Bullying; been there, done that. I’ve had it all, and then some. I’ve been stuffed in a trash can, verbally abused, hit, had stones thrown at the window of our house and fireworks set off in the drive; I’ve been shoved from behind face-down into the snow and stabbed in the hand with a pencil; someone spat in my mouth and someone else – a horrendous home tutor – sniggered at the unusual gait my dyspraxia gave me.
Most of this stuff happened at what I’ve now come to consider the dreaded ‘Double R’ school set-up; specifically Raglan Road Junior School and then Ravensbourne School for Boys. But it was the 1980s, and harassing the living heck out of people with autism was pretty much a fashion-trend, along with deeley-bobbers and the Rubik Cube.
I’ve come a long way since then, regaining my education the long way around; I’ve got four degrees – or is it five, I lose count – and a doctorate as well as several published books, articles, awards, columns, etc etc. And I don’t think I could have done it without those bullies, pupils and teachers alike. In fact, I might even venture to say that I might have ended up being rather mundane if they hadn’t spurred me on with their spite.
This is all about the concept of taking something negative and positively reframing it, alongside the fact that basically I made a promise to that poor little boy – i.e. me – to make sure I got the education I deserved, basically the one that ended when I was permanently excluded from school aged just twelve, and labelled as ‘educationally backward’ to boot.
Now I don’t mean to imply that one needs to go through all those various trials in order to succeed, but even today in 2019 I’m sure that aa very great many autistic people experience bullying of one kind or another, and there is a way to come through it and even to twist it to your advantage. Again, this brings me back to the idea of positively reframing a bad event and plucking what good you can from it and using it to spur you on to even greater feats of accomplishment. I’ve done, and you can do it too, even if it does take a little time to pull it off (I took the long route, but that’s another story entirely).
Fighting back unfortunately can often bounce back on you; I walloped one of my tormentors and I was the one who ended up being suspended, when I was just nine years old. I could have done without that little drama – different primary school for a week until my autistic tendency to routine demanded I be sent back to the original one – but I understand at times it can be hard to stifle the urge to strike back.
Instead try taking a deep breath and remembering you’re more likely the one to end up in trouble rather than said tormentor. Try reframing it by imagining the idea that you’re only singled out because you’re special. Special; there, that sounds much better than ‘spastic’ (the go-to term of opprobrium in my schooling heyday) already, doesn’t it?!?
Elements of this article may be found in the memoir ‘Mickeypedia – The A to Z of an autistic savant’, by Mickey Mayhew: http://www.mickeymayhew.com/