A few weeks ago, Nathan's teacher had let me know he was having a particularly difficult week at school. I had also noticed signs of stress at home but was at a loss to figure out why. After a long weekend at home, he was doing much better and I resigned myself to possibly never knowing why.
However, now there is a possible hypothesis. Looking back, that week was also when the school pictures came home (the ones Nathan threw in the garbage). Neither behaviour is like Nathan, so it wasn't a shock to think maybe they were linked.
I spoke with Nathan to ask him why he threw away the pictures. He told me he didn't like them. I asked why and after a bit, he told me they were "stupid" and made him "look like a baby" which surprised me. I asked him why he thought that and he said everyone told him that. I pushed and he kept insisting that everyone in his class had said it to him.
Naturally, I don't believe that every child in his class took the time to insult him. But it is common for children with autism to assume that a single opinion is the group's opinion. Since they have trouble with social cues, they can read the silence as support. It is also not uncommon for them to project their own feelings onto other people.
I don't know if anyone actually said anything to him or not but I've let the teacher know. It would be fairly difficult for a bully to fly under the radar when he has an aide helping him, but the aide does also work with at least one other child in the class.
I'm also going to start explaining to him that sometimes people say things which aren't true because they want to be mean or funny. This may seem obvious, but it's one of those social realities which people with autism don't pick up. Since they've been told to always tell the truth, they will assume others will always tell the truth.
It's hard to figure out the "rules" which I take for granted, being more neurotypical. Temple Grandin and Sean Barron have a book: The Unwritten Social Rules. It's guidebook for people with autism and I found it really helpful in getting me to think about things I otherwise would assume were obvious.