

There are a few books which offer advice on bullying for students on the spectrum and their parents. Nick Dubin's Asperger Syndrome and Bullying: Strategies and Solutions discusses the topic from the viewpoint of a former victim. Discussing the importance of educating peers, addressing the issue of bystanders, and highlighting the importance of helping kids on the spectrum recognize bullying for what it is, this book covers a lot of ground.

These are just a few resources; there are many more available which I will add when I have the time. Please feel free to add others in the comments.


  1. I was bullied terribly by a teacher when I switched schools in sixth grade - I was 11. I mentioned it to several times to my mother and she dismissed my concerns with "But she's an English teacher! That's your best subject. Of course she likes you, you're wrong."

    Later in the year, my mother volunteered with the school and spent several hours with that teacher. She came home and said "You're right, honey. She doesn't like you and she doesn't like me either!"

  2. Hey, thanks for the link. :) I just did a post on bullying today in fact.

    There was a link that I included in the post that I think you would probably find very helpful.

  3. I would also recommend and
    These websites aren't specifically abou autistic spectrum disroders, they're about dyspraxia. However, there is a large overlap between the conditions - see for more information. Matt's hideout and dspraxicteens both have a large proportion of members diagnosed with autism, AS, PDD-NOS and ASD-NOS, and have good resources for dealing with bullying.
    I would also recommend - it is a good resourse, although it is not specific to disbilities.

  4. A very good letter.

    I am glad you mention teachers as bullies. Bullying in the workplace is a huge problem as well.

  5. It's a sad situation. I've taught students with Asperger's and watched them grow academically and emotionally. Those who were included socially did much better. I worked hard to teach anti-bullying techniques; I'll never really know if it works.

  6. Daisy, IMO the best anti-bullying technique is giving an example of toerance. It looks like you've managed that. Well done.

  7. Forgot one:

  8. Our school board has an excellent anti-bullying policy which seems to be working out well (
    -it's a .pdf). Two of my daughters have had different bullying incidents against them this year, and both of them were resolved to our satisfaction within 3 days.

    The first is my closer to NT daughter (still on the spectrum, but you need to look hard to find it)...she was being harassed online, and we printed out a copy of the chat transcripts, took them into the school, and sat down with the principal. He immediately started an investigation and within 3 days all of the students involved were suspended for a period of time. Not only that, they all have since apologized to my daughter, and with the way that her school handles these things, the "counseling" that they received from the principal and guidance counselor has meant that they've all ended up as friends again. An interesting side note- in our talk with the principal he told us that they take online bullying VERY seriously- he said that bullying within the school is actually dropping considerably because so much of it is happening online now. And in some ways it can be even worse, as people have many fewer constraints on how they act online. Some of the things that I saw typed in that chat transcript absolutely horrified me, and I'm not too easy to shock any more.

    We've had a couple of other incidents at my other daughter's school- she's in a self-contained classroom, and she's been on both the giving and receiving end of bullying this year (yes, even autistic kids can be bullies!).

    When she was the aggressor it seemed that she was copying behaviour that she'd seen, so it was dealt with appropriately. There have been a couple of incidents of kids picking on her- the most recent was some older boys on the playground teaching her to swear, and they were suspended immediately. I've been very satisfied with how both of the schools have handled the incidents.
    My second daughter's school is also extremely pro-active in educating everyone about special needs, and there's a remarkable degree of acceptance there which in part stems from the board's commitment to creating a safe and supportive school environment. Obviously it doesn't solve all of the problems, but it helps.

    Over the years I've found that if your board does NOT have policies like this one, if you're a parent, get involved at the board level with whichever committees you can and get them instituted. If nothing else, it's easier to walk into a school with a policy already intact and be able to point to exactly how an incident is going against board policies.


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