2nd Annual BRRC Upstander 5K Run & Walk

2nd Annual BRRC Upstander 5K Run & Walk

2nd Annual Upstander 5K Run/Walk Benefiting Bullying Recovery Resource Center


Sat, October7, 2023
8:30 AM – 11:00 AM MDT

The 2nd Annual BRRC UPSTANDER 5K Run/Walk is open to anyone who is looking for a great day of exercise and FUN. Come join us and help defend bullied children and empower parents and caregivers to advocate for bullying targets. All proceeds will go to BRRC so they may continue to educate, advocate and save lives across the state. Become an UPSTANDER and join those who stand up, speak up, and make a positive impact on the lives of children.

Become a sponsor and connect with folks that share the desire to create a kinder, more inclusive world! Click the links below for more information. 



Berkeley Park
4601 W 46th Ave
Denver, CO US 80212
United States


Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Bullying

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Bullying

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Bullying. 

What you need to know and what you can do.

By Dru Ahlborg, Co-Founder and Executive Director of BRRC

Autismspeaks.org states “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and non-verbal communication.  We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.” 

*In 2023, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is an increase from 1 in 44 that was reported just two years ago.

*Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

*Nearly two-thirds of children with autism between the ages of 6-15 have been bullied.

Our organization, BRRC, assists families who’s child is or has been a target of bullying. We estimate that over 40% of the families we have aided have a child who has ASD. Many people with ASD have challenges recognizing social cues which can make them appear awkward around others. They can engage in repetitive behaviors and tend to be hypersensitive to environmental stimuli which can make them a likely target for a child who engages in bullying behavior.

One study found that the highest functioning ASD children were at the greatest risk of being bullied. Many high-functioning ASD children spend more time in mainstream classrooms versus a special educational environment. ASD children who spend a majority of their schooling with mainstream peers makes their differences more obvious. The study further stated that children with autism who could speak well were three times more likely to be bullied than those who spend the majority of their time in special education.

Strategies to disrupt the bullying of ASD children can be addressed in three areas:
Bullying Prevention
Teachers and Bullying Prevention 
Parenting Strategies

Bullying Prevention:
Preventing bullying for ASD students require two needs to be addressed. The first is to address the needs of the ASD community and the second is to address the attitude and environment that leads to bullying.

  • ASD children can be taught about different forms of bullying that include unhealthy friendships and romantic relationship. Strategies can include speaking to a trusted teacher or administrator about bullying incidents as well as learning self-advocacy skills and asking for intervention from adults.
  • Education about ASD and the characteristics of autism should be available to all the adults who interact with your child. Children should be taught about autism and how a culture of inclusion and kindness will better serve all students and the learning environment.
  • Assigning proactive hallway monitors and adult or peer buddies to ASD students will reduce bullying during the most chaotic and least structured portions of the day.

Teachers and Bullying Prevention:
Teachers and adults in the classroom are the front line defense for an ASD child targeted for bullying. Here are some ideas for teachers:

  • Follow the school’s outlined procedure for reporting and addressing bullying behavior. If there are not adequate procedures for reporting and addressing bullying, suggest and assist in making meaningful recommendations.
  • Report every bullying incidence.
  • Encourage the ASD bullying target to talk with you about what happened. If the student cannot verbalize it, encourage them to write, journal or even draw the event. Reassure them that they are not “tattling.”
  • If you witness bullying behavior, step up and step in between the children. It is an adults responsibility to stop the bullying event.
  • When meeting with an ASD student who has been bullied choose a safe place to provide support and talk about what happened. Speak with any students who may have witnessed the event and calmly inquire what occurred.

Parenting Strategies:
It is very important that parents of ASD children act at the first hint of their child being bullied. Often a child, and especially an ASD child may not readily speak up to let their parents know they are being harassed, targeted and bullied. Warning signs of bullying may include: an unwillingness to attend school, a sudden change in routine, stress and anxiety, decline in academic performance, inability to maintain focus, torn clothes, damaged personal items and unexplained cuts or bruises.

Ideas to reduce the threat of bullying for an ASD child include:

  • Visiting the school often – primarily as an observer.
  • Enlist in frequent conversations with your child and ask open-ended questions such as: “Who did you sit with at lunch? Which friends did you talk with today? What is your least favorite class? Why?”
  • Build open communication channels with your child’s teachers and ask them frequently about your child’s interactions at school.
  • Talk and help educate school administration about the characteristics of autism.
  • Have open dialogue with teachers about your child’s specific strengths and challenges.
  • Speak and educate other school personnel (lunchroom monitors, school bus drivers, playground monitors, etc.) about autism awareness. Feel free to bring printed literature about ASD to them.
  • If you are concerned your child is being bullied, make sure you report it to the school and follow-up.
  • Consider including bullying in your child’s IEP. Social skills and self-advocacy skill goals should be included in the IEP.
  • Encourage the school to facilitate a buddy for your child. 
  • Mentor your child and remind them of the strengths. Let them know they are NOT inferior to any other child.

Parents of special needs children are truly superheroes. Everyday these parents put on their superhero capes and become hyperaware and responsive with their children. It is tragic that ASD children become frequent targets of bullying because of their uniques abilities and mannerisms. It is worth the additional time, coaching and communication to assist the ASD child in hopes of reducing the opportunity for bullying. If you need additional help or if your child is being bullied, please contact us for help. No child ever deserves to be bullied.




When Trusted Adults Bully Children

When Trusted Adults Bully Children

When Trusted Adults Bully Children

“There is zero research that provides evidence that any form of bullying and abuse improves performance, increases health and wellbeing, makes an individual resilient or tough. It’s all a tragic myth.”   — author Jennifer Fraser Ph.D, and author of “The Bullied Brain: Heal Your Scars and Restore Your Health”

When writing our monthly newsletter, I attempt to take a closer look at something I have heard about lately through our organization. The topic of adults bullying children has always been something BRRC has dealt with. As a nonprofit organization, we are quite aware that the bullying of children and their families is often by school administration and school officials.  This includes school principals, vice-principals, school resource officers and school counselors.

In general, bullying by trusted adults is:

  • Rationalized by offenders
  • Normalized by students
  • Minimized or ignored by collogues who remain silent
  • Enabled by inaction of school systems
  • Undetected by outsiders in many cases

Adult bullying in our schools has special circumstances that can make it incredibly difficult for the target.  Bullied students oftentimes feel shock, shame and report feeling powerless.  Being bullied by an adult in a position of trust can cause other students to jump on the bandwagon and join in the abuse.  Furthermore, when young people or other adults confront adult bullies the results can garner more humiliation, being given unfairly low grades, loss of playing time or less involvement in special activities. Oftentimes, adults will rally around the accused and treat them as the victim of the bullying. This can have absolutely tragic outcomes.

As a parent, I have stressed to my children the importance of treating adults with respect. I believe probably most parents have. We as a culture have been brainwashed that a certain amount of abuse, name-calling, and even physical power over our children will help them grow into resilient, strong adults. That is erroneous. Adult bullying of children can have a lasting effect on their mental physical health. They are much less likely to trust any adult and often it opens the doors to depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal ideation.

When a student reports being bullied by an adult in a position of authority a caring adult has the responsibility to take the situation seriously and to intervene carefully.  Several strategies can be helpful.  Janet Olsen of Michigan State University offers the following suggestions:

  • Listen deeply and probe for more information. It is important to respond in a way that shows your care for the child’s safety and well-being.  It is a time to ask thoughtful questions and start to create a written account of what has happened with dates, times and potential witnesses.
  • Stay calm. This is an opportunity to model thoughtful action for the child involved.  Reacting quickly and out of anger can cause greater harm.
  • Ask the child’s opinion before taking action.  Remember, the child is the most at risk for further consequences and it is important to balance their concerns and have them be part of the solution going forward.
  • Meet with the adult and their supervisor. Be prepared, respectful and clear. It is important to prepare ahead of the meeting.  The school handbook should be consulted to see if there is policy or code of conduct related to adult behaviors at school.  At the meeting, share what the child has reported to you.  Describe how the situation is affecting their ability to learn or participate fully.  Report how the behaviors relate to the school policy.  If the teacher/coach seems concerned, regretful and apologetic, ask how they plan to follow up with the child.  If your conversation and concerns are dismissed or not taken seriously be prepared to take your concerns to the next level such as the school board or consider contacting an attorney or Bullying Recovery Resource Center.
  • After taking action, follow-up with your child. Your child needs to know what to expect going forward.  They may also need additional support from a counselor.

Experts agree that with any bullying, and especially bullying involving an authority figure should not remain silent.  Letting adult bullying “blow over” allows the cycle of harassment to continue and silence ultimately enables the bully.  The adult who engages in unabated bullying behavior may feel that their behavior is acceptable and label it as “discipline” or “motivation”.   If the bullying continues after reporting it, the child should be removed from the classroom or the team.

Jennifer Fraser who is quoted at the beginning of this article stresses that we are overdue to establish an effective “immunization” strategy to help our kids in the bullying epidemic. Her four suggestions are:

  1. Educating the public. Adults in positions of trust and influence over children need to become educated about maintaining children’s mental health as well as their own.
  2. Assessing adult mental health. She recommends that adults assess their mental health just as we do with our teeth, eyes and with a physical at the doctor.
  3. Assessing children’s mental health. She recommends children be taught about psychology and neuroscience in applicable ways. When children have a vocabulary to express what they are feeling and what is happening to them, they can become empowered and understand their mental health is just as crucial as their physical health.
  4. Getting bullies the help they need. Bullying behavior often comes from a person who has been abused themselves. Intervention and rehabilitation can stop the spread of bullying and allow them to heal from their past trauma.

Bullying Recovery Resource Center believes it is always the responsibility of adults to STOP bullying.  It is no less important when an adult in a position of authority is the aggressor. We feel it is the duty of school officials to care for their students and take appropriate action when a trusted adult is bullying children. If your child has been the target of adult bullying and the school has not properly addressed the problem, please contact us.  No child ever deserves to be bullied.

By Dru Ahlborg
Executive Director
Bullying Recovery Resource Center

Denver ABC Channel 7 Names BRRC as “7 Every Day Hero” – April 2, 2023

Denver ABC Channel 7 Names BRRC as “7 Every Day Hero” – April 2, 2023

Author: Kevin S. Krug

DENVER, Colorado —

DENVER – Tom and Dru Ahlborg didn’t set out to become experts in bullying, but when their son was relentlessly bullied in middle school they found themselves in the middle of a crash course on the topic.

“When you feel powerless, and your child is, you know, suicidal or whatever, you are just — you’re doing anything,” Tom said.

Tom and Dru Ahlborg founded the Bullying Recovery Resource Center in 2018. Since then, they’ve built upon the expertise they gained on their own to help children and families who need a voice in their corner who believes in them.

“We teach them how to talk about bullying,” Dru said. “There’s a different language we want to use. The child is not a victim. They’re a target.”

With the aid of a team of experienced volunteers, BRRC provides the things families need. Anything from information and support, to advocates to help them work on solutions with their child’s school.

BRRC has helped dozens of families over the years, and while they have seen an uptick in violent bullying recently, they say physical bullying isn’t the only challenge families are facing.

“There’s a lot of shunning and gossip and things like that,” Dru said. “That can be just as harmful as any other kind of bullying.”

  • To learn more about the programs offered by the Bullying Recovery Resource Center, including how you can help, click here. BRRC does have a golf fundraiser coming up on April 22. Click here for information.
  • If you or someone you know is in distress, call the Suicide & Crisis Hotline by clicking here or dialing 988.
  • Safe2Tell takes reports from students or others concerned about their safety. Click here for information.

“The other way that we have seen that is where Safe2Tell was notified about a child that’s gonna bring a gun. And that’s the bullied kid and they’re visited at like 2 a.m. in the morning,” Tom added.

And while the Ahlborgs are trying to change the way schools handle incidences of bullying, their bigger goal is much more defined: Be there for kids in need so they don’t attempt suicide.

“If that child knows that they’re being protected, they’re heard, we’re going to find a solution to get them safe,” Dru said.

Read the story and watch the video on the Channel 7 website.

Bystander Roles in Bullying

Bystander Roles in Bullying

Bystander Roles in Bullying

“There are no innocent bystanders.” – author William S. Burroughs

The act of bullying is often a complicated expression of the two main characters: the perpetrator(s) and the target. Stopbullying.gov states that bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school age children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Bullying is the exploitation of that imbalance of power between the aggressor and the target. The reasons why a child may engage in bullying behavior are important to understand, but it is also important to learn about the other children who are witnessing the event. They play a dynamic role in bullying as well and these children are the bystanders.

Bullying occurs for a variety of reasons depending on the child committing the bullying act. In many bullying instances, the perpetrator is motivated by power, high status and visibility. If that is the case, the bully needs bystanders. Bullies are selective as to whom they target and who is present, and this is especially true for the offender who is seeking a higher social status and popularity. Children who engage in becoming a bully will select targets who are less likely to strike back and will also engage in bullying behavior when there are other children available to witness the act (bystanders.)

Bystanders play an important role in bullying for several reasons. First, youth who bully others are often perceived as popular by their classmates especially during adolescence. One study states that youth who engage in aggressive behavior become increasingly popular over time. Secondly, when no child challenges the behavior of bullies, other students come to falsely perceive it as others approving of it. This is called pluralistic ignorance. Lastly, bullies carefully select their targets based on the target appearing submissive or insecure. The perpetrator of bullying will gain the maximum social accolades with peers/bystanders at the same time as reducing their risk of harm or loss of affection from their peers.

Dan Olweus, PhD, is a Swedish-Norwegian psychologist widely regarded as a pioneer of research on bullying. Part of his contribution is the concept of the Bullying Circle which explain the various roles children play when bullying happens. A wonderful graphic adaption of the Bullying Circle is featured below with the permission of Barbara Coloroso, best-selling international author, consultant, speaker and BRRC board member.

Bystanders can engage in various roles and are supporters (even if they are silent) to bullying. There is a price to pay for children who are bystanders as their self-confidence and self-respect can be diminished.

The various bystander roles are:

  • Henchmen – They take an active part in the bullying but do not plan or start the bullying.
  • Active Supporters – These children may encourage the bullying and seek social and material gain.
  • Passive Supporters – Appear to enjoy the bullying however do not show open support.
  • Disengaged Onlookers – Children in this category may turn away and feel like it is none of their business.
  • Potential Witnesses – These students oppose the bullying and know they should help and do not act.

Bullying research states that raising children’s awareness about all the roles in the bullying process can clear the path for moving more children into the upstander and defender role. Social and emotional learning (SEL) can aid in increasing student engagement, understanding and creating empathy. Teachers should have their students reflect on their behaviors when witnessing bullying and facilitate discussions and brainstorm different ways to respond the bullying. Schools and teachers should provide safe and effective strategies to report bullying and support the bullying target. Just as peers can serve to “encourage” bullying, they can also encourage resisting, reporting and aiding children caught in the crossfire of bullying.

Looking at the Bullying Circle, it becomes obvious that we want to assist children to proceed counterclockwise to become the resister, defender or as BRRC labels it, an upstander. The leap from potential witness is much less challenging than from being a henchman or active supporter. Over and over research states that even just one person having the strength to resist the bully and defend the targeted child can stop the bully and provide comfort and compassion to the bullying target.


By Dru Ahlborg
Executive Director
Bullying Recovery Resource Center