Autism and Bullying

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
August 17, 2022
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What is bullying?Pin

Bullying may be described as behaviour intended to threaten or cause hurt to other people, be it by physical or verbal means. It can often involve people targeting those they consider to be less powerful than them.  In other cases victims might be coerced into doing things they don’t want to. 

Examples of physical bullying are hitting, kicking, pushing, damaging one’s other belongings etc. Verbal bullying can involve name calling or insulting other people.  Another type of bullying is emotional bullying, which may involve humiliating or threatening others for some reasons, spreading and telling lies about someone etc. It can leave one worried, sad and any other negative feelings besides.

The evolution of technology over the years has led to bullying online via forums and websites such as Facebook on the internet. Hurtful messages can be sent on mobile phones and on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram too. With increased and easy access to mobile phones having internet access nowadays, it is hardly surprising victims may be increasingly targeted in these ways.

Why people engage in bullying behaviours

People bully others for a variety of reasons, and for reasons that may make no sense. Reasons may be linked and not limited to:

Feelings of insecurity and then trying to act tough.

Experiencing bullying themselves and want to take their anger and frustrations out on others, particularly those they perceive to be weaker than them.

Copying similar behaviours from elsewhere.

Being jealous of someone because they’re good at something in particular.

My experiences

Lots of us will have experienced bullying to some degree at various times in our lives. However, certain people are more vulnerable to bullying than others. And this is true for those of us on the autistic spectrum. Below are some characteristics of autism and how they related to my experiences.

  • Weaker social and communication skills. These make it difficult for them to establish friendships. Consequently, they may spend lots of time on their own, and might not have anyone to stick up for them when facing bullies. I would view standing up for myself as risky, concerned that things might escalate and get out of hand. Confrontations made me feel uncomfortable, and still do, but to a lesser extent. 

    Bullies can spread rumours about you and make up things to get you into trouble. An example here was when I got blamed for throwing a stone at a car window. Fortunately members of my class got on my side and played a part in clearing my name. The ones involved may have thought I wouldn’t be able to stand up for myself here and admit to it.People saying what may sound like offensive things can sound very convincing, even when they may be actually teasing or joking.Bullying can occur even without the victim realising it. An example here is a group of people who pretend to be friendly towards you. They might ask you to say rude words whilst they laugh. One piece of advice here is have somebody who you can trust point out to you that the group is making fun of you. Other situations could be where bullies might be friendly towards you, but still end up doing things that may hurt your feelings in some ways.

  • Misinterpretations of body language, facial expressions and voice tones, whereby it is hard to tell whether someone is joking or being serious in their actions. From time to time I’d get asked for money by others saying that they needed it for this, that or the other. The problem here can be recognising certain body language, voice tones and facial expressions to determine whether their needs were genuine or not.

  • May easily get anxious about certain things and be hypersensitive to stimuli from their surroundings and be gullible. Other pupils would occasionally tell me that there are people out there who are going to get me sometime.

I was a rather quiet and shy individual, and sometimes spent lunch times in quiet areas of the school on my own, particularly towards the end of my time at senior school. I also didn’t want the embarrassment of people seeing me on my own and belittling me for it. Having said that, there were others who I judged to be of a more kind and caring nature, making school life more manageable in that respect.  

Protecting those with autism against bullying

One could help you or help you to stick up for yourself. For example someone should be on hand to say to you something like, “They’re only teasing/joking,” or to the perpetrators, “Please don’t do that.”

For anyone who engages themselves in bullying activities, please stop and think!

How would you feel if it was you, a close friend or a loved one of yours on the receiving end of the bullies’ actions? We should look out for one another, so that we can live together more in harmony.  Whenever I think about the times when people weren’t so friendly to me, I turn to thoughts regarding all the people who have been good to me. This helped me to realise I’ll meet plenty of good people in the world. And if anyone finds themselves being bullied, it's not their fault. The fault lies more with the bully than the victim. It's also important to talk to somebody you can trust.

Please feel free to share any of your experiences, if you wish, in the comments sections and any advice used to prevent any bullying of one on the autism spectrum.


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2 comments on “Autism and Bullying”

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Inarm. I hope other people find this post helpful. Hope you manage to have a good and safe Christmas and New Year.

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