When I speak in schools either as part of a school assembly or professional development, I often talk about how bullying is one of the biggest epidemics we currently have in the school systems today. Growing up with autism, I was bullied for my differences. It wouldn’t be until middle school it started to slow down for me when I went to a private school for students with learning disabilities. Now as an adult I’m an anti-bullying activist to hopefully help stop others from being bullied like I was as a kid.
With that, I wanted to share 5 things that helped me during the times I was bullied as an autistic child in the hopes it may help you or your child who may be going through similar challenges…
Understanding the differences between friends and bullies. For a while, I didn’t understand what a friend was versus what a bully was. Because of that, I would often befriend bullies because even though I was receiving negative attention, it was some form of attention. My parents helped me with this when they noticed bullies were taking advantage of me.
Roleplaying. I great up being a HUGE theater nerd. Because of that, some of my teachers who knew I was being bullied would act out situations (often during social skills and drama classes) where I could know how to respond when I was being bullied (i.e. go find a teacher, walk away).
Receiving a peer mentor. When a peer intervenes in a bullying situation, it’s more likely to stop versus when a teacher or authority figure does. Having an ally helped tremendously.
Focusing on positives. Growing up with limited for the first few years of my life, I often had emotional issues because of my inability to relay messages to my friends & family. My parents used a mantra, ‘no problems, just solutions’ to keep me focused on trying to find solutions for any problems I was having. Having a positive mindset and using similar mantras helped when times were rough.
Documenting. This wasn’t something I started doing until I was in high school but, anytime I was bullied, I would try to remind myself to write down who was bullying me along with the date and time. Although I wouldn’t speak up right away to a teacher or administrator, if I had a log of events, I felt like the schools would take it more seriously.
While bullying has stopped almost completely for me today, I know there is still work to be done in our community to stop this issue. I hope with more disability awareness & acceptance we can stop bullying in our community for good.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. If you are looking for more resources the Pacers Bullying Prevention Center has some great resources along with Autism Speaks 7 Steps to Take A Stand Against Bullying List.