Aspergers and Bullying

Although bullying has been briefly mentioned in a few of my previous blog posts, I have never dedicated a whole blog post to the subject and a friend of mine suggested that I do so as people on the autistic spectrum are highly prone to bullying so I thought I’d give it a go. This post is based on my observations so it won’t resonate with all of my readers with Aspergers but I hope it explains a bit.

I think pretty much every person with Aspergers has lived through bullying of some degree. This can range from incidents of name calling to severe physical abuse and everything in between. It seems to be a fact of life for many people on the spectrum but why exactly is that? I think there are a few reasons.

Firstly, and probably most obviously, those of us with Aspergers behave differently to people without the condition as we process the world around us in a unique way. A lot of us, myself included, are physically as well as socially awkward. We pace, we flap our hands, most of us see life from a very literal viewpoint, we can’t regulate the volume of our voices and we struggle to make friends in the context of the school playground. All of these traits make children with Aspergers an obvious target for bullying.

Secondly, a lot of people with Aspergers, myself included, display strong and extreme reactions to things, particularly things that distress them. Bullies love to get a reaction and people with Aspergers will usually give them one. Yes there are some people with Aspergers who seem to have the ability to remain calm in stressful situations-I am unfortunately not one of them. I fall in the category of people with Aspergers who have mood swings that can be triggered by the smallest of things. Other people are very perceptive of how easily people with Aspergers react to being teased and like that reaction and so provoke it more. This is often a vicious cycle which can go on for years if not promptly dealt with. People with Aspergers can also be liable to misinterpret other people’s interactions and respond in a negative way which can then make them targets for bullying.

Thirdly, this is not true of all people with Aspergers but those of us with Aspergers who respect rules and like to stick by them are often viewed as the “teacher’s pet” when they are at school and “teacher’s pets” are more likely to be bullied by other children.

Fourthly, our social awkwardness goes against us a lot in life. People who are socially awkward, whether they have an Aspergers diagnosis or not, are more liable to be the focus of nasty jokes made at their expense. Some people with Aspergers don’t have the level of social understanding to know that they are being teased. Others, like myself, are perfectly aware of the fact but do not know how to deal with it. We need the support of other people and a lot of people with Aspergers don’t get that valuable support.

The above points are focused around school but, as most of us know, adults can be bullied too. The traits that make someone liable to bully another person-the need to boost their own power and unhappiness in their own lives-are not exclusive to childhood. I have read many accounts online of adults with Aspergers being bullied by their bosses in the workplace or by their neighbours or even their relatives. The huge question is how to deal with bullying before it wrecks your self esteem and leads on to mental health problems such as depression and, in severe cases, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have seen the results of years of bullying and they are not pretty.

Like most human beings, a lot of people with Aspergers are bad at taking advice when they are in a specific situation. We know logically that responding to taunts by crying hysterically or smashing something and then storming off just provokes more bullying but, in the situation, that all goes out of your head. I used to get extremely annoyed when people would tell me, “Just don’t rise to it!” It is 100 times harder to ignore someone who is teasing you than to react in an extreme way. Many people with Aspergers feel alone when they are going through bullying but I promise you, there will be at least one person in your life who cares about you and will want to help you through the horrible situation you are in. Some of us with Aspergers find it almost impossible to communicate verbally when we are distressed or when we feel the topic we want to discuss is embarrassing. If you find it easier to communicate in writing, write your confidante a note or send them an email or a text message. Cyberbullying is a massive area now and incidences of it are increasing all the time. If you are being bullied online, tempting as it may be to engage in responding to the taunts, block them and report them to the relevant people and to the website itself. A lot of people with Aspergers are prone to depression and bullying in its many forms just makes this 1000 times worse.

Above everything else, PLEASE DON’T BLAME YOURSELF. . A lot of us on the spectrum have low self esteem and a distorted self image of our personalities which comes from growing up in a world that is not designed for those who think differently. Bullying only fuels these cruel misperceptions we have of ourselves and it’s ever so easy to think you deserve it but you don’t. Nobody has the right to make another person feel bad about something that they were born with and something that is intrinsically part of them. You have a unique viewpoint on life and that is something that the right people will celebrate and admire rather than deride. If it is at all possible, surround yourself with the people that love you for who you are rather than those who seek to humiliate you by focusing on your weaknesses instead of your strengths. Life is too short for dramas and conflicts. I know, in the midst of a bullying situation, it can feel terribly hopeless but there is always hope. Reach out and confide in someone and concentrate on the small things in life that do make you happy. When you are feeling emotionally drained, focus on your special interest or anything else that will occupy your mind in a positive way and act as a plug for the spiral of negative thoughts that a lot of us are prone to. You will get through this and go on to better times-I am living proof of that. You are special and you are worth something, no matter how often bullies try to make you believe otherwise-always remember that.

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3 Responses to Aspergers and Bullying

  1. maximusaurus says:

    I remember reading a study that said 75% (or something around that) of kids with autism are bullied at school.
    Shocking numbers, and I can attest to them myself.

  2. Sun_set says:

    Thankyou. Im being bullied by my neighbours . Im 45 with aspergers and its awful. Lived her 20 years. Neighbours moved in 5 years ago.housing trust aren’t interested in helping me. Feel very isolated . Im thinking about moving.

    Ive told people i know, but have recieved no support.

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