Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Autism and Bullying – How to Overcome It
Autism and Bullying are too often used in the same sentence.
Many people with Asperger’s are very sensitive, and if they are bullied it can leave an impact for a very long time. It can shape your self-concept, your sense of who you are.
People with Asperger’s, due to their social differences, are unfortunately very prone to bullying. People like to make fun of what’s different, and people with Asperger’s or high functioning autism often have many obvious differences to them.
Autism and Bullying – Tactics to Deal with Bullying
1. Autism and Bullying – Accommodations
Some schools are better than others about enforcing no-bullying rules. Report the bullying to the teacher or principal and see if they can find a way to stop it.
Sometimes, it can be useful if the kid has accommodations such as being able to leave class a few minutes early, or being allowed to get to the next class a few minutes late, so that they don’t have to be in the hallway the same time as everyone else. This leaves the predators less time to be able to prey on them.
Maybe the child can have lunch in an alternative area away from the bully, like the library or resource room.
2. Autism and Bullying – Help your Child Find an Outlet
Bullying does more damage long term to a child’s sense of self-esteem if it is not talked about. The sense of shame that can come from being bullied is enormous.
Provide your child with opportunities to talk about their emotions, whether it is with you or with a therapist who may be able to help them better cope with what is going on.
It is a very good idea to clearly and explicitly tell your child that they can tell you anything.
If your school has a peer mentoring system, see if you can get your child matched up with a person who will support them emotionally and who will try to keep the bullies at a distance. If you can’t find it in school, consider an organization like Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
3. Autism and Bullying – Shore Up their Self-Esteem
The best way to ensure your child will get through bullying without too many scars is to make sure their self-esteem is high.
How do you do this?
Make an effort to point out their good points on a daily basis. Don’t assume your child knows how highly you think of them!
Find special interest groups that your child can belong to. These groups will have conversation that is easier for the person with Asperger’s to follow and participate in. This will help alleviate their anxiety and help them gain confidence for interacting outside the group.
Autism and Bullying – What to Do After
Bullying can leave scars that last a long time. Bullying of any kind, any duration can lower self-esteem and cause depression.
So what can you do if years later, your loved one is still defining themselves by the opinion of the people who bullied them? What can you do to increase their confidence and get them to see themselves in a more positive light?
1. Autism and Bullying – Give it Time, Be Supportive
Bullying is not something you can recover from right away, especially if the bullying was long term.
People who were bullied in school sometimes find that even years later everything keeps reminding them of the bullying.
They find they’re scared to approach people and scared for other people to approach them. The bullying is long gone, but it’s still dwelling in their head. This can be particularly true for people with Asperger’s and high functioning autism.
Encourage your loved one who has been traumatized by bullying to not give up. Let them know there are many kind, caring people out there in the world and to try to be open to meeting new people.
2. Autism and Bullying – Provide Multiple Outlets
Persistent bullying can be a lot to process.
Give your loved one ample time to talk about how it made them feel and also a forum to express their anger.
A therapist may be helpful.
Have your loved one write about their experiences in a private journal.
They can research bullying prevention programs for a college class or just learn more about the subject in their free time. This gives a feeling of power, of meaningfulness to explore one’s own experiences in the context of, “How can I keep it from happening to others.”
3. Autism and Bullying – Mentoring Others in a Similar Situation
Most people who were bullied are adamant that they don’t want it happening to others. They have a lot of empathy for people who have experienced it.
See if you can match your loved one with someone in a local school system or Big Brothers/Sisters organization who has been or is currently being bullied. The relationship will benefit both of them.
The feeling of being able to do something about the bullying problem and helping other people will help cut through some of the feelings of grief, loss and self-doubt.
4. Autism and Bullying – Surround them with Positive Experiences
The most important thing to do for the person who has been bullied is to build up their confidence with new positive social experiences.
Support groups for any issues the person has, such as Asperger’s, may be a good way to start.
After a while, if the person has repeated positive social experiences, they will begin to think they can do more with other people than they thought before. They will start thinking they are worth other people’s time and energy. This is an important shift.
Meetup.com groups can be a good place to start. Many times, you will find a group of nurturing, interesting people to talk to. Meetup.com has groups devoted to many different interests in nearly every city.
Autism and Bullying – A Case Study
We recently spoke to a person with Asperger’s who had been bullied in her past.
She said that even 15 years after the bullying was over she still felt insecure when she saw people her age and preferred the company of people much older than her.
She tried a couple of psychology oriented Meetup.com groups that interested her. While the first group was mostly older people that she had no problem with and felt supported by, the second group had a lot of younger people in it and she immediately felt she would not get along with them.
Inevitably, though, once the meet-ups got going, she would find that most of the second group were likeable, interesting and not cruel like the people in her past had been.
It left her more open to exploring the idea of friendships with people she might have shied away from before.
Bullying can affect self-esteem and confidence levels to the point of socially crippling the person. If you have a loved one with autism and bullying is a problem in their lives be their advocate and help them overcome the situation!
And for many other tips and strategies for living with autism read the Craig Kendall book, New Hope for Autism.