Skip to main content

Bullying Never Ends

Bullying is nothing new to me. Even as a second grade student I could tell you why I was a target for bullies. But, when I saw the headline "Predictors of Bullying of Autistic Children Identified," I found myself reading the story below on Medscape ( Maybe I was searching for a solution I know doesn't exist. Yes, I am cynical about human nature. (Read my previous post on lying and narcissism as they relate to popularity and power: Social Success and Narcissism)

My simple theory on bullying: people of all ages, young and old, test each other to determine the nature of the "competition" in a social group. We measure people, to locate the strongest and weakest in the group. Bullying is an extreme version of this social testing. Even those of us who want to believe we are exempt from such impulses rarely are. Every group has power rankings, the challenge is to see people beyond those social standings.
Predictors of Bullying of Autistic Children Identified (
International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) 10th Anniversary Meeting: Poster 105.143. Presented May 12, 2011.
Reported by Norma MacReady
Other investigators have confirmed that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) come in for more than their fair share of bullying, lead study author Elizabeth Kelley, PhD, told Medscape Medical News. In this study, she and her coauthors at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where Dr. Kelley is an assistant professor of developmental psychology, searched for factors that could help predict a child's risk of being bullied.
As I stated earlier, I already have a view of why one is bullied: he or she appears potentially weak to others in the social group. The appearance of weakness might be misleading, but peers attempt to verify the perception.
The participants were 68 boys ranging in age from 11 to 18 years, with a mean age of 14.6 years. Thirty-one of the youngsters had a confirmed diagnosis of an ASD; the remaining 17 were typically developing (TD) adolescents, who served as control subjects.
Tangent: I'm often asked why a study would only include males or females, instead of a mix of the genders. There are two reasons: 1) it removes gender as a variable from the study, providing better statistical control; 2) certain conditions (like autism) have different prevalence rates so we tend to study the larger population in preliminary studies. Choosing males over females in an initial study is reasonable, especially if later studies include both genders. Statistically, this study should be generalizable to similar populations, specifically young males. Replication of this study should be possible, based on the information included in the full text.
Significant differences between the boys with ASD and TD boys were seen in the tests of pragmatic judgment, emotional intelligence, behavioral regulation, and metacognition. On multiple regression analyses, the emotional control domain of the BRIEF and the stress management domain of the emotional intelligence test emerged as significant predictors of being bullied.
In simple English: the boys with ASDs had less ability to control their emotional responses to being bullied. These young men might respond angrily, they might run away from confrontation, or they might simply become flustered under stress. My personal response to stress? Flee the situation and hide until the threat is gone. Seems logical, at least to me, but it also leads to further confrontations.
Why does a flight response lead to more bullying? Because it is perceived as weak.
"Unfortunately, I think this says a lot about adolescent behavior — bullies pick on the kids they think they can get a rise out of, and when those kids react strongly, they just tend to get picked on more," Dr. Kelley said.
I react quickly, almost instantaneously, to stress. If I believe someone presents a threat, I leave the room or shutdown, ignoring the person as best I can. I don't like to be pushed around, but I like responding to confrontation even less.

What was a lousy approach as a child isn't more effective as an adult. As an adult, the only alternative to leaving a situation, especially in the workplace, is capitulation. This surrender leads coworkers to take advantage of my unwillingness to challenge them. You can guess who ends up with extra work or the least-desired assignments. My non-reaction is a reaction, in that it conveys my weakness to others. I'm not sure there is a way to "react" without "over-reacting" to pushy colleagues. Going to a supervisor is a certain sign of weakness, similar to telling the teacher that other students are bullying you.

Tattling is certain to lead to more bullying.
"These findings suggest that it is important for parents, teachers, and other adults who work with adolescents with autism to convey the idea to these kids that the more they react, the more they're going to be bullied," Dr. Kelley said. "I also think that emotional regulation is an understudied area in individuals with autism. We're so focused on the social processes and the language and the repetitive behaviors that we don't always think about the associated difficulties that these kids have, such as anxiety, depression, and problems with emotional regulation. That, too, is something that needs to be addressed in these adolescents."
I don't have any great words of advice. I'm still "pushed around" from time to time. I'm trying to discover the best way to avoid being a "victim" of social rankings, but to date the only solution I have is to work alone as often as possible. Avoiding most social situations seems to be the only solution that works well for me.


Popular posts from this blog

Autism, Asperger's, and IQ

"Aren't people with Asperger's more likely to be geniuses? Isn't genius related to autism?"

A university student asked this in a course I am teaching. The class discussion was covering neurological differences, free will, and the nature versus nurture debate. The textbook for the course includes sidebars on the brain and behavior throughout chapters on ethics and morality. This student was asking a question reflecting media portrayals of autism spectrum disorders, social skills difficulties, and genius.

I did not address this question from a personal perspective in class, but I have when speaking to groups of parents, educators, and caregivers. Some of the reasons these questions arise, as mentioned above, are media portrayals and news coverage of autism. Examples include:
Television shows with gifted characters either identified with or assumed to have autistic traits: Alphas, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Rizzoli and Isles, Touch, and others. Some would include She…

Listen… and Help Others Hear

We lack diversity in the autism community.

Think about what you see, online and in the media. I see upper-middle class parents, able to afford iPads and tutors and official diagnoses. I see parents who have the resources to fight for IEPs and physical accommodations.

I see self-advocacy leadership that has been fortunate (and hard working, certainly) to attend universities, travel the nation (or even internationally), and have forums that reach thousands.

What I don't see? Most of our actual community. The real community that represents autism's downsides. The marginalized communities, ignored and excluded from our boards, our commissions, our business networks.

How did my lower-income parents, without college educations, give me a chance to be more? How did they fight the odds? They did, and now I am in a position of privilege. But I don't seem to be making much of a difference.

Demand that your charities seek out the broadest possible array of advisers and board members.…

Life Updates: The MFA Sprint

Life is okay, if more than a little hectic at the end of this first month.

With one month down, I'm 11 months away from my MFA in Film and Digital Technology. Though things might happen and things do go wrong, so far I'm on schedule and things are going well —— though I'm exhausted and working harder than I did for any other degree. Because the MFA requires projects every week, this isn't as easy to schedule as writing. Even researching a paper can be done from the comfort of home, at any hour.

You cannot make movies by yourself, at any time of day. It doesn't work that way. Filming takes time, and often requires a team of people. It's not comparable to working alone on a degree in writing or rhetoric.

The team-based nature of film is exhausting for me, but I enjoy the results. I also like the practical nature of the skills being taught. You either learn how to adjust ISO, f/Stop, shutter speed, and other variables or you don't. You can have theories …