9 Ways People on the Spectrum Can Deal with BullyingA. Stout
Bullying is a very real and incredibly sad aspect of our society. Anti-bullying measures have helped, to a degree, but kids, teens, and even adults are still far too commonly abused by their peers. Nearly a fourth of students report having been bullied in the last school year (22 percent).
If you are on the autism spectrum, that statistic rises significantly. Some estimates indicate that over 60 percent of kids on the spectrum are bullied!
So if you are one of them, realize you are not alone and that there is help and hope. Just for you, we’ve compiled some tips for handling bullies, dealing with the hurt they inflict, and even preventing future bullying situations. Whether you’re a kid encountering your bullies on the playground or an adult facing harassment at the workplace, we hope you find these tips useful!
9. Tell someone
If you’re being bullied, tell someone. Whether it’s your parents, your teacher, another relative, or your boss, don’t stay silent. You have every right to feel safe and accepted at school, work, or anywhere else.
Lots of bullies try to silence their victims by accusing them of being a “tattle-tale.” Don’t listen to them; tell someone anyway. Of course your bully will be unhappy you’re telling someone in authority—they want to continue being mean to you without experiencing any consequence for their actions, and reporting their bad behavior will force them to take responsibility.
8. Don’t give them the reaction they want
Here’s a secret about bullies: they usually only pick on someone who will react or be upset or scared. If you act like their behavior doesn’t bother you, eventually they will realize you’re not that fun to pick on and stop. Maybe that means you will totally ignore them or respond in a confident way that will surprise them.
But of course, that’s easier said than done. Bullies say and do incredibly hurtful things, which makes it only natural to react in a way that will give them power. So here are some solid, concrete things you can do instead:
- Temporarily prevent yourself from crying by sucking on the roof of your mouth and pinching the skin between your thumb and index finger hard. I used to cry a lot in school and found this really helped.
- Say one of these things that STOMP Out Bullying suggests:
“I’m not sure why you keep saying these things about me, but I don’t care.”
“Here we go again. This is boring. Let me know when you’re done.”
“Are you done? Do you feel better now?”
“Pardon me, but you seem to think that I care.”
- Say something nice in response to a mean comment. This can be really hard, but responding to cruelty with goodness can actually be very effective—it will not only surprise the bully, but it may make them realize what they’re doing to you and be ashamed of it.
- If the thought of not reacting seems impossible, just try to react less than you did last time.
- Walk away—especially after giving the bully a confident comeback like the ones above, this is one of the most powerful things you can do!
7. Surround yourself with friends
In addition to picking on people who will react, bullies also tend to target people who are alone. For that reason, surrounding yourself with friends can be an effective way to protect yourself.
Don’t have friends? One of the best ways to make them is to get to know people with similar interests as you. If you can’t get enough books about tornados or sharks or whatever your special interest is, try joining a reading group. If you love to make art, join an art group. If jamming out to music is more your thing, try joining your school’s band or orchestra, or find another music group.
If that doesn’t work out for you, find someone in the bullying environment who has been nice to you—or at the very least not mean to you. Do and say nice things to them (here’s a good place to start: briefly smile and say “hi” as you walk past them in the hallway or the break room). If there’s a chance you’ll cross paths with your bully, ask if you can walk with them. Who knows? That person might become a friend!