Skip navigation

Calls to Action

Bullying Chat Led by Peter Faustino Transcript

On April 25, Peter Faustino, Ph.D., led a live chat and answered questions about bullying. Dr. Faustino, a New York state licensed psychologist, is a middle school psychologist and has been working with teenagers and their families for more than 12 years.


  Hi everyone! We are here and about to start!
Comment From Bradley 

Hi everyone!

Comment From Marcia

First time here, Will there be a quick "how to" run down?

Comment From Linda C.


Comment From Andrew

Hi all!

Comment From Ashley

Hi everyone

  Hello everyone. Thank you for inviting me to this chat. I hope I can get to everyone's questions and help shed some insight into this topic. 
Comment From Barbara

My son recently experienced bullying at school and didn't even realize he was being bullied. My question is...what would be some ways of explaining bullying to a 7 year old child with ASD (with mild language delay)

  Thanks Barbara. Many schools are required by law to develop definitions of Bullying using age appropriate language. I find that the simplest way is to ask the child what they already know and use their frame of reference to build upon. Reading books from the library on the topic helps and don't be afraid to use some of the language that is key to the definition such as when another person repeatedly is mean to you or after you tell them to stop they continue to do it.
Comment From Andrew

I was wondering how you think we can use the incident of the boy who was bullied by his teacher as a teaching tool in our schools. I work in a school and interact with children on the spectrum quite often. I feel that the audio is pretty powerful, and perhaps we can use it in some way, but am not sure how. Any thoughts?

  We used the video just today. The classroom teacher showed it to the IA's and TA to start a dialogue about how we set a tone in the classroom. One of the IA's was in tears wondering how someone could be so mean. I think the video can be shown at faculty meetings or small teacher discussion to start a professional development discussion. From such a tragedy we should do something good.
Comment From Guest

Hello everyone! I am hoping to learn how to help my 9 year with asperger's how to understand bullying and how to stop the pervasive thinking associated with it.

  I work with many students who perseverate on the fear of bullying. Some work has to be done around ensuring that "normal" interactions are not misinterpreted and when a situation rise to the level of asking the adults for help. Because parents can't be in the schools all the time, see if you can find a trusted teacher, school psychologist or other adult to help you and your son process these interactions. The 3 elements that define bullying are when it is done to hurt the other person (by words or physical acts), is repeated over and over again, and someone posseses power over the other (so maybe not a friend). Hope this helps.
Comment From Bradley

My son is 10 and high functioning with moderate to severe social issues. How can we as parents get him to understand what bullying is and get him to let someone know about it. Alot of times we will not find out about him being bullied until later on down the road, sometimes weeks later.

  There are many great resources online for how to talk to kids. The film Bully and Autism Speaks teamed up to provide more information. As for knowing what is happening in school...I suggest listening to everything that is said. 10 year olds don't always report, "I got bullied today." But they will say that they spoke to someone new in the hall or ate at a table or ask a question that seems tangential. Listen and ask roundabout questions to see if you can garner more information - then CALL the school. Ask for someone to be your eyes and ears and report back what they see happening.
  Combating Bullying information 
Comment From Guest

Maybe the situation in Cherry Hill could encourage parents to enforce the CST

Comment From madhusudan srinivas

i'm a parent of a 19-year-old young adult with ASD in new delhi, india. he is marginally verbal, and totally guileless and has no defences against any agression. But this query is not so much for him as much as for another friend's 20 year old college going son with ASpergers Syndrome... he's faced bullying all through school and is up against it in regular college too. the parents are able to do just that much and no more... my question is, how does one support the parents, in strategising, as well as in helping them cope... the boy casually talks of suicide, and is increasingly in a shell.

  Unfortunately, the effects of repeated bullying are well documented (and suicide is one of them). Whenever this is mentioned, parents must seek out professional help. Those professionals can provide support to the parents. As for the student, empowering them to have a voice through student government or other clubs at school can help find support where it may not have existed before.
Comment From Melissa

I'm not sure what to in my situation. We have talked to the teacher and the pricipal about my son being bullied by several children in his 5th grade class. They have just put it back on him saying he brings it on himself with his odd behavior. I'm at a loss. What is the best way to handle this?

  While working with the victim is part of the solution, please remind them gently at first and then perhaps a little more forecefully that the bystanders and bully play just as much a role in the situation. In fact, I believe and research supports this, that working with the bystanders can be even more effective than the interventions they propose. I would suggest that more awareness is called for on the part of the staff and students. April is Autism Awareness Month and maybe not too late.
Comment From Eileen

Hi! I would like advice on how to explain to a 10 yr old with ASD why kids aren't as friendly towards him and bully him.

  There is no easy way to have this conversation but when I speak to 5th and 6th graders, I often use the discussion of how everyone is unique. I like to talk about not everyone being good at math or sports or many adults having special talents. The discussion of all of us having strengths seems to help soften the blow. Unfortunately, teens and pre-teens begin to be so self-conscious that they notice the differences and make comments that hurt. For a child who is able to understand that teens are learning to be adults but make mistakes, it can help as well.
Comment From Mike

My 10yr old son is experiencing bullying at school he think's it is his fault when it is not. It is hard to explain to the school and the district about what he has for a disability( ADHD and Aspergers ). What can I do as a parent to have the school and future school's understand?

  Reassure him that it is never his fault! I have spoken to many parents that are forming Bullying Committees at their school. This can also be done thru SEPTA or SEPTO's but with all the attention on the topic, the federal government is putting pressure on schools and communities to act. They will be seeking help from parents and so offer to join or form a group to begin to tackle the issue.
Comment From Ashley

Hi, Are there some particular strategies that Asperger Syndrome children can use to deal with bullying? Strategies they can use on their own?

  It differs for each student and each case, but the more socially appropriate language they use it will help. "Whatever!" is said in my house daily. This can be a students out before walking away from a hurtful exchange. I also find that many Disney or Nickelodeon TV series are dealing with the issue. Watch with your child and use it to start a discussion about how they would handle a similar situation.
Comment From Deborah

I'm so glad everyone is discussing the NJ situation... It makes me uneasy not knowing what is going on @ the schools. My situation is this: my 12 year old grandson is supposed to take gym but my daughter doesn't want him too. Last year his clothes and lock was stolen from the locker room. She tried addressing it @ the school but didn't get anywhere. What should she do now?

  The locker room is notoriously challenging...I remember it when I was a kid. Call the PE teachers directly. Sometimes there is a delay in the communication when you reach out to the administrator...or vice versa if you have already spoken to the teacher. Often there is a private bathroom or quiet location for them to feel safer when changing. It requires a sit-down discussion and maybe a letter in writing to get more attention and help.
Comment From Jessica V.

My son is still only 3 but is already in the school system thanks to a special education preschool and a diagnosis of Autism last summer. I want to present an assembly to the older kids, particularly high school/jr. high, next October which is Bully Awareness month. Where can I get information about short videos that could be shown that would be school age appropriate and cover the topic of bullying, particularly kids with ASD or other disabilities? Are there speakers that would travel to a remote town in AK to address this issue from a personal perspective? Bullying has been a big problem in our schools over the last several years, and we are a small community. AK has one of the highest suicide rates per capita, particularly youth suicide.

  Jessica- there are a lot of online resources and more to come in the near future with so many initiatives at work. Many professional associations have a Speakers Bureau that will provide free speakers on various topics. I am a member of NASP, National Association of School Psychologists, and they are partnering next month to encourage school psychologists to offer free presentations. It's a start. But the power of a parents voice should never be overlooked.
Comment From Guest

Are there ways to work with teachers to educate fellow student on the "odd behavior" in an effort to reduce bullying?

  Autism Speaks has a School Community Toolkit that is broken into sections for helping others understand autism.
  Here's a link to the School Community Tool Kit 
Comment From N

I was bullied for a long time as a child. One of the things my parents did is when they couldn't get through to the teacher and principal, they went to the school board. With all the attention focused on anti-bullying, schools generally don't want to take risks of having bullying be the reason their school ends up getting attention. Also, talk to other parents. If there's a bully around, chances are, other kids are getting bullied too. I was the kid who wasn't the social butterfly, so it was always hard to push back at bullies. Also note that if a child is a bully, chances are something in their environment is causing them to be that way as children are products of their environments in most cases.

  Well said...I read research years ago that discussed how finding just 3 peers to stick together can prevent the acts of bullying from escalating. Safety in numbers.
Comment From Patti

My little guy is 5 and getting ready for kindergarten. He is high functioning with a lot of social issues. He makes noises in his throat, perseverates on certain things and walks like he is half dancing and half prancing. The other kids in his preschool are starting to pick up on these things and notice how different they are. The teachers, therapists and we his parents are trying to help him downplay these behaviors, but he is so oblivious to it bothering anyone that it is not working very well. He is not getting bullied, per say, but I can easily see it happening if he continues down this path. Any suggestions how to help him realize how his behaviors affect others?

  Patti- I would recommend that you or the teachers lead a discussion in the classroom (and maybe when your child is not there for fear of embarassment). I have found that when the issues are laid out for kids that they are far more accepting than anyone else. After they have information and awareness they become much more accepting.
Comment From Arielle

In my opinion I always think it helps to empower the victim to tell the "bully" how it makes them feel. Using "I statements" to explain what it is the person is doing and how it makes them feel sometimes helps the bully him or herself how much they are truly hurting another person

Comment From Lynn Elder

What do you do when your son is the bully. My son is 14 and is very violent. he never took it to school before, only at home, now he behaves terrible at school too and we just dont know what to do. He has been in and out of hospitals, several med changes. Richie has autism and bypolar and my fear is since he is the aggressor that when he turns 17 he will see the inside of a jail cell what do you do then?

  Lynn- Thank you for sharing this. Given what you wrote you will need a professional to intervene (and may have already tried). Teaching empathy will be a good first start. Often bullies have developed poor habits in how they interact with others or regulate their own emotions. Once you have a good hypothesis on what triggers the behavior, someone can start teaching the pro-social replacement behaviors. Good luck.
Comment From Eileen

My son is only 6 but I already see the kids in the neighborhood ignoring him and looking at him funny. At school it's not a problem yet but I'm wondering if there is anything I can do with the neighborhood moms to explain. I can't force the kids to be friends with him but maybe respect and support (they are not at the same school). My son is high functioning and a late talker, so his social language is still developing which hampers things. Any ideas?

  Eileen- It's a great question. My gut says to invite the families over to dinner. I find that there is sometimes an unspoken fear around autism. Adults and kids in the neighborhood don't know...they are not aware. But once the questions have been answered and the fear subsides then the acceptance follows. The typical peer students I work with are so amazing - once they get to ask questions about odd behaviors they join in and include. It's hard to speak up about these things but I think it could help.
Comment From Emily

Hi i have 2 friends that are being somewhat bullied and they have cut them self already wht should i do to help them

  Emily - thank you for posting. Anytime someone is cutting they are asking for help but not using their words. PLEASE talk to someone at the school immediately. There are School Psychologists, Guidance Counselors, Social Workers, Teachers, Aides, and Bus Drivers that ALL care for students. They will know how to help. And don't worry your friends will not be mad - remember they are asking for someone to be their voice.
Comment From Amy

My son was being hit the other day over and over. He was outside and my husband ran to stop the behavior. The child did not tell me or the mother what happened he just said I don't know why he was crying. Had someone not intervened or heard the situation, which might be the case at school, how can we help our son if he can't say stop and does not have the capability to tell someone

  Amy. There is no easy answer other than to highlight these incidents for the school. You made a wonderful statement though - INTERVENTION is the key. School and communities that Intervene send the message that this behavior will not be tolerated. That is an effective step to helping prevent it from happening again.
Comment From Johnna

My little brother is in the 4th grade an my parents have had 2 or 3 parent teacher conferances an our problem is other students lying on him an when he finds out he cries. Then the teacher says "let him cry! He's a big baby if he"s crying in the 4th grade."

  Johnna- Bullies will often do something to provoke weaker kids - in this case they are waiting for your brother to cry. I am glad your parents are meeting with the school but I wonder if you can do something as well. Start a CLUB that raises awareness about Autism and Bullying. It's a scary thought but I know that you will not be alone. Find a teacher to help start this club and before long you will have a voice louder than those bullies!
Comment From Guest

I have a 4 year old with Autism, and I am really nervous about putting her in school. She does not have any conversation skills, and can't tell me when shes hurting or if someone is bothering her. Is it even worth it to put her in a public school?

  I have worked in public schools my whole career and I believe that the vast majority are good places filled with adults who care. It's a leap of faith but search for someone in the school who can walk you thru the process and be your advocate when you are not around. Don't be afraid to ask the school for help and you will find someone there who cares just as much as you do.
Comment From Guest

My 5 year old son will be starting public school in the fall. Is there something to do now to help him and his teachers understand?

  Use the Autism Speaks School Community Toolkit mentioned above...its a great resource.
Comment From Cathe

Eileen, I just got some of my neighbors together and explained what autism is and why my son acts different. I was then asked to speak at school to kids about autism. I think we sometimes FEAR what we don't understand. If you can explain what autism is and take the FEAR away - many times people are more open to understanding,.

Comment From Dawn

To Eileen, there is a book called Since we're friends, that explains autism on a kids level and how to help out and to be their friend. I have read it to every child that comes in contact with our son and have taken and read it to his class for the last 3 years. I think it has helped kids to understand a little better

Comment From Kate

Do you notice a difference in the amount of bullying (particularly aimed at the socially different autistic behaviors) based on age? Is it worse as the kids enter school, or in the teenage years where social circles are more important? Or are the numbers the same across the board?

  The IAN report that was recently published contained some trends across ages. Middle Schools tend to be more difficult but there are many interventions coming down the pipeline that will help mitigate these experiences. I find that teens are eager to 'change the world' and so I continue to advocate for Clubs in Schools that raise awareness around autism.
  Here's a link to the IAN study on bullying and children with ASD 
Comment From Kathy

My son is 11 and is an amazing person. He has very mild Asberger and a some language issues. He excells in most of his subjects at school, but has always been the social outcast, even though he is very outgoing and kind. He is going into middle school next year and we have not told him about his Asberger for fear he would see it only as a negative. Is there resources that can help us to tell him in a way that shows his amazing side more than the challenges?

  Autism Speaks has an Asperger's Toolkit that contains many resources for help.
  Here's the link to the Asperger toolkit 


Comment From J

many of the questions parents are raising have to do with the school administrators and teachers not taking bullying seriously. What suggestions do you have to empower parents to push for more appropriate responses from school personnel either to help with their own situations or to address bullying in general in their districts? thanks

  J - I recently read a report by GLSEN that highlights how teachers (the vast majority) feel that a more is necessary but that they lack the professional development or support from regulations. I think teachers all want to intervene and help but need to be armed with the resources as well. I hear of many federal and state intitiatives that are being enacted to start the process but as you point out more needs to be done.
Comment From Kathy

We have found that over the years many times it isn't "bullying" but indifference that is projected to our son. Many times he is in a situation where the kids just don't want to play with him. He keeps trying and they keep pulling away. As he is now 11, are there suggestions for helping him meet new kids in middle school?

  Middle schools are interesting places. Pre-adolescents and adolescents are funny creatures but they can be magical as well. Middle schools typically provide more freedom and choice to students, so start by finding out what clubs and activities are available. Clubs like computers, chess, drama, art, technology, etc. can appeal to some on the spectrum. I also find that Middle schools are willing to start new clubs around a student's interest. This will help him find out peers with similar interests.
  I'm sorry that our time is up! Thank you again for this opportunity. I hope that you found some answers that sparked a thought to intervene. Good luck. Peter

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.