The DVD resource Asperger's and Bullying: An Inclusive Educational Approach (Slee,P.T. Bottroff, V; Wotherspoon, A., & Martin, J. 2013) is available to purchase from Autism SA and Caper. Produced and Directed by Alison Wotherspoon (Ph.D).
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a condition affecting development. It refers to students with autism and Asperger syndrome. Whilst the characteristics of Asperger syndrome appear more subtle than those typical of autism, it does not mean that Asperger syndrome is a mild disorder. It is called a spectrum because children with autism cross the ability range.
One in 160 Australians has an ASD and it is more often seen in boys than girls.
Young people with Asperger Syndrome experience disproportionate levels of bullying in mainstream school. A survey of 169 students (aged 5-17 years) identified with ASD in South Australia identified 62 per cent of the students reported they were bullied once a week or more often (Slee, P., personal communication, 2013). This compares with between approximately 27 per cent of other students (Cross, et al. 2009).
The costs of bullying are high in terms of relationships: victimisation is associated with depression, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem and poor social self-concept. Victims of peer aggression suffer a variety of feelings of psychosocial distress. They feel more anxious, socially anxious, depressed, lonely and worse about themselves than non-victims (Hawker & Boulton, 2000, p. 453).
The South Australian research found that school bullying has a strong impact on the lives of students with ASD. It showed a significant relationship between bullying and
The findings demonstrated that school bullying has a significant impact on the lives of students diagnosed with an ASD.
It's important to ensure the no putdown rule operates in your classroom and behaviours are strongly guided by the value of inclusion of differences.
Visual prompts, tutorial support and curriculum designed around students' specific interests are some of the ways schools can support Asperger students. These should be negotiated with teachers, families and students so that individual needs are met.
Children with autism have difficulties in three main areas:
A person with ASD might also show:
There are different diagnoses within the autism spectrum, but, irrespective of which is given, individuals with an ASD will experience difficulties in many different social situations, such as school and work. Some commentators now just talk of 'autism'
The diagnosis of autistic disorder is given to individuals with impairments in social interaction and communication as well as restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours that are generally evident prior to three years of age.
Individuals with Asperger syndrome have difficulties with social interaction and social communication and often demonstrate restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours. Individuals with Asperger disorder do not have a significant delay in early language acquisition and there is no significant delay in cognitive abilities or self help skills. Asperger is often detected later than autistic disorder as speech usually develops at the expected age.
The diagnosis of PDD-NOS or atypical autism is made when an individual has a marked social impairment but fails to meet full criteria for either autistic disorder or Asperger disorder. These individuals may also have communication impairments and/or restricted and repetitive interests, activities and behaviours.
Currently, there is no single known cause for ASD. However, recent research has identified strong genetic links. ASD is not caused by an individual's upbringing or their social circumstances.
There is presently no known cure for ASD. However, early intervention, specialised education and structured support can help develop an individual's skills. Every individual with ASD will make progress, although each individual's progress will be different. Progress depends on a number of factors including the unique make up of the individual and the type and intensity of intervention. The effects of an ASD can often be minimised by early diagnosis and the right interventions. With the support of family, friends and service providers, individuals can achieve a good quality of life.
ASD inevitably affects all members of the family. Most individuals with ASD do show attachments to their parents, although there may be differences in the way this is demonstrated, e.g. how they show affection.
While some ASD children do well in the mainstream classroom, staff understanding and appropriate training are essential. Because some children are not diagnosed until 7-8 years, as seems to be the case of children with Asperger syndrome, there are special implications for Early Childhood workers and teachers and special education consultants. A South Australian report (2006) showed that the majority of students with Asperger Syndrome were enrolled in local schools. Their isolation, as well as their often-challenging behaviour, which leads to frequent exclusions, coupled with their propensity for depression, makes it imperative to address the needs of this group.
A report from the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders has recommended that they should have 'access to an appropriate educational service appropriate to his her/needs' (Position Paper, April 2010). In their view, services to ASD children are insufficiently responsive to the needs of the group. Special training should be given to teachers, so that they can more effectively address students' needs in communication, social skills, learning, sensory issues and behaviour. Family involvement should be central to the management of ASD students.
Remember that students with Asperger syndrome are apt to be highly able, intelligent and technologically, mathematically or scientifically astute. They have the capacity to be significant contributors to society. It's valuable to the student that teachers can understand their difficulties and adjust to their needs: this will affect their potential to achieve educationally.
ASD students benefit from:
It is vital that the vision enshrined in the National Safe Schools Framework for physical and emotional safety for all students in Australian schools attends to the particular needs of young people diagnosed with ASD to ensure that there life and learning at school is free from the physically harmful, socially isolating and psychologically damaging effects of bullying.
A whole school approach is needed to address this issue. In the words of students surveyed in this research, there is a need to educate the school community about children with disabilities/special needs/more about individuality, so that others understand.
When you understand something about the diagnosis, you will understand something about the management and you are less likely to mismanage. (Shearer and McColl, 2003)
Bullying can continue over time, is often hidden from adults and will probably continue if no action is taken.Read More >
There are many forms of bullying that can take place in the school environment.Read More >
There is a growing awareness in Australia and other parts of the world about the level and impact of bullying in schools.Read More >
Subscribe to the Alannah & Madeline Foundation newsletter or visit our media centre for media information including media releases, spokespeople, publications and contacts.