Can an Autistic Child Bully?

We are all aware that an Autistic child can be bullied. We have heard the horror stories of how a kid who was not on the Autism Spectrum bullied a child who was Autistic. The stories come in many forms, but they still have the power to touch our hearts and form a sense outrage within us.

The question I present to you is this: Can a child who is on the Autism Spectrum bully another Autistic child? If so, does he/she know what they are doing, and is it intentional? 

This question comes to mind, because Cameron has been coming home from school for the past few weeks, telling me that two boys, Damian and Tristan, are making fun of him on the van. He has been pretty upset by their behavior.

These boys are in his class and are on the Autism Spectrum, though I am uncertain of which end of it they are on. They seem to be good boys; they simply have their own issues, as does Cameron.

I have questioned Cameron about what they say to him, but have not received a straight answer ’til today. Today was also the day that the van driver finally said something to me about it.

When Cameron got out of the van and walked toward the porch steps, the driver asked me to wait a minute. He wanted to say something to me, but he didn’t want Cameron to hear. I instructed Cameron to go inside.

The driver then told me that he was going to be separating Cameron from Damian. He said, “Those boys just don’t get along.”

I said, “Yes, Cameron has been telling me that Damian and Tristan have been bothering him.”

The driver agreed that there had been conflict between the three boys, but was unsure about what it entailed. He said, “I have to keep my eyes on the road, especially with these crazy gas truck drivers. I know something is happening with the boys, but I’m not sure what it is. I will be moving the two boys back and keeping Cameron here, in the front. He seems to like it up here.”

I replied that I thought it was a good idea. I said, “He has always had the front seat, so he will be comfortable with that.”

He said, “I don’t know how the other parents will feel about this, but we’ll just have to see.”

After he had gone, I checked Cameron’s backpack for his daily note. It stated that he’d had a good day. I then asked him about his day at school. He confirmed that it had been a good day at school.

My next question was, “How was the van ride home?”

He said, “Not good. Damian and Tristan were picking on me again.”

I asked him what they had been saying to him.

He answered, “They were singing the Row Row Row Your Boat song wrong.” 

This did not concern me, so I asked him if they had done anything else that had bothered him.

He replied that they told him he stunk and that he was a chicken. I could picture this happening. I could see their amusement at his irritation; both reactions are almost in the realm of “Normal.” 

The last thing he said on the matter was, “It was pretty bad.”

I sent an email to his teacher, explaining what was happening. I asked if the other parents could be made aware of this. I also mentioned that this was a possible teachable moment at school. 

Whether the child is NT (Neurotypical – “Normal”), or the child is on the Spectrum, any behavior that makes another child uncomfortable needs to be addressed and hopefully changed for the better. If my child was doing something that was hurting another child’s feelings, I would sit him down and explain how what he was doing was making the other child feel. I would then instruct him to sincerely apologize and to stop the behavior. I hope that I can expect this reaction from the other parents.


Posted on September 17, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. I think all kids have the ability to bully and sometimes it is for amusement more then meaness. My son doesn’t often bully others or tease but almost always when he does it is because he wants a reaction, maybe even want to play but not really sure how?
    Those boys sound mean about it, and maybe they are a little jealous? Emotions sometimes make us act unbecomingly.
    I hope they apologise and get back to being a ‘friend’ rather then foe. Autism or not, no kid should be mean just to be mean.


    • The teacher sent me back an email that said they were aware of it, that it doesn’t happen in school, and that a decision had been made today to separate the boys in the van. She just never made it out to tell the driver herself. She will be speaking to the driver tomorrow morning. The boys will also be instructed to write apology notes to Cameron. Hopefully, this will help matters.

  2. How terrible for Cameron. Poor little guy. I was bullied through schoo, and it is horrible. At least he spoke up to you about it. Hopefully the other parents will be understanding and willing to intervene. As you said, the issue I guess is if the boys know what they are doing is bullying. It is a very good question that you raise.

    I hope the teachers answer you and help in solving the problem. Sounds like you have a good bus driver. Is it just him? The driver I mean. On Logan’s bus and all the busses from his school, the busses need a driver and an observer. If there is no observer, if they are sick etc, then the bus has to go collect a teacher from home or school to ride along with them.

    • Alex, I too was bullied, early on. I learned to fight back, which kept the bullies at bay and gave me a bit of a rep for being a tough girl. I wasn’t so tough; I was just trying to survive.
      These vans that transport the children do not have an observer. They only have the driver.
      Cameron has been back and forth from this driver to two others, because his main driver (the one I spoke with yesterday), has been on vacation off and on since the school year began.

  3. Hi,

    I have Aspergers, and yes, we can. We can also bully people without Autism. If we can bully people without Autism, what’s to stop us from bullying people with Autism. When I was in late elementary school through early high school, I was sometimes known for exhibiting behavior that sometimes looked like bullying (and I’m usually a very kind, sensitive person, but also very straightforward and determined). But I didn’t intend to hurt anyone for no reason. A lot of people on the Autism Spectrum have a harder time understanding how what we do or say makes other people feel (this might be mistaken for not caring about how other people feel).

    A lot of people with Autism (including me), tend to focus more on rules and principles than we do on emotion and intuition. Most people on the Autism Spectrum understand the rules like something is either always right or wrong. Either it’s always this or it’s always that, with little to nothing in between. We find it harder to think, “this is what I would usually do, but if I do this in this situation, something might happen that I don’t want to happen.” We think more like, “this is the rule I have been taught, so this is the rule I will always follow. Other people must always follow this rule, too.” I also used to have trouble understanding that my family rules and values were naturally different from other people’s family rules and values. My parents were constantly correcting and reprimanding me for even the smallest deviation from the exact rules and codes of behavior. I didn’t understand that some of my peers’ parents might have turned the other cheek on their kids’ behavior unless it looked like they might hurt someone or something.

    Most adults and older kids who don’t have any pragmatic language difficulties understand that there is right and wrong [this and that]. But for them, what is right and wrong depends on the situation. They also understand that different families have different rules for their kids.

    Have these kids been bullying other kids on the bus, too? Or is your son the only one who is being bullied by these kids?

    Whether someone is disabled or not, this kind of behavior from these 2 kids should not be taken lightly! Have you talked to the bus driver about what these kids are doing? Do you know if the bus driver has done anything? Have you talked to anyone else who works with your son AND these kids both? Have they done anything about this?

    If your son did something these kids think is against the rules, they should be taught that there are other ways to deal with it than bullying your son because, “he knows the rules.” Asking why someone broke the perceived rule is better than bullying someone into following the rules.

    If these kids are just doing it to get a reaction out of him, then that’s even worse. They need to talk to and adult to find out what is going on. Talk to the school about this.

  4. We most certainly can bully others! I have a very mild form of Autism, and most certainly am guilty of doing this (I’m not usually the type of person to be mean to anyone without a good reason). Do these boys understand how what they are doing is making your son feel? Are these boys trying to communicate something, but are not sure how to do so?

    I used to make some nasty comments to a peer (who also had Autism) who never said polite words like “please,” “thank you,” or, “excuse me.” I have been taught from an early age, to say things like, “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and I was not aware that this kid may not have been taught this.

    Please take this up with the school, and maybe they can talk to the people who work with these boys about what is going on, and they can help them find less destructive ways to deal with their issues.

    • Thank you so much for your insight! Your views are priceless.
      The van driver has been made aware manny times; the teacher was also told. No one took it seriously. They acted like Cameron was being too sensitive.
      These kids have pinpointed little things that bother him, and they laugh wildly when he takes the bait and gets annoyed.
      Even their little sister will come up and push Cameron. Cameron is very gentle and would never say or do anything to hurt someone. We can’t get him to take self defense classes, because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. We can’t get him to shoot comments back, because he would make someone sad.

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