My double minority life as a gay man with Autism Spectrum Disorder (Asperger’s Syndrome) has more than it’s fair share of excruciating challenges. I do not demand people to feel sorry for me when I share even the most painful experiences. Not everyone is going to understand how it feels to live with my condition. Nor do I expect praise from people who are willing to read about my life. It can be easy for me to come off as such a person. However, I know I am far from the type of person who demands metals and trophies just for writing about my life. Demanding praise and adoration is only going to result in the exact opposite.
I know there is a lot of diversity in the Autism community. People like Dr. Temple Grandin refer to Autism as a continuum, that ranges from nonverbal to traits that are more…
More than a third of adults with autism have been bullied or discriminated against at work, the largest ever survey on the condition has found.
Meanwhile, 43 per cent said they had left or lost a job because of their autism, the poll by the National Autistic Society (NAS) concluded.
The NAS said the findings highlight the lack of support for people with autism in the workplace, and the lack of awareness of the condition among employers and colleagues. The poll, released for the charity’s 50th birthday this week, found just 10 per cent of adults with autism in paid employment receive support from their employers, despite 53 per cent saying they would like it.
The charity called for employers to ensure that support is in place for employees with autism so that they “have the opportunity to make a valuable contribution to society like everyone else”.
David Perkins, manager of Prospects, the NAS’s employment service, said: “It is unacceptable in the current economic climate that some employers are failing to put reasonable support in place to keep adults with autism in work and off benefits. It needs to be nationally understood and accepted that bullying or discrimination of any kind in the workplace is deplorable, and against a colleague because of their disability it is tantamount to anti-disability abuse. We urge employers to make sure their offices have an ‘autism-friendly’ ethos; otherwise we risk failing thousands of willing and able workers.”
Almost one in three respondents (32 per cent) said the support or adjustments made by their employer or manager in relation to their autism was poor. A similar proportion (30 per cent) complained that the support or adjustments had been poor. Almost four in 10 respondents (38 per cent) reported that the suitability of the work environment in relation to their autism was poor. Fewer than one in five (19 per cent) said they had no experience of bullying, unfairness or lack of support at work.
Research has shown that children with autism are three times as likely to be bullied as other youngsters.
Last month a coroner warned that young people with autism could be being failed by health agencies after an autistic boy committed suicide after being bullied at college.
Bradford coroner Paul Marks said the death of Gareth Oates, from Stowmarket, Suffolk, could probably have been averted if it had not been for the failings of a number of mental health, social services and education agencies.
Case study: ‘People tended to exclude me’
Valerie Carlin, 45, from south-west London, has an autistic spectrum disorder and has been out of work for three years since leaving her career in finance because of bullying at work. She said: “Although I was good at the actual job, people tended to exclude me socially, to ignore me and try not to give me any work to do.
“I was diagnosed three years ago with an autistic spectrum disorder which is similar in many ways to Asperger’s. My communication problems meant, over time, I antagonised people and never realised why.” ………’
She’s not doing any work at school, is extremely sensitive to criticism and sees offence where there is none. Annalisa Barbieri advises a reader
Our only child, who is 10, has had regular, uncontrollable temper outbursts for the past four years. She was bullied at school for nearly two years by three “friends”, between the ages of six and eight. We were unaware of all of this. At home we were seeing sustained tantrums, often from the minute we got back after school. Unfortunately, we didn’t know what to do at the time and would often shout back at her and threaten to withdraw treats.
When she was about seven we realised we needed considerable help and were even starting to think she had a condition such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. A friend who works with young children in a psychiatric capacity told us there was nothing wrong with her and asked if she was being bullied. We said no. We decided to go to our GP but went to the school first to see if they could offer advice. They told us only then about the past year of bad behaviour and the bullying by the three friends.
We were shocked – these girls came for tea and were her three closest school friends. We were also relieved as we believed we had found the answer to her behaviour.
The bullying continued. She is a clever girl but was producing little or no work in the classroom, often folding her arms and refusing to work. She started to try to stay off school. On more than one occasion, I returned home with her to calm her down.
As she grew older she started to tell us things, describing feeling alone most days and how other children poked fun at her. She had started to answer back to teachers and play the class fool.
I read everything I could find on bullying and the effects it could have on neural development. I was convinced her behaviour, which the school was now very concerned about, was a result of bullying. The school didn’t agree, saying the bullying had stopped. Her behaviour at school was now the problem.
At home we reversed our approach and reaction to her behaviour and stopped fighting fire with fire. We asked for a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) referral and she started a course of weekly, private counselling. We were also successful in getting her a place on a day course by Kidscape. It was a great day and helped her to see she was not alone and was not, in her words, a freak.
The CAMHS referral didn’t go beyond the initial triage on the two occasions on which we were referred (a year apart). It was acknowledged that she had a high level of anxiety about school and friends but that she was able to function normally. The counselling lasted a year and the conclusion was that though she was a happy, well-balanced, thoughtful child, she was “highly anxious” about friends and friendships.
Her tantrums at home are getting worse and she is becoming increasingly physical, though she is very articulate about the tantrums. She feels remorse and shame after an outburst. She explains that when she feels hurt or upset she holds it in until she gets home; it then bursts out without her having any control. She describes her brain as having two sides – a happy side and an angry side. Sometimes the angry side takes over and she cannot control it. She tries very hard to stay in the happy side and not let the angry side win.
She is extraordinarily sensitive to criticism and sees offence at every turn. Sometimes there is an outburst because I smiled at the wrong moment and she thinks I am laughing at her.
I contacted three specialists: professionals in child psychotherapy, child bullying and autism. No one can diagnose your daughter from a letter, but the professional in autism thought it was worth you exploring autism/Asperger syndrome and pathological demand avoidance as possibilities. But the only way of knowing is for your daughter to have a formal diagnostic assessment.
You may know that girls on the spectrum present differently and can be very hard to diagnose. Many health and education professionals can miss it because girls learn to mimic “how to behave” socially. I have put some links at the bottom here, which I’d like you to look at, including how to get a diagnosis. Certain things made me wonder: the explosions as soon as she gets home from school, the seeming inability to read your facial expressions, the high anxiety over some social situations. Children with autism can also be bullied because the way they communicate and interact may be different from their peers, and they may misinterpret social situations.
Your very much longer letter told me of the many avenues you have tried in an attempt to help your daughter, although there was nothing about her early years. But I see some routes were not fully explored because other professionals offered you alternative theories. I also wonder if the bullying has become the sole focus and so stopped one, perhaps, seeing anything else that might be going on?
Ben Lloyd, a child and adolescent psychotherapist (childpsychotherapy.org.uk) also wondered if the bullying was a symptom or the cause.
Leaving aside the autism for a moment, Lloyd explains: “A task of parenting is to help channel ordinary, healthy aggression and help a child to regulate their own emotions that are in the first place unfamiliar to them. It sounds as though your daughter has not been able to develop a way of tolerating ordinary enough frustrations that are necessary for emotional development to take place.”
It certainly doesn’t sound as if your daughter has learned to modulate her emotions or has emotional containment. But we don’t know why. Obviously a child with autism would find this much harder.
New research has found a staggeringly high number of people being abused or manipulated by people they believed to be their friend
Children with Asperger’s and autism are being bullied, abused and even robbed by people they think are their friends, according to study revealing the horrific extent of so-called “mate crime”.
A staggeringly high number of people with autism and Asperger’s syndrome are being subjected to mate crime, a form of disability hate crime in which a vulnerable person is manipulated or abused by someone they believed to be their friend, a survey by an autism charity has found.
The research uncovered heartbreaking stories of abuse – including one vulnerable young person who was tricked into giving his debit card and PIN number to a so-called friend who then used it run up huge bills. The parents of one 17-year-old girl told researchers how their daughter was robbed of her iPod and phone by classmates at school – and now had a boyfriend who “always turns up when it is her payday for her DLA” [disability living allowance].
A parent of a 14-year-old boy who responded to the survey said, “My son is absolutely harmless and extremely vulnerable. It is so hard explaining that people are making fun of him.”
A young man with autism said, “I was frightened to tell anyone about the bullying and theft and manipulation.” Another respondent said: “My brother was befriended by neighbours who robbed him and stored drugs in his flat.”
The report was based on an online survey of nearly 150 people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome or their carers conducted by Wirral Autistic Society earlier this year.
Robin Bush, CEO of the society, said, “Mate crime is morally reprehensible and these people are cowards. People with autism struggle enough with the complexities of daily life without having to live in fear that people who pretend to be their friends will steal from them, assault them or encourage them to commit crimes on their behalf. “
The report found that 80 per cent of respondents over the age of 16 felt they had been bullied or taken advantage of by someone they had thought was a friend. This compares to a figure of 49 per cent when the National Autistic Society asked the same question of over-18s in a nationwide survey last year.
The most vulnerable age group was 16 to 25. Every respondent in that age group reported having difficulty distinguishing genuine friends from those who may bully or abuse the friendship in some way. Eight out of 10 said that fear of bullying had caused them to turn down social opportunities.
More than seven out of 10 (71 per cent) respondents of all ages who had been victims of mate crime had been subject to verbal abuse. More than half (54 per cent) of 12-16 year-olds had had money or possessions stolen. Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of over-25s reported that they had been manipulated.
Over a third of adults with autism had been subject to bullying or manipulation of a sexual nature – including being coerced into “sexting”.
The report concluded that people with autism were often unaware that they are in an abusive relationship. Parents and carers were the ones who recognised the problem but reported that they felt at a loss about who to turn to for help.