Autism, Bullying and Me: Book Review

With the shocking news this week involving the murder of a vulnerable, autistic teenager, there seems no better time to share a resource that can empower our young people.

Autism, Bullying and Me by Emily Lovegrove is a wonderfully written and useful guide for teenagers, to help them develop understanding and gain tools to cope better with bullying.

For parents of children and young people who have additional needs, this book can equip and prepare universally, regardless of having an autism diagnosis. It is a book that can be used by many and is a great asset to any curriculum on bullying.

I was sent a copy of this book last autumn from the team at Jessica Kingsley Publishers (JKP) and I always enjoy the chance to review the resources they publish. Sadly, time is not on my side at present (whilst juggling the needs of my children), or else I would have shared the details sooner.

My autistic daughter had a first flick through the book with me before I took the time to read it in finer detail. I had particularly chosen to talk about it with her as a message had come home from school that she had been picking on a younger child. I used it as a starting point to focus on bullying and how we can hurt other people.

The difficulty my daughter has is that she has tendencies to target other children, young people and even adults, often hyper-focussing on their mannerisms or behavioural traits to an obsessive degree. I try at home to support her with this so opening this book was also a springboard to start a discussion on a bigger challenge we face. As she is still too young to use this resource, it will be something I will return to with her.

The book is written cleverly and has a tone that is appropriate for teenagers. It almost has a magazine-style rhetoric that is easy to read and is accessible – without too much jargon! My daughter, even at this age, is quite direct in her sentiments that adults talk too much (“adults just go on … blah, blah, blah!”) so the presentation of this guide would need to be appealing enough for her to read as she gets older. I think the words roll off of the page with the effect that a young person could be reading them on social media:

A snippet from Autism, Bullying and Me

This section also gives an example of how the book breaks down false facts about bullying. Emily Lovegrove has actually done a great deal of research before she wrote this guide and has used thematic analysis to test her results. I enjoyed learning about that journey and what inspired her to find these discoveries from this blogpost. It’s always interesting to know what brings someone to write about a subject, in this case, a passage of self-discovery and autistic identity.

“There’s lots of info in this book on what bullying is – and what advice really isn’t helpful! Such as can you really ‘Just ignore’ bullying? (No, because your body has a natural stress reaction making absolutely sure you are about to react in one way or another!) There’s stuff on how and why bullying starts, and how being seen as different in any way can affect whether we are more likely to attract that negative attention.”

Emily Lovegrove / JKP Blog

The layout presents like a self-help book for young people, using tried and tested strategies to disarm the bullies, and rebalance the power to the reader. The guide helps the young person to re-train the way they deal with things and to effectively improve their self-esteem.

I’ve said this before but will say it again – it is much more authentic when a resource, that is aimed at an autistic audience, is also written by an autistic individual too. I can’t help but notice that the book is quite honest and literal – a good example of this is when the author talks about how we may feel that teachers feel like bullies too. She breaks it down from both sides and examines the pressures teachers are under. She even describes how she runs sessions in schools and tells teachers that the way they feel affects how their pupils behave:

“After all, if they go into a lesson thinking, ‘This is the worst class I teach all week!’ how do you think that will affect how they teach you?”

Emily Lovegrove / Autism, Bullying and Me

The writer feels empathy for her readers and it feels that she is talking openly to them, with enough passion, almost as if she is silently defending the under dog. She tries to connect to her audience and is very personable through her warm offerings. I think this creates a trusting relationship in the book between the author and her readers. There is even an offer in the book for young people to get in touch, via her website, if they feel that they need help. This personal touch really highlights the passion Emily Lovegrove feels in her subject matter and hopefully will empower future generations to follow.

*For further information, and to purchase a copy of the book, please visit Jessica Kingsley Publishers via this link*

**Disclaimer – No payment was taken for this review and all views are my own**

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