Working with youth and adolescents with ASD means dealing with the inevitable fallout from bullying. If you can think of a form of bullying, it’s happened at least once to at least one of my clients. Due to struggles recognizing social cues and understanding the dynamics of pragmatics, I would wager that many of my clients have been bullied in ways they do not recognize or even know about. The bottom line is that if you know someone with ASD, they have been bullied. Even if they don’t know it, you do. So, what do we do with latent bullying, especially if the “victim” does not recognize the crime? Especially given the reality that at some point what is latent becomes malignant.
Most of what I have read in the literature suggests that anti-bullying campaigns are ineffective, at best, and potentially damaging, at worst. Kid with ASDs are a tricky audience, regardless. They are kind, too kind to stand up for themselves with the empowered and sometimes sassy words that stand down a bully. They are not equipped to recognize the savviness of cyber- and mobile-bullying, with its faceless and nameless tactics. They are primed targets because they want so desperately to believe in others, to believe in a friend, to have a friend. They are cyclical victims because of the flaws of the system that shields them; “tattle” and enlarge the target.
Easy targets. Savvy bullies. Backfiring prevention. Growing epidemic of bullying. Here is what I propose:
Let’s consequence bullies more intelligently and effectively, not stringently. No suspension, expulsion, or groundings that only fan the eternal fires of revenge. Let’s find a way to introduce, perhaps re-introduce, the bullies with the Aspies and the auties and the other victims so that they can see likenesses, rather than the differences to be made fun of. Is that too pie-in-the-sky?