Just to be clear...is this bullying?




I have a situation, or at least RT Teen does. It's a real-life, right here and now situation, so I must be careful what I say, but...

He has a new tutor at college, someone with less experience than the others and who seems to have taken an instant misunderstanding towards RT. Notice I don't say dislike: I can't say dislike, as I'm not in the classroom and can only judge on what I've heard.

As far as I know, this tutor is a very, um, easily swayed type who finds it difficult to keep order with students sometimes. This seems to have driven him to try to assert himself by being more domineering. The other students in RT's class appear to be ignoring this but RT is being driven mad by it.

RT is quite placid normally. It's me who gets aeriated by things, people, irritations, everything really. He tends to sail through and has stress from typical aspie triggers but is generally accepting of other people and able to get along with them.

Then came the new tutor.

Apparently, he takes offence at what RT says. A lot. A lot a lot. It sounds like RT is giving the impression that he is permanently angry with his tutor and the tutor then lectures him, in front of the class, about how he is only trying to help.

He explains things in very great detail to RT (he spelled the word STOP one day) and also, maddeningly, repeats back most everything RT says to him. (If this was happening to me this one behaviour would have sent me over the edge on the first day).

To make matters far worse, RT's course has gone from having a variety of tutors through the week to almost all the lessons being given by this one man.

And this week he looooooomed over RT's shoulder as he tried to read something, ostensibly to help RT understand it but in the end making it impossible for him to work - who can work when someone is looming?

RT explained he couldn't deal with his tutor being right behind him like that and he got another lecture, in public.

At this point, RT almost walked out of college. It was the final straw for him. So, is this strange behaviour bullying, misunderstanding, inexperience? Or a combination?

I wonder if the tutor has read RT's file and is trying to treat him as an aspie? Is this overbearing approach meant to be helping RT to cope with work which must be beyond him, because he is on the spectrum? Does his tutor spell words and repeat back to him to make sure he understands, due to his being special? Is it what the tutor thinks you have to do, to explain in detail to an aspie in public, when they have got something wrong?

Or is RT experiencing that strangely debilitating facet of adult life, the personality clash?

Does the tutor in fact treat everyone as if they are five and RT simply hasn't noticed it's not just him? Is everyone else in class also seething or is it personal? And how can I find out without installing hidden cameras or hiring a spy?

I'm going to see the head of department next week to talk about it, armed only with one side of the story. It really is awkward. What I feel like doing is roasting some chestnuts over an open fire (that's my baby you're getting at, mister!) but I need to bear in mind the many times RT has got the wrong end of the stick and misconstrued a situation that should not have made him feel bad but did.

If I go in ready to roast, then I could find out the hard way it's another misunderstanding. But if I behave moderately and it turns out this tutor is a tick on the college's behind, then I will have let RT down.

From my own point of view, there is a simple way to look at this though. Regardless of whether the tutor knows RT is an aspie, no one likes to be told off in public or treated as if they are daft. And no one I have ever met likes people standing right behind them, looking over their shoulder as they work.

At the very least, this is a misunderstanding which has become so bad for my son he is wanting to leave college if it continues. At the most, those chestnuts had better watch it. I already have the fire good and hot and open.

Amanda




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The friend who just doesn't get you. Ever.




Sometimes people are honest if they don't like you. If you are lucky, they come right up and tell you they don't like you. This is good, honestly, because it saves you ever having to care what they think and you can just delete them from your inventory.

Other people do not like you at all but they continue to act like a normal human being to your face, leaving you either with the feeling you are imagining a strange atmosphere or, far worse, imagining you have a friend.

Others do not get you. They want to, they do, because people they value like you and talk about you in glowing terms, so they want to find out why their friends are your friends. Your conversations will be peppered with thoughtful pauses, confused looks, unspoken questions, misunderstood questions and, the summation of someone who doesn't get you, the open mouth.

I like the spirit of the people who don't get me but try. I appreciate their effort and faith in their friend's choices. But really, if you don't get me then is it worth me tilting your world until it rattles and still finding we have nothing in common? Let's just smile and say hello the next time we meet.

Worse than those who try to get you and don't are the ones who don't get you one tiny bit but think they do. Please, for the love of cake, save us from these ones.

They think they understand you, they think they know about you, they think they can talk to you and put you at ease - failing to see you were much more at ease before they waded in. They laugh at your jokes without ever realising you weren't joking. They laugh at jokes about you, knowing you have a sense of humour and can laugh at yourself. They think, because you are friends, you can be jostled at the elbow, grabbed on the shoulder, patted on the back and kissed at seasonally-appropriate moments and parties.

To complicate the whole liaison, these people often really like you. Yes, it's genuine. They like you! They like being friends with you. They think of you as a person who they want to talk to and include in their lives. They think you are as one, riding the same wavelength, even sharing the same surfboard.

In reality, they haven't noticed you fell off at the first wave and have been dragging yourself out of their undertow ever since.

The person who doesn't understand you but completely believes they do is almost inevitably jolly with you. I have no idea why this is so. I think they are so keen on being a friend that they play the part of the friend until it becomes true.

Again, I cannot just brush aside this attempt at friendship. Botched as it is, how can it be a bad thing to have someone who wants to be your friend and is so willing to include you?

Well, this is true except for those moments when you need a friend, when you need someone who does understand you. When you mention something you've had on your mind and need someone to say they understand or even to say nothing, but still know. The person who thinks they understand will launch in with their world view, usually at odds with yours, and tell you how to fix it, or what you should be doing.

Major life decision? Easy! This is what you do (because that is what they would do).

Small life decision that feels major? Well, what are you making a fuss about? Stop making a fuss, stop being silly! This is what you do, this is what everyone does!

And there is the difference between your friends who know you and the one who thinks they do: the depth of understanding when it comes to difficulties. If something is difficult for you, then it is difficult and it doesn't matter what everyone else does. It doesn't matter what your non-getting-you friend does either. What is fine and easy for them is out of your reach and is not brought within reach by calling is simple.

So however keen this friend is and however many times you are included in their lives, if they cannot or will not see your differences, they are not going to become close to you. It may feel like they are close - to them there may be no distance at all between you - but if someone just does not get you, then how they can be close? There will always be a barrier of misunderstanding.

Be aware, some friends who misunderstand can be made to understand by seeing you in action (or inaction) and by having your point of view explained to them. This is the growth of friendship, it is what helps people to come closer.

In some cases though, your friend can have it explained to them many, many times, along with pictures, diagrams, videos, books, articles, shouting matches in the supermarket and heated discussions online. All of this can happen and some friends will still not get you. They will be proud of having listened to you and proud of their ability to talk to you about Aspergers. It's simply that the next step of real understanding is never taken and you are left forever on the periphery of a true friendship, wondering how many times you need to explain something for it to be understood.

Whether revealed over time or revealed instantly, with an offhand comment or action, the friend who does not get you is someone you should regard carefully. All their words are tinted with a view of you which does not actually exist but is how they think you are or should be. Let them be your friend by all means, but let others be the ones who speak when your heart breaks.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
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You're special, yes you are.




I don't mind people being kind to me. It's nice to be treated well, isn't it? To have someone think of you and sometimes do things for you that you might find difficult.

I don't mind when people are grumpy so-and-sos either, as long as they are like that with everyone and haven't just decided to make my life cloudy and grey. The grumpiest of people can become a good friend, to the point that you no longer see the grump and only the friend.

I do mind being treated as if I'm Special. You notice the capital there. Not special, you see. Not like a person who might be showered with gifts, boxes of choccies, small dogs in  hand baskets or guinea pigs in bandannas. Special...

Special like Aunty Millicent when she couldn't be trusted near the Tesco trolleys anymore. Special like that little dog down the road who thinks all other dogs are space aliens coming for it. Special like that old pair of shoes you refuse to get rid of even though they let in at the heels and have changed colour.


Now, don't get me wrong. The vast majority of people who treat you as special are probably transient actors in your grand play of life and you can bear it when they coo over your ability to cross the road as well as temporarily hold down a job.

What worries me are the people you see more often, close or simply nearby in life, who treat you as special all the time.

They are liable to fall into one of two main types (I know you can't apply two types to everyone, but bear with me).

Type One: Your standard loving relative who wants what is best for you and wants you to achieve all you can, given that you are crippled by the stigma of rainbow-fuelled specialness.

Type Two: Your standard loving relative who knows how damn special you are and wonders when on earth you're going to get over it already and start living life like a normal person.

I must add here, right here before we go any further, that having people take account of your Aspergers is not the same as being treated as if you are special. It is quite possible for loving relatives and friends to know you inside and out and expect you to carry on being the awesomest, most wonderful person they ever met. And they mean it too. And the Aspergers? To them, it's a feature, not the main event. Person-first thinking!

So, being treated as special can have real drawbacks. People tend to see the Aspergers first and then either nod kindly as you fail or glare until you get it right. Somehow, this amalgamation of who you are with the Aspergers itself makes them see you differently than other people they know. It becomes a tinted lens they cannot see past, even though they have the choice to use it or not.


To one relative, your latest kitchen accident is proof they were right to buy a metal tea pot this time; to another relative, this is the latest in a long line of accidents and either you should be supervised so you can be looked after or you should have learnt by now how to handle a pot of tea without spilling it all over the place.

I don't diminish the impact of being an aspie in a world full of breakable chinaware, but I would like it to be part of the whole and not the reason why things happen. It might be the reason why things happen, but so is my innate ability to daze off into the realms of magic and forget I'm holding anything. It's a blurred distinction as to where the Aspergers starts and my dazing begins.

If I fail, I fail and it might be because I'm an aspie. Or it might be because of a myriad of other things. Or it might be chance and you would have failed too in the same situation. If we could know exactly why we do or don't do things then we would  be as little gods, each in our own universe.

If I succeed, I would like it to be a success coupled with Aspergers and not despite it. I don't mind you saying I've done well but don't say I've done well considering.

And if I sometimes storm off in the middle of a conversation, please consider this time might not have been my social anxiety, need for freedom, distraction by life or incipient panic attack. It might have been because your face changed in a way which signals how special I am, one way or the other.

If I am special, bring me presents and leave them at the door so I don't have to open them in front of you. But if I am Special then you'd better be prepared, sooner or later, for a show of Specialness brought on by expectation and demand.

Amanda




My books and writing blog, with free stuff.
Find me on Facebook.and Twitter!