Sunday, April 4, 2010

Guest Post For Autism Awareness Month

Autism Awareness Month, Bullying and Learn to be Buddies
By Amanda Gray from

Many of you are probably aware by now that April is Autism Awareness Month. My contribution to building awareness is on the topic of bullying.

Bullying and children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

For children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) bullying can be an issue that crops up more often than their peers. The main reason for this is the difficulties they may have with social problem-solving and interpreting the emotions or intent of others in social situations.

For example, children with ASD can be more vulnerable to bullying because of their more literal way of seeing life. So this is something that other children may take advantage of by leading them into trouble. Or they may say nice things sarcastically – and the child with Autism is likely to miss the sarcasm, setting them up to be ridiculed.

But on the other side of things children ASDs can sometimes be seen as bullying others. As Nick Dubin explained in his great book on bullying, Asperger Syndrome and Bullying, this can be due to their need control their environment in order to feel safe or manage their anxiety. Also, due to difficulties predicting and interpreting how others may be impacted by their behaviour, they may have more difficulties avoiding behaviour seen as bullying.

Learn to be Buddies: helping families and children deal with bullying

Learn to be Buddies is a series of children’s books, resources for parents and teachers, and articles that I am writing to promote resilience and positive social skills in children of all abilities. There are several resources now available to help parents address the issue of bullying.

Who am I?
I am a special education teacher who has worked mainly in early childhood and primary school settings. At the moment I am teaching undergraduate educators about inclusion and disAbility awareness (with a focus on ability!). You can find out more by clicking here.

Dave is Brave
The first resource I have developed is a picture book that clearly, simply and explicitly addresses the issue of physical bullying. It is designed so that the pictures are realistic and focused on the facial expressions and body language of the two main characters.

Dave is Brave focuses on teaching children to stand up for themselves if they are bullying, as well as helping them learn about how aggression impacts others.

The Dave is Brave pack
This includes the book, Dave is Brave, and two disks. The first disk is a music CD and includes our song, Be Brave. Using song is a great way to help children remember things – in this case, what to do when you are bullied, and how to avoid bullying others.

This CD also includes the book read aloud, and several listening exercises so that children can interact with the book themselves. We also have a DVD of the book for the same reason.

Here is a Flickr slide show of one child’s interaction with the book. He has Autism, and as part of his daily routine reads along with the DVD of Dave is Brave. The last picture is of our meeting at my book launch.

The second disk contains a range of printable resources. The first of these is a set of Activity Plans. These provide ideas for how parents and teachers can use Dave is Brave to discuss the issue of bullying.

The other resources include a card game, board game, computer game and activity sheets that focus on building awareness of emotions, body-language, social language and how to deal with these emotions. They can also be used to develop key skills such as cutting, sorting, concentration, taking turns and so on.

Bullying in Schools: What can we expect? – A booklet for parents

This is a booklet that I have written for parents to help them understand and access further information about the policies, Standards and laws that are designed to protect their children at school. It also provides some practical suggestions of what you can do to prevent, report and help deal with bullying effectively.

I also regularly write about the issue of bullying on my Learn to be Buddies Series blog.

Help Me Help You and Your Children

I also write about issues related to inclusion at This month, in celebration of Autism Awareness Month, I am attempting to help prevent bullying by giving parents the opportunity to tell others about their child’s strengths and challenges. The more other parents understand the uniqueness of children with ASD, the more likely they will help their children understand. And if they understand children with ASD, they are less likely to bully them due to ignorance or fear of difference.

So if you want to help, fill out the following and send it to me at so I can share your story with others.

I have a son/daughter (delete the irrelevant option) with autism and he/she is .... years old.

He/she loves......

He/she is really good at ....

He/she struggles with ....

Sometimes I, as a parent, find it hard when .....

But then I think about the special moments, like when ... (tell us about something great that has happened - an achievement, a hug, a word, a moment that has encouraged you).

By sending your completed story to me you are giving permission for it to be posted at during April, 2010. Names won't be used unless you give permission, and then only first names will be used.

If you want to share a photo, you could either use a picture of your child showing their face, or one where you can't see their face... perhaps take a picture from behind as they play their favourite game. Please note that by providing a photo you are giving permission for it to be publicly displayed on the above named blog. Please do not include a photo if you do not agree to this.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

I look forward to building Autism Awareness with you.

Best wishes,

Amanda Gray