Find advice about what bullying is, what to do if you think you are being bullied and how to stay safe. You'll also find tips on how to survive socially at school, cyber bullying and what to do if you have become a bully.
What is bullying?
Bullying is something that hurts you on the inside or outside. This may be physical hurt if someone hits or kicks you or, more commonly, emotional pain due to name calling, teasing or social exclusion.
Bullying is done on purpose. If someone hurts you during a physical game by accident, for example in PE at school, then this is not bullying. However, if this happens every time you play this game in PE and the person enjoys seeing you hurt, then it is.
Persistent name calling, teasing or social exclusion is bullying. This is wrong, no one has the right to hurt you physically or emotionally.
How it can make you feel?
If you are a young person being bullied, you may feel that you don’t want to go to school. Feeling worried, sick or in pain may leave you vulnerable and scared. You may feel like you are alone in coping with the bullying and that no one is listening to you.
However, there are people that can help and things you can do to try and improve the situation.
What to do if you are being bullied
Bullying will not go away by itself and may get worse if you try to ignore it. It can be difficult to take the first step.
Talk to someone
Identify someone that you feel comfortable talking to about what is happening to you and how it makes you feel. This could be a family member, carer, teacher, pastoral support worker, doctor, school nurse or a trusted friend.
Some schools have a bully box, where you can write down what is happening to you and put it in the box so that you can tell an adult without having to talk to them face to face.
If you prefer, contact a helpline such as Childline where you can talk confidentially with an adviser who will give advice and support.
Try to stay safe
A lot of bullying takes place during break and lunchtimes, where there is limited staff supervision. Many schools run lunchtime clubs, some may be specifically aimed at autistic children and young people. This would be a safe place to visit during your free time.
If you don’t have a best friend or a small group of people you enjoy spending time with then ask your teacher, teaching assistant or key worker if they can identify a ‘buddy’ for you.
Sometimes bullying happens outside of school, for example on the walk there and back. If you are being pursued outside of school then try going to public places such as your local library community or youth centre. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know the adults there, as long as you are in a safe place.
As hard as it may be, try to stay away from bullies and don’t fight back. You could practise how to deal with bullying situation with a family member or friend. They can help you to better understand body language and eye contact and what effect this can have.
Kidscape have very practical advice on how to respond to bullies.
Surviving socially at school
A good friend is a person you enjoy spending time with. It might be that you have similar interests that you enjoy talking about or that you just get on well and make each other laugh.
Friends should be kind and offer to help each other when needed. If you are looking to make a new friend, then try looking for someone who you know is welcoming and who shares with others.
You might be able to find friend by attending lunchtime clubs about one of your interests. Or, you can ask your parents or school to help you find opportunities to meet new people.
Here is some advice to help you make friends:
- decide who you are going to talk to and what you would like to talk about with the person
- look to see if they can talk straight away and are not doing their school work or another activity
- go up to them and say 'hello'
- wait for them to say 'hello' to you
- ask them how they are
- wait for their reply
- ask a particular question about themselves
- tell them about yourself.
Things that you can talk about could be something that is happening in school, what you did at the weekend or in the evening, a TV programme you've watched or book you've read.
Think of the conversation as a turn-taking activity. During a conversation, it is nice to talk about yourself, but it is also nice to hear what the other person has to say.
You may find it difficult to know when to end a conversation. Here are some signs that show the other person no longer wants or has time to talk:
- they look away from you and start looking at a clock, their mobile phone, watch or at other things around you
- they start a conversation with someone else who is nearby.
When someone looks like they are not listening to you anymore, you can say 'Nice talking to you. Bye.'
If you approach someone and they are not friendly back, then leave. You might find it helpful to chat to an adult about this afterwards.
It’s important not to ‘buy’ friendships, either by offering another person gifts or money or by exaggerating a life experience or situation. While this may appear to help at first, this friendship would not be a real and lasting one.
You should also be aware of the difference between a real friend and one that bullies you in an underhand way. These are sometimes called frenemies
When you have made a new friend, it is tempting to try and limit what you allow that person to do with others. Although they enjoy your company, they will have other friends to spend time with. Try not to pressurise them, making friends is a gradual process.
In time, they may introduce you to their other friends, helping you to widen your social circle.
The National Autistic Society has resources that can help to develop your social skills and friendships. If you think that these will be helpful then talk to school about them.
Cyber and other forms of bullying
Cyber bullying is now common due to a wide use of phones, tablets and social media.
If you get unwanted or nasty texts, emails or social media messages, then you need to talk to an adult about it, as you would with any other bullying incident.
Read more about cyber bullying and how to deal with it.
Another form of bullying can be when teachers single you out for criticism or use inappropriate language when talking to you. Teachers have a duty of care towards you so it’s important that you report anything like this to someone you trust.
What to do if you are the bully
Sometimes, if you don't feel good about yourself, you may start bullying other people. Young people can also think that bullying is a way of getting respect. This is not true.
Bullying can cause a lot of misery to other people. If you feel that you may start to bully, then try thinking about the positive things that you do. This can be something simple, such as helping out at home.
It’s important not to label yourself as a bully. Talk to an adult and ask for their help. Don’t worry about getting into trouble, it takes courage to admit that you have been a bully and they can help you find other ways to make you feel better about yourself.
Remember, you have the choice not to bully others.
Further help from our charity
If you are working through a bullying situation with your parents or carers then they may find it useful to read our bullying guide for parents.
Bullying UK: practical information and advice to young people about bullying.
ChildLine: free 24-hour confidential helpline and useful information on bullying.
Kidscape: committed to keeping children safe from abuse.
Bullybusters: practical advice on bullying and contact details for their free helpline.
Mencap: the voice of learning disability. Real life bullying stories.
Books and DVDs
Freaks, geeks and Asperger syndrome by Luke Jackson. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This book is a self-help guide for teenagers on the autism spectrum and includes suggestions as to what to do about bullying and other difficulties you may have.
Being bullied. Strategies and solutions for people with Asperger syndrome by Nick Dubin. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. This DVD includes people's experiences of being bullied and offers strategies to help.
An Aspie’s Guide to Bullying e book. Bite-size book that gives tips to overcome bullying.
Last reviewed: 11 October 2016.