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ASPartOfMe
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16 Jun 2018, 1:29 am

The Sad Truth About Bullying Autistic Adults If you're on the spectrum, people are waiting with their loaded rifles to pick you off from every side.

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Give me your lunch money.” “Meet me on the playground after school.” When we think of bullying, these are phrases that come to mind. We mainly think of the tormentors we had as kids, but rarely do we think about the bullying we encounter on a daily basis as adults.

For the high functioning autistic (HFA) adult or for an Aspie (one with Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism noted for a lack of social skills), it’s something we face every day, simply for being who we are. I say we, because I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome six years ago at age forty-six.

Keep in mind that at my age there was no mention of autism in schools until nearly ten years after I graduated and Asperger’s wasn’t a thing until thirteen years after I graduated. That means I was never autistic; I was weird. And weird get bullied and those scars stay with you and make it easier to be bullied as an adult.

Fast forward to adulthood and the circumstances we find ourselves in are different than as a child, but the game is the same.

If you’re on the spectrum and have a hard time picking up certain social cues, you’re like a deer standing alone in the middle of a meadow with trees all around. People are waiting with their loaded rifles to pick you off from every side.

With the autistic person, bullying tends to be a lot of humor at the HFA’s expense. Someone says something about you and you’re not sure how to take it, but everyone laughs, so you laugh along with them.

This just adds fuel to the fire because not only are they mocking you, a form of mental or psychological bullying, but also they’re getting you to join in. This ends only one of two ways. Either you never figure out what’s going on and they get tired of it, or you eventually catch on, they call you several colorful names and you end up feeling like a piece of garbage not only because they did it but because you threw gas on the fire by participating.

How do I know this? Personal experience. What happens after that is that you spend the next days/weeks/months thinking about it and letting it consume you. Because you’re smart and have a very high IQ, you beat yourself up because you’re smart enough you should have seen that coming.

You forget, or don’t care, that you have a known deficit in the social area because of the way you’re brain is wired. You continue to beat yourself up and now the bully has you doing his work for him. In essence, you’re bullying yourself mentally with what Saturday Night Live’s Stuart Smalley would call, “Stinkin’ thinkin’.”

Generally, the physical bullying stops as an adult, though I guess that depends on where you live, and it turns to mental bullying and harassing or intimidating/threatening to get something you have and they want. Neither way is good, but at least we have fewer bruises.

Whoever wrote, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me,” wasn’t living in the real world.

Of course, names hurt. They’re meant to hurt. Also, I know the above phrase is supposed to be a metaphor for life, but keep in mind that HFA’s like me read things very literally, so I see that phrase and call BS.


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My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person. - Sara Luterman


B19
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16 Jun 2018, 4:30 am

What a very moving, heartfelt piece. Will have plenty of resonance with those of us who gained awareness of our AS in mid or later life. Painful though these pieces can be to read, they are validating too, in a way.



ASPartOfMe
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16 Jun 2018, 12:23 pm

The difficult thing is that sometimes people do and say harsh sounding jokes because they actually do like and accept you.

An example from my pre political correctness teen years. Because I am jewish I would get people throwing pennies in front of me and told to go get it. One day they asked me if I smelled gas. Without any context it sounds anti Semitic, the holocaust reference is seemingly very offensive at face value. Thing is the Italian guy would be told his car was full of bullet holes a mafia hit reference, the Irish guys got the drunk jokes. Since everybody in that group of teens on my block were treated similarly I could tell it was not bullying but “ethnic humor” as it was called then.

When people threw pennies in front of me and knocked my books out of my hand over it was bullying.

But most of the time it is not that obvoius or at least not that obvoius to me. Misinterpret bullying as a joke and I aide in my own bullying and encourage more of it. Misinterpret a joke as bullying I make people hostile to me that were not. For the life of me I can not understand why so many think people are laughing with the TV charactor Sheldon not at him.

Autistics bieng victimized because of not bieng aware they are bieng bullied is often talked about. Autistics becoming cynical and paranoid because we often figured out too late we were bieng taken advantage of and bullied and thus overcorrected is not discussed enough. That is a lasting mental scar also.


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Identified and joined WP August 26, 2013
DSM 5: Autism Spectrum Disorder, DSM IV: Aspergers Moderate Severity

My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person. - Sara Luterman


Last edited by ASPartOfMe on 16 Jun 2018, 12:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

blooiejagwa
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16 Jun 2018, 12:25 pm

Very true. The deer thing is true.

And you know who deer usually trust and stay with? Nobody except other deer.

Maybe we should follow their example.



jimmy m
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04 Jul 2018, 12:03 pm

One day when I was in the hallway of my 6th grade school, I was surrounded by a group of boys. They asked me what my nationality was. I sensed danger and said nothing. They looked at me. I was small and had large ears. They decided I was Japanese. I said nothing.

For the next three years, I was told every Japanese joke ever invented. Whenever they threw a joke my way, I maintained a stone cold face. That was a little hard to do sometimes because I wasn’t Japanese and a few of the jokes were actually a little funny. But if I showed any emotion, the jig was up.

To this day, if they are still alive, I wonder if they remember the little Japanese boy that went to their school. And I am still chuckling deep inside. That is my quirky sense of humor.

Now if I were Japanese, every one of their jokes would have been a dagger to the heart. And it also made me somewhat immune to any other criticisms they leveled in my direction. If they called me stupid, an idiot, a klutz, an imbecile; I knew deep inside I really wasn’t because I was pulling the wool right over their eyes and they didn’t even realize it. This almost made me bulletproof from psychological abuse.



SocOfAutism
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17 Jul 2018, 9:39 am

I agree, some of what is called bullying these days used to be a spicy way to make friends with people. My husband and his work friends still behave like this with each other. Back when I went out with my girl friends and gay guy friends we did it too. It makes you uncomfortable to be around a person who doesn’t play along.

Plus, many autistic people lean toward negativity when they are in a social situation they don’t understand. Like, everyone is laughing and I don’t understand so this must be negative. This is just a natural, self protective thing. My opinion is that the best way to deal with it is to simply say “I don’t get it.” If no one explains it to you, I’d be like “okay.” And change the subject. No big deal.



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05 Aug 2018, 9:05 pm

I don't experience it as an adult like I did during my adolescent horror show. Then again... being around assholes long enough in high school makes you immune to their scent on the street



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12 Aug 2018, 12:56 pm

I think the grim truth I've learned about the work world is it's a bunch of NT's trying to kill each other (financially) and any display of weakness goes down in their dossier against that person. It's not that we're specially 'bad', its that we're super-vulnerable to what they're already doing to each other.

I really don't know what the answer is. I think the only way things could be done better is if a bunch of aspies got together and started a few companies that absolutely killed their competition on quality, then people would have to take note that a group of people - with this 'disability' - cut through the noise and backstabbing, through it aside, and just knocked themselves out producing high quality uber-professional results.

The only thing that stops me from believing that this is likely - a) we do have deficits we have to work around which almost evens the difference and b) few of us are used to swimming in highly competitive environments and in our largely left-leaning mindsets don't know how to completely put aside 'fairness' as a fata morgana (in the business/economic world fairness only exists for the dead, ie. its between you and God when you see the tunnel or pearly gates) and bite any bullet we need to bite in order to survive.


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12 Aug 2018, 3:38 pm

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
I really don't know what the answer is. I think the only way things could be done better is if a bunch of aspies got together and started a few companies that absolutely killed their competition on quality, then people would have to take note that a group of people - with this 'disability' - cut through the noise and backstabbing, through it aside, and just knocked themselves out producing high quality uber-professional results.

The only thing that stops me from believing that this is likely - a) we do have deficits we have to work around which almost evens the difference and b) few of us are used to swimming in highly competitive environments and in our largely left-leaning mindsets don't know how to completely put aside 'fairness' as a fata morgana (in the business/economic world fairness only exists for the dead, ie. its between you and God when you see the tunnel or pearly gates) and bite any bullet we need to bite in order to survive.


How about...?
c) As soon as those companies became any credible threat, their competitors would find a way to take them out of business by force.


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techstepgenr8tion
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12 Aug 2018, 3:50 pm

Spiderpig wrote:
How about...?
c) As soon as those companies became any credible threat, their competitors would find a way to take them out of business by force.

A couple thoughts on that. First - it's only popular western childrens stories (with some exception of the old German and Spanish ones) where 'good' always wins so there's no guarantee at all that it would work. Second, given the first, you can choose between the possibility of having a go (or failing) and the possibility that the right people could be tough enough to survive that or you can just cave in, never try, and accept defeat.

My problem with living on a steady diet of defeat is that you can't even organize the rest of your life on it. The only way I can abate that sort of cloud is fighting potentially unwinnable battles. Is it efficient? On sheer proportionality probably not, but at the same time the alternative is despair which I think is a lot worse.


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14 Aug 2018, 3:51 am

techstepgenr8tion wrote:
I really don't know what the answer is. I think the only way things could be done better is if a bunch of aspies got together and started a few companies that absolutely killed their competition on quality, then people would have to take note that a group of people - with this 'disability' - cut through the noise and backstabbing, through it aside, and just knocked themselves out producing high quality uber-professional results.


In Denmark there is this: http://dk.specialisterne.com/en/


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techstepgenr8tion
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14 Aug 2018, 5:39 am

elsapelsa wrote:
In Denmark there is this: http://dk.specialisterne.com/en/

Especially in IT consulting that sounds imminently practical.


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27 Aug 2018, 1:44 am

And if you don't pick up on it, that is wonderful because it means they can't get to you and you can't get hurt feelings from it or feel uncomfortable if you don't know.

I have dealt with ignorance at my work but I don't think it's the same as being bullied. I dealt with one co worker a year back and he just did things and would pound on walls and doors startling me and I didn't give him any attention. I have no idea if he was doing that to annoy me or if because he just liked doing stupid things. Then after a while he stopped and then he started to become cool with me and then he moved to another building.


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27 Aug 2018, 3:45 am

League_Girl wrote:
And if you don't pick up on it, that is wonderful because it means they can't get to you and you can't get hurt feelings from it or feel uncomfortable if you don't know.


That’s a rather half-assed kind of bullying. Serious bullies escalate till either you do pick up on it, or they harm you enough they’re satisfied for the time being anyway. But in the long run, provided you don’t manage to cut off all contact with them, only your complete destruction will satisfy them, before they move on to their next target.


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08 Sep 2018, 10:07 am

ASPartOfMe wrote:


Every Aspie who works for a living will relate to that blog post.

The real test comes, when we leave jobs and finally can realize just how un-liked we were. Another test happens, when we share responsibilities with "colleagues" and they take credit for our work and exclude us, taking advantage of the tribal assumption that we really aren't that smart, due to our socially awkward presentation. Like the original poster, I am older so when I went to school I was just "weird" or "retard" (and so much more...), but I am not sure if having a condition or "syndrome" would have made it any better. Reading about the experiences of younger people here assures me that there's no magic key to acceptance.

Life is like high school, it is true, and those without social skills pay a very high price. This right here is the most painful part of the blog post: "You forget, or don’t care, that you have a known deficit in the social area because of the way you’re brain is wired. You continue to beat yourself up and now the bully has you doing his work for him." This is completely unavoidable as one gets older, because no matter how many awards or positive peer reviews you get for your work (and you'll probably get a few, from professors or customers or professional organizations or people who see only the results of your work and care about that), deep down in your core you don't believe any of your own "propaganda" about what a good performer you are. When one is 60, denial works pretty good most of the time, but in those moments of weakness it's impossible to avoid thinking about all those people who successfully gaslighted you as an idiot for all those years.