Autism and bullying

Bullying is a big issue for many Autistic people. We’ve dealt with it in our house, and I know many readers of this blog will have dealt with it too.

My Autistic son was bullied at school. By “friends”, peers, and even teachers. It was heartbreaking and exhausting for both him and me. Sadly, our society and education system tend to at the very least excuse or minimise bullying, and at worst support the bully by blaming the victim for what happened. 

In this infographic I present some facts about bullying, and some strategies to deal with it. My suggestions are not an exhaustive list by any means. Readers may want to leave their own ideas in the comments. 

I am happy for people to share the image, but please credit me and link back to this article, or to my Facebook page when you do. If you wish to print the image or otherwise reproduce it for your own use, please click here for access to the downloadable PDFs.

There is an image description following the image.


Image title: Autism and Bullying: Facts and Strategies

Copyright statement: 

©Michelle Sutton * *Please credit when sharing *Do not reproduce without written permission

In a yellow box at the top left of the image:
Definition of bullying: 
Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons….
Bullying can involve humiliation, domination, intimidation, victimisation and all forms of harassment…

In a blue box in the top middle of the image:
In Australia 62% of Autistic students report being bullied once a week or more. 
In contrast, around 20% of students without disabilities report being bullied once a week or more. 
Bullying affects a persons mental health and wellbeing. People who are seen as being different are often targets of bullies. 

Below the blue box is a diagram with 10 figures representing people. 6 of them are highlighted purple. This image represents the 62% of Autistic students who report being bullied at school. 

In a green box in the left and middle of the image:
What to do:
Listen! If someone tells you they are being bullied, do not brush off their feelings or concerns. Take them seriously. Write down what they tell you in as much detail as possible. 
Comfort and reassure! If someone is being bullied, they are likely very upset by the experience, even if they do not express this in a way you would expect. Reassure and comfort them. Tell them you care and you will get them help.
Get help! Find out who can help, tell them what is happening and ask them to help. 
Help looks like: confronting a bully and letting them know their behaviour is not OK, removing a bully from the situation so they no longer have access to their target, being with the victim to provide moral support until they feel confident again, educating all members of the community about the value of diversity and difference, teaching all members of the community how to stand up to a bully both for themselves and in support of others. 

In a red box down the right hand side of the image:
Do not:
encourage the use of “social skills training” for the Autistic person as the solution to them being bullied
assume the Autistic person is over-reacting or just upset because they aren’t able to “interpret social situations”
say things like “just because you didn’t like what they did does not make it bullying”, “if you didn’t react they would stop”, and “that’s just life, you need to toughen up and get used to it”
All these things are victim blaming
Do not: 
be satisfied with signing a petition or pledge or statement against bullying. Social media activism has it’s place, but “awareness raising” is not a suitable stand alone strategy to deal with bullying

In an orange box along the bottom of the image:
Remember: People who are bullied are victims. 
No one “asks” to be bullied. No one deserves to be bullied.


*This infographic has been translated into Russian by Veronika Belenkaya, and can be found on her website Neurodiversity in Russia

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