In January, at the FEAT-NT Conference, I attended a fantastic workshop on the topic of bullying. As children and adolescents with any kind of disability are at greater risk of being bullied, I was very excited to learn more. Lisa M. Elliott, PhD, a Licensed Psychologist and Clinic Manager for Cook Children’s Medical Center in Denton, took the time to present at the conference and answer questions from the audience. Dr. Elliott also serves as an on-site practicum and post doctoral fellowship supervisor, as well as an adjunct professor for the University of North Texas. Dr. Elliott specializes in therapy, psychological and neuropsychological testing for children and adolescents. She graciously agreed to work with me to convert the information she shared with FEAT-NT conference attendees for a series of posts here on AutismSpot.
I hope you’ll enjoy learning more in this three-part series about how bullying has changed in recent years and what parents, teachers, therapists and doctors can and should do to protect our children from bullies.
LAW: Bullying is not only on the rise, but it is happening to kids at younger ages than ever before. Can you please share some information about how very common bullying is today?
Dr. Elliott: In 2001, a large scale study (Nansel, et al) revealed 30% of all students from grades 6-10 reported experiencing some form of bullying. A few years later, iSAFE reported 40% of all students reported experiencing some form of online bullying. More recently in 2007, KidsPoll reported 50% of their students evaluated between ages 9-13 reported being bullied. Regardless of the studies you look at there are two important key points to note: Bullying seems to be on the rise and bullying appears to be occurring at younger and younger ages.
LAW: What are the types of bullying? Can you share how bullying has changed over the past couple of decades?
Dr. Elliott: There are four types of bullying: physical, verbal, relationship/social and cyber bullying. While each one alone is harmful, they are often combined to be even more harmful and powerful.
• Physical: This is generally the most obvious type of bullying, thus easier to identify. Physical bullying accounts for less than one-third of the bullying incidents. This type of bullying generally includes scratching, slapping, hitting, shoving, tripping, choking, poking, punching, kicking, biting, pinching, destroying clothes and property.
• Verbal: Verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying, usually accounting for 70% of the reported bullying. Verbal bullying is easier to hide because it can be whispered or done via phone, text, and/or computer. While it does not leave physical scars it can leave emotional and self-esteem scars that can last a long time, even lasting lifetime. Verbal bullying is intended to hurt an individual and also to change how other people see that person. It is meant to make an individual appear “strange” to others so that person becomes further isolated. This type of bullying includes creating hurtful rumors, even sharing trusted truthful yet embarrassing secrets, name calling, belittling, lies and gossip, cruel putdowns, making someone a brunt of cruel jokes and threats.
• Relationship or Social: This type of bullying is very prevalent in the middle school years and up until the early high school years. However, it is being observed to occur more recently now in the later elementary years such as 4th and 5th grade. This type of bullying is also extremely harmful. This type of bullying is most powerful (and most scarring) in the middle school years when there are many adolescent changes takings place. This is the time when teens are trying to figure out who they are and where they can fit in.
• Cyber bullying: Is defined as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the medium of electronic text” (CyberBullying.us). This includes mean and destructive messages and pictures via emails and texting, postings web sites, video blogs such as YouTube, cell phones, three-way calling and any other type of electronic communication. It can also include stealing someone’s identity online and then pretending to be them, stealing passwords, sending viruses, etc. Cyber bullying is just as dangerous because kids have no escape and bullying tends to escalate with the online mediums due to anonymity, thus making it even harder to be caught.
In addition to the increase of frequency of bullying and that it is starting at younger ages, bullying has also become more violent and relentless. Kids can no longer come home and escape the bullying with all of the different forms of electronic mediums the bullying can take place 24/7. Furthermore, it can be more widespread, reaching greater populations of people, thus increasing shame and isolation.
It is obvious to me that Bullying is a BIG Deal and deserves a great deal of attention. Our kids deserve to feel safe and protected. I hope you come back on Thursday for Part 2 of this important series to learn about how some populations of children are targeted by bullies, signs parents and caregivers can look for and also to learn the important difference between teasing and bullying.
Leigh Attaway Wilcox is a writer and editor for the projectLD family of companies. Leigh is Assistant Editor of the internationally acclaimed AutismSpot.com and her work can be found on many of the pLDNetworks sites. Leigh is the author of ALL BETTER: A Touch-and-Heal Book published by Piggy Toes Press in 2007. Leigh lives in North Texas with her husband and young son who loves reading, LEGOs, Mario Bros. and also happens to live with Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder.