Dr. Aarti Nair dives into bullying, teasing, and cyberbullying as it applies to adolescents with autism. She defines each type of bullying and discusses how to address such situations using the evidence-based UCLA PEERS program. The speaker considers the intended outcomes of bullying and uses perspective-taking questions to discuss alternative reactions for autistic adolescents. She underscores the importance of practice and notes the use of social coaches in the PEERS program. Nair uses positive and negative role-playing videos to portray the social interactions she describes and refers to data from clinical samples throughout the presentation.

This presentation includes several recorded videos and playback may vary depending on your device. If you would like to view the clips at their best, please see: https://www.semel.ucla.edu/peers/resources/role-play-videos?field_peers_video_tags_tid=887&=Apply

Handouts are online at: https://ariconference.com/webinars/teasing.pdf

No continuing education credits are available for this particular webinar, but free certificates of participation will be available upon successful completion of a brief knowledge quiz online at: https://www.classmarker.com/online-test/start/?quiz=66j5aba90f23dcdd

In this webinar: 

1:45 – UCLA PEERS program background
3:13 – Peer rejection and social neglect
5:13 – Consequences of peer rejection
6:39 – Bullying and peer victimization
8:20 – Risk factors for peer rejection
8:58 – Visual: Categories of peer rejection in adolescents
10:30 – Defining bullying
12:35 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Teasing
16:34 – Comebacks and practice
21:18 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Physical Bullying
22:45 – Avoiding physical bullying
25:00 – Safety
26:51 – What is cyberbullying
28:11 – PEERS outline: Addressing Cyberbullying
32:04 – PEERS outline and role-play videos: Handling Rumors and Gossip
38:56 – Steps for dealing with gossip and rumors
42:20 – PEERS resources and role-play video library 


The speaker gives a background of the UCLA PEERS program, highlighting its evidence-based structure (1:45). She defines peer rejection and social neglect and discusses how to identify them in autistic youth (3:13). Nair considers the consequences of peer rejection and notes that it strongly predicts mental health difficulties, loneliness, suicidal ideation, and attempt (5:13). Adolescents with autism, she continues, are nine times more likely to experience victimization than their non-autistic peers. However, autistic teens with co-occurring ADHD are four times more likely to engage in bullying behavior (6:39). She explains how bullying and bad reputations often result from individuals trying to be accepted by bullies or other people who take advantage of them (8:00)

Nair defines bullying as a subtype of aggression that occurs when negative actions directed at a student(s) are repetitive, chronic, and characterized by a power imbalance (10:30). Bullying can be physical, verbal (teasing), relational (rumor spreading, social exclusion), and electronic (cyberbullying) (11:03). She describes how to address each type of bullying using the PEERS guidelines and shares role-playing videos with perspective-taking follow-up questions. She presents corresponding clinical examples for various scenarios.

Verbal Bullying – Teasing 

Adolescents with autism often respond to teasing by becoming upset or trying to tease back. According to clinical studies, however, this does not reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim again in the future (13:13). The presenter shares guidelines for handling teasing (13:55) and suggests that teens memorize three short comebacks to use in these situations (16:34). She underscores the importance of persistence and shares a positive role-playing video (17:42)

Physical Bullying

Responses to physical bullying are often the same (becoming upset, fighting back, telling an adult) and can have adverse effects on social status and future victimization (21:18). Nair suggests avoiding physical bullies, planning your class route, and hanging out with other teens to deter interactions (22:45). If someone is in danger, she states, it is best to tell an adult discreetly. She emphasizes the importance of not trying to intervene (24:57)

Cyber Bullying

The speaker states that cyberbullies want their victims to react and get upset, scared, or bothered (27:36). She underscores the importance of not responding to such attacks and having supportive friends to stand up for you in these situations (28:11). Nair suggests saving the evidence of cyberbullying before deleting any accounts in case law enforcement needs to get involved (30:48)

Rumors and Gossip

Nair states that the best way to avoid being the target of gossip is to avoid being friends (or enemies) with people who gossip (32:04). Our natural response to rumors is to defend ourselves and explain the truth. However, the speaker continues, trying to disprove someone often makes you look guilty in social settings. Instead, it is best to pretend you are not upset and to act amazed that anyone would believe or care about such a thing (the rumor) (36:29). Nair provides steps and guidelines for dealing with rumors and gossip and shares positive and negative role-play videos. 

Throughout the presentation, the speaker urges youth to confide in supportive friends and adults and stresses the importance of practicing these scenarios at home before employing them in real-time. Before opening the question-and-answer session, the speaker outlines PEERS resources and role-playing video library access. 

Published: 03/28/2018

Aarti Nair, Ph.D.Aarti Nair, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow with the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and the UCLA PEERS® Clinic at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Dr. Nair received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and anthropology from the University of Mumbai, and her master’s degree in clinical psychology from UNC Charlotte. In 2015, Dr. Nair received her Ph.D. in neuropsychology from the SDSU/UCSD Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology in San Diego, CA. Her primary research interests lie in multimodal imaging studies of social cognition in ASD, specifically using fcMRI and DTI techniques to quantify connectivity differences within this population. As a fellow for the PEERS® Clinic, Dr. Nair co-facilitates the PEERS® for Preschoolers social skills training groups and serves as an intake clinician under the mentorship of Dr. Elizabeth Laugeson. She is also a clinical neuropsychology fellow in the Medical Psychology Assessment Center (MPAC) at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

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