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People with autism often find themselves targeted by bullies

 

Bullying can cause feelings of depression and anxiety, and cause damage to a person’s self-esteem. In addition to the immediate harm, the experience of being bullied can have far-reaching consequences throughout someone’s life.

If you are being bullied, it’s important to remember that it is not your fault, and there are lots of ways of dealing with bullying.

If you’re a young person and you want to find out what bullying is, get advice on what to do if you think you’re being bullied and how to keep safe from bullies.

What is bullying?

Bullying is something that hurts you on the inside or outside. This may be physically hurt if someone hits or kicks you or, more commonly, emotional pain due to name-calling, teasing or social exclusion.

Bullying is done on purpose. If someone hurts you during a physical game by accident, for example in PE at school, then this is not bullying. However, if this happens every time you play this game in PE and the person enjoys seeing you hurt, then it is.

Persistent name-calling, teasing or social exclusion is bullying. This is wrong, no one has the right to hurt you physically or emotionally.

How it can make you feel?

If you are a young person being bullied, you may feel that you don’t want to go to school. Feeling worried, sick or in pain may leave you vulnerable and scared. You may feel like you are alone in coping with the bullying and that no one is listening to you.  However, there are people that can help and things you can do to try and improve the situation.

What to do if you are being bullied

Bullying will not go away by itself and may get worse if you try to ignore it. It can be difficult to take the first step.

Talk to someone

Identify someone that you feel comfortable talking to about what is happening to you and how it makes you feel. This could be a family member, carer, teacher, pastoral support worker, doctor, school nurse or a trusted friend.

Some schools have a bully box, where you can write down what is happening to you and put it in the box so that you can tell an adult without having to talk to them face to face.

Try to stay safe

A lot of bullying takes place during break and lunchtimes, where there is limited staff supervision. Many schools run lunchtime canteen, some may be specifically aimed at autistic children and young people. This would be a safe place to visit during your free time.

If you don’t have a best friend or a small group of people you enjoy spending time with then ask your teacher, teaching assistant or key worker if they can identify a ‘buddy’ for you.

Sometimes bullying happens outside of school, for example on the walk there and back. If you are being pursued outside of school then try going to public places such as your local library community or youth center. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the adults there, as long as you are in a safe place.

As hard as it may be, try to stay away from bullies and don’t fight back. You could practice how to deal with bullying situation with a family member or friend. They can help you to better understand body language and eye contact and what effect this can have.

Making friends

A good friend is a person you enjoy spending time with. It might be that you have similar interests that you enjoy talking about or that you just get on well and make each other laugh.

Friends should be kind and offer to help each other when needed. If you are looking to make a new friend, then try looking for someone who you know is welcoming and who shares with others.

You might be able to find a friend by attending lunchtime canteen about one of your interests. Or, you can ask your parents or school to help you find opportunities to meet new people.

Here is some advice to help you make friends:

  • decide who you are going to talk to and what you would like to talk about with the person
  • look to see if they can talk straight away and are not doing their school work or another activity
  • go up to them and say ‘hello’
  • wait for them to say ‘hello’ to you
  • ask them how they are
  • wait for their reply
  • ask a particular question about themselves
  • tell them about yourself.

Things that you can talk about could be something that is happening in school, what you did at the weekend or in the evening, a TV programme you’ve watched or book you’ve read.

Think of the conversation as a turn-taking activity. During a conversation, it is nice to talk about yourself, but it is also nice to hear what the other person has to say.

Cyber and other forms of bullying

Cyberbullying is now common due to a wide use of phones, tablets, and social media.

If you get unwanted or nasty texts, emails or social media messages, then you need to talk to an adult about it, as you would with any other bullying incident.

What to do if you are the bully

Sometimes, if you don’t feel good about yourself, you may start bullying other people. Young people can also think that bullying is a way of getting respect. This is not true.

Bullying can cause a lot of misery to other people. If you feel that you may start to bully, then try thinking about the positive things that you do. This can be something simple, such as helping out at home.

It’s important not to label yourself as a bully. Talk to an adult and ask for their help. Don’t worry about getting into trouble, it takes courage to admit that you have been a bully and they can help you find other ways to make you feel better about yourself.

Remember, you have the choice not to bully others.

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