October 21, 2013 7:59 pm
Updated: October 22, 2013 4:18 pm

Researchers to explore how bullying impacts kids with autism


CALGARY- With Halloween around the corner, Xander Halsey-Dam has been carefully planning his Jack O’Latern. Planning, rules and order are very important to him.

“I don’t really like it when rules are changed on me,” the 9-year-old explains. “I usually panic quite a bit.”

Halsey-Dam’s anxiety is caused by a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome.

“He’s very verbal, he goes to regular school but gets very anxious in new situations or if you are changing routines,” his mother, Cassandra Dam, explains.

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Social situations can be difficult for the boy. Making friends has been challenging and recently there have also been problems with bullies.

“Last year he started playing games of tag with a large group of boys and unfortunately one of the boys would change the rules but only in relation to Xander,” Dam explains. “Xander eventually ended up having a meltdown at school because it just kept happening and he didn’t understand what he could do about it.”

Research has found children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are more frequent victims of bullying compared to other children. Until now, however, little has been done to find out why.

“We want to get a little bit more information about how, when and why children with ASD are bullied, so we can try and figure out some specific things we might be able to do about it.” explains Adam McCrimmon, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s Applied Child Psychology program.

McCrimmon is recruiting students aged 8-17 with High Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder and their parents for the project. Participants will take part in games and answer questions designed to help them share their experiences with bullying and social situations.

“We want to see why it’s happening now and then we want to also hopefully follow some of these children for a couple of years and see what is the long term impact,”  says McCrimmon

For more information on how to participate in the study e-mail asert@ucalgary.ca

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