The is a difficult and uncomfortable topic but it is close to my heart. It is widely known that Autistic children and adults are more likely to be bullied than many other groups. This has certainly been my experience as I was victimised for much of my first twenty five years and also on a few occasions after that. Bullying left me with very low self-esteem, a lack of faith in myself, trauma and anger— as it tends to do with others as well. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right, I tried desperately to fit in but with no luck. My ‘difference’ was apparent to everyone and for my young and vulnerable self, this was not a good thing.
As an adult I gained an Autism diagnosis and clinicians helping me told me that many Autistic people experience bullying. From then on I assumed that Autistic people were virtuous and trustworthy but non-Autistic people needed to be treated with care as they could be violent, aggressive and discriminatory. Sadly it’s not quite that simple. As I grew older I discovered that Autistic people are subject to the same sorts of character challenges that everyone else is. So yes, there are Autistic people who are aggressive and discriminatory. Most of the Autistic people I have met and who I know are very kind and thoughtful and hate the very thought of upsetting another person. But unfortunately. along with the many, many kind and considerate and community minded Auties, there are in fact Autistic bullies. The Autistic bully is a far less common phenomenon than the non-Autistic bully but it is still, as younger people rather aptly put it, ‘a thing.’
[I need to qualify this by saying that Autistic bullies are less common and that I am talking about actual bullying behaviour with the intent to belittle and harass, rather than behaviours which non-Autistic folks can misinterpret, like different body language, apparent ‘rudeness’ etc. Apparent anti-social behaviour by Autistic people – especially children and young people – is often unintentional and certainly not bullying.]
In my life as an Autism advocate I occasionally happen upon a troll on social media who is Autistic. They criticise people and engage in inflammatory conversations filled with insults and put-downs. They belittle others’ messages and launch personal attacks. They complain about others’ presenting style and message. These people can create division in our community and discourage people with a great message to share from saying anything at all.
I am not referring to robust debate or disagreement. I love to have a debate about something I say as it can open up new understandings for myself and others. I am more focussed on trolling and personal attacks which are pretty much the opposite of healthy debate.
I am actually quite afraid of these people who troll and hate. Every time I go to post a blog I worry if I will be shot down in flames and ridiculed. I worry that my motives will be questioned. When I see this trolling it catapults me back to 1987 with the mean girls in my Year 8 class. I feel guilty and embarrassed and think that everyone must hate what I have said. I’m just as likely to take down a post – after posting it in 20 groups – because of one cruel or insulting comment. Now I know part of that reaction is related to my own low self-esteem but part of it I am not responsible for. And victim-blaming is not my favourite activity, even if the victim is just me!
In my mind, this trolling is highly divisive and can effectively stop some people from having a voice. If you disagree with what I say, please let me know and we can have a discussion. But please don’t insult and ridicule me – or anyone else – online. I’m pretty certain that my words about empowerment and supporting one another and the occasional mention of a little black kitty are hardly worthy of such anger and cruelty. In my mind, it is better to focus on others’ strengths and the useful things they are saying than promoting division and animosity.
7 thoughts on “The enemy within the walls: Autism world trolls”
Hi Jeanette another great read thank you.
I have a theory as to why people with Autism become trolls. Because social interactions and friendships are harder to form and hold onto, this outlet may be a form of control that is not achievable in real world situations. A conversation, debate, and human communication that is inflammatory would be lengthier and give more of an adrenaline rush than a polite agreeable comment. This is certainly no excuse for this behaviour merely a reason that might make some sense of it. I wonder if they were reached out to with compassion and understanding would they continue the discussion. Might be an interesting social experiment. Please don’t take their comments personally, there is more positivity around about what you do and say than negativity.
Can’t wait for the next blog.
Thanks Rachael. That’s an interesting view. I like it. Much more sympathetic and deeper thinking than my response of ‘why do these people hate me???’
I have encountered one or two people who identify as autistic who engage in systemic sexual harassment of spectrum women. Autistic women are already vulnerable to sexual predators, and it sucks when some of the predators are in our own community, where we think we are safe.
Some people are just trolls…
I’ve personally encountered autistic women on a homeschooling board who cannot handle it if anyone thinks differently or responds differently to their own autistic children; the women think they alone have the handle on all that is proper and “right.” I used to think their response was fear-based, but now I tend to think it is rigid thinking and an inability to understand that someone else might legitimately view things from a different perspective. I also agree with one of the previous commenters who said there is a strong need to control in some of these bullying behaviors.
Whatever the cause, it certainly shuts off any kind of conversation, and tends to run off others with lots to contribute and discuss.
I publish an Australian website on disability news and opinion at:
and was wondering if it might be okay to republish this article and any other relevant ones on our website, with appropriate credit and a link back of course.
It would help spread your work and gain a wider audience for you.
Hope we can work together and I am quite happy to publish other articles you may have written that aren’t on your blog also.
Thanks Dale, Please feel free to repost this or any of may other posts on this WordPress site.