WOMAN: Hi, and welcome to Autism Talk TV.
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In this episode we'll learn how to deflect episodes of bullying and teasing and Alex will again be immersed and learn to do this very thing. Let's see. Okay.
ALEX: Great, would you mind telling me a little about how to deal with verbal teasing? It's something that a lot of kids don't know how to appropriately respond to.
DR. LIZ LAUGESON: Yeah, unfortunately, you know verbal teasing is really, really common for adolescents in particular and a lot of kids on the autism spectrum really struggle with it and become the victim of this kind of teasing.
So before I tell you the strategies that we actually use to teach kids how to handle teasing, I want to ask you a question: What do you think that most adults - not necessarily you - but what do you think most adults tell kids to do in response to teasing?
ALEX: Well, from my experiences, most adults tell the person being teased to report the teasing because bullying isn't tolerated. However, I don't think that's probably the best way to do it.
DR. LAUGESON: They also tell them to do a couple of other things too.
They'll sometimes tell them to walk away from the person or they'll tell them to ignore the person.
So think about that.
What do you think actually happens when the teen ignores the verbal teasing? Does it make it stop?
ALEX: Well, ignoring verbal teasing to me seems almost as if you're doing the opposite of ignoring it because you're directly addressing it by pretending it doesn't exist.
DR. LAUGESON: Exactly. The reality is that everyone gets teased especially as an adolescent even popular kids get teased. But it's how you react to it that determines how often or how severely you are teased.
Now, what do you think the person who is teasing us is trying to get us to do when they tease us?
ALEX: They're trying to get you to react.
DR. LAUGESON: Absolutely, and how do they want you to react?
ALEX: I think they probably want to see how you'll react but if they're a bully perhaps they want to see if you'll react in a negative way and show that their teasing worked.
DR. LAUGESON: Yeah, so they're probably trying to get you upset in some way and get you angry or sad and maybe even tease them back because essentially it's fun for them to get that reaction out of you.
It's like they're trying to push your buttons and sort of get you to put on a show essentially. So do we want to do what the bully expects us to do? Do we want to put on a show and give them that reaction?
ALEX: No! If the bully gets the reaction he wants, then logically speaking the bully will want to do the same things to you more.
DR. LAUGESON: Exactly.
ALEX: He enjoys getting that reaction out of you.
DR. LAUGESON: Right. So we have to think about what is their goal, what is the bully's goal in teasing us? Well, they're trying to get a reaction. So we don't want to give them the reaction that they're looking for.
So instead we want to teach our kids how to use, this is what we call an ecologically valid social skill and an ecologically valid social skill is one that kids who are socially accepted are naturally doing.
DR. LAUGESON: So there's a lot of research that shows what kids who are socially accepted do when they are being verbally teased and it's not walk away and it's not ignore, and it's not tell an adult.
Instead, what they do is they give a short comeback that shows what the person said really didn't bother them.
And not only did it not bother them, but what the person said it was kind of lame, it was kind of stupid.
ALEX: So, basically, you're like, whatever, man.
DR. LAUGESON: Very good! Exactly. You're going to say something like, whatever. And sometimes people will kind of roll their eyes when they say these things or they might shrug their shoulders and it really doesn't matter if you know, if this is a girl or a boy using this strategy they can say the same thing.
A lot of boys will sound sort of bored and indifferent when they say it. Like they might say, you know, whatever. Kind of like what you said.
DR. LAUGESON: Whatever, man.
Whereas a girl, sometimes girls will have a little bit more attitude. You know, they'll say what-ev-er or something like that and kind of throw more attitude but it really just depends on the person and their personality.
WOMAN: Whatever, you're like totally strange.
ALEX: That's supposed to be funny?
WOMAN: I don't know if it's funny but you're real weird.
ALEX [to Dr. Laugeson]: Let me ask you this because sometimes I think that kids on the autism spectrum get confused over whether they're being teased or guys call it 'busting your balls' or whatever.
Now, how do you differentiate between and how do respond to that? Because I know that when guys are talking with each other they ramp it up and they don't say "whatever" or they'll be like, you're mom is, you know, whatever. Something like that.
DR. LAUGESON: What you're describing is banter.
DR. LAUGESON: Okay, a lot of boys in particular or guys, they banter with each other, which is a form of teasing, right?
It's sort of like ribbing.
But it's usually playful and it's usually amongst friends. There's no harm that's necessarily meant. But what's the problem with that kind of banter?
What happens? Does it naturally fade out or does it kind of -- You said it kept, you keep upping it.
ALEX: Yeah, I think that guys will try to one up each other and everything to win or whenever, but I think it will eventually die out when they get bored with it.
DR. LAUGESON: Maybe eventually it might, but what else could happen?
If you keep upping the ante and you know, you keep- it escalates and escalates. What can sometimes happen? What's the risk?
ALEX: A lot of times I guess someone could get offended.
DR. LAUGESON: Yeah, so someone could get offended. Someone could get their feelings hurt and so what we need to think about is that although that is a pretty typical behavior, especially amongst guys to banter back and forth if our goal is to make and keep friends and have good relationships with people.
Then we just need to know that kind of behavior is really risky and if we want to stop the banter, you do say things like, “whatever”.
ALEX: Yeah, you know I've seen that too.
DR. LAUGESON: I mean banter is essentially teasing but it's amongst friends and it's meant playfully and that's a little bit different.
So think about the context but your reaction can essentially be the same thing. If you decide to engage in that banter just know that it's really risky because it is always kind of escalating and escalating and someone could get offended.
ALEX: Well, Liz that's some great advice.
Is there anything else you would probably want to add about this whole teasing thing and additional advice you think our viewers would benefit from?
DR. LAUGESON: Well, I think it's always really helpful to actually practice these kinds of skills.
It's one thing to sort of know what to say but to actually use those skills in the moment is a whole different thing. So one of the things we do in our groups is we actually do a lot of role plays so we practice these things.
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