Life on the Spectrum

Many (too many) autistic kids, and even autistic adults, are bullied. This is sadly the case in many schools and workplaces. Those who are different, who don’t fit in, are mercilessly picked on. Bullying leads to low self-esteem; poor self-confidence; bad grades; poor school and work attendance; long-term mental health issues, including PTSD; and, in some cases, suicide. I personally was bullied throughout my school years, as well as after school, at summer camp and even at vacation Bible school.

I was therefore astonished to discover an article published in the Autism Daily Newscast, written by Karen Kabaki-Sisto, entitled “Ten Perks Kids With Autism Get From Being Bullied.” Yes, according to this article, there are perks to being bullied! I just had to read the article to find out what these supposed perks are. Here is the article.

One of them is the opportunity for a school to promote autism awareness. This is actually a perk for the school more than for the autistic student, but shouldn’t a school already be aware of autism if there are autistic students in the school? I doubt the bullies care much about autism awareness, and more awareness of autism is not going to magically stop them from bullying autistic kids or any other kids.

Kids are supposed to gain skills from bullying. Being bullied will promote better verbal skills, according to this article, as kids learn how to respond to their bullies. From discussing this with others who have been bullied, I’ve learned that the  bullying is more likely to hinder a child’s verbal skills as they become so traumatized they talk less, or they are so afraid of being made fun of for what they say, they don’t say anything at all. I personally developed a stutter for a couple of years due to trauma.

Bullying is supposed to also help a child gain independence, survival skills and civil liberties, but the article doesn’t outline how exactly this is supposed to happen. I guess finding a quiet, deserted part of the school in which to hide from the bullies at lunchtime, as I did, is part of those survival skills. In a twisted way bullying did increase my independence, as it taught me that I couldn’t rely on anyone to help me, certainly not the school principal or vice-principal or any of the teachers or counsellors, so I had to depend only on myself. It definitely didn’t do anything for my civil liberties, though.

Bullying is supposed to help an autistic child make friends, as the non-autistic kids are supposed to help watch out for the bullied autistic kids, and this will lead to friendships. Perhaps this is a program held at some schools? I’ve never heard of it. But a friendship made this way is not a real friendship. It’s more of a job than anything else, and not a job that should be given to elementary school kids. It should be up to the adults to protect kids from bullies, not other kids.

Overall, the skills the autistic child supposedly learns from being bullied — self-reliance, communication skills, civil liberties, good citizenship, awareness of stranger danger, and survival skills — will all add up to improved self-esteem. Pardon my language, but I say bullshit. I lived through bullying from kindergarten through grade 10, and I came out of it with poor communication skills, little awareness of danger, marginal survival skills and horrendously low self-esteem. I went through multiple unhealthy “friendships” and relationships with abusive people, and I thought I deserved the abuse. It took me until I was in my 30s and diagnosed with autism to start to climb out of the abyss, with the help of counselling and life skills coaching.

I hope that this article is not read by any of the many bullies out there. I’m afraid they may take it as implicit permission to bully autistic kids.

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Comments on: "There Are No Perks to Being Bullied" (1)

  1. I was bullied relentlessly from infant school right up until the day I left senior school. It left me too frightened to go to college, and when I started going out with friends at the weekend I wasn’t used to people (especially men) being genuinely interested in me, and didn’t know how to handle the attention. I’d accepted that I was ugly and unloveable.

    Being bullied also got me into a lot of trouble with teachers, because I only knew to respond by being as frightening as possible, in the hopes that other kids would leave me alone. I pushe one boy so hard when he began taunting me that he smacked into the corner of a pillar and needed stitches in his face, and I broke another boy’s nose when he was picking on a friend and I hit him in the face with a tennis racket. Rather than things ending there, of course, the boy whose nose I broke made the next four years of my life pure hell.

    There are no perks to being bullied, and especially not when you’re autistic. All it brought me was a world of fear, a belief that I was some sort of monster, absolutely no self-esteem (followed by one abusive relationship after another) and a thwarted future. I could have been – I wanted to be – a journalist, but I left education early and have only ever done jobs that other people consider to be “beneath” my level of intelligence. Now, of course, I’m chronically ill (as you’re aware), and I have no qualifications that allow me to continue a job that I was doing from home, because bullying stopped me from chasing my dreams.

    Nobody wins.

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