Archive for the ‘Autism’ Category
There was a very sobering video posted today on the facebook blog page, courtesy of Wipe Out Suicide and Wipe Out Homophobia. Sobering because it was a mother telling how her 5-year-old son had been bullied to the point where he wanted to die. Five years old!!! There can’t be a more resounding wake-up call than that.The story of 5-year-old Aden is both heartbreaking and familiar. Heartbreaking, for obvious reasons. When you have anyone feeling so much emotional pain because of the actions of a few people who carelessly abuse them because they are “different”, that’s a problem. When you have a 5-year-old saying he wants to die because of the treatment he’s getting, that’s a 5-alarm blaze.
I could connect with this because Marty, my 23-year-old surrogate son, deals with the same issue. Like Aden, Marty is not your average Joe. He’s uniquely Marty. And, that’s okay. He’s highly intelligent, as I’m sure Aden is. He yearns to be accepted by his peers, like Aden; yet, because he’s perceived as different, it’s a constant challenge for him to gain acceptance . As a result, he struggles with social anxiety. Like Aden, all he yearns for is to be accepted, by his peers, by anybody…simply for being Marty. That’s not asking too much. Isn’t that what we all want? Sure it is. And, sadly, like Aden, Marty has voiced on occasions that “I don’t belong in this world”. I’ve worked hard for 3 1/2 years to show him that he’s wrong.
Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that there IS a place in this world for him. He’s got an incredible mother who, right now while he’s still very young, is Aden’s “voice”. On that, alone, he’s got a leg up on Marty. But, that’s a whole different story. Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that Asperger’s is simply something he has to deal with in his life, but it’s not who he is. In the 3 1/2 years he’s been with me, Marty has done nothing but grow. It’s amazing what positive reinforcements can do for a person. It’s sad, though, that he had to wait until he was an adult before he had someone who would take the time to give him that daily positive reinforcement. And, that gives Aden a major leg up!!! His mother, in speaking out with this video, should win “Mother of the Year” accolades!! Asperger’s isn’t a death sentence. It’s just extra luggage to carry as you embark on your journey through life.
Here’s the real problem. How is it that five-year-old kids can be so intolerant and mean as to make one of their peers want to end his life!? That’s a REAL problem!! And, there’s no way you can blame a 5-year-old for that behavior. I’ve said it a thousand times but, obviously, it needs to be said tens of thousands more times: the issue of bullying isn’t just about the young people, IT’S THE ADULTS WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON!! The young people are learning this level of meanness and intolerance from people much older than themselves. Take that to the bank. And, perhaps, it isn’t the parents, directly. Maybe it’s the older siblings. However, the link still goes back to the parents. Adults are the root to this whole bullying problem, like it or not. The issue with Aden makes that woefully clear.
I challenge every single adult and, especially, parent to monitor themselves. Do it for a week. How are the young people in your life seeing you deal with other people, people you perceive as different? How are they hearing you talk about a different ethnic group than your own, about members of the LGBT community, about someone with a disability? How they see and hear YOU deal with people you perceive as “different” is how they are taught to deal with them. Plain and simple. And, as is made obvious by this video and 5-year-old Aden, they learn young.
It’s the only way we’re going to change this culture of hatred and intolerance. As Aden’s mother stated poetically in the video: “Love…cures. Hate…kills. Be nice to others. It starts with you.” It’s really just that simple.
Ok, I don’t think there’s a way to spin this that could possibly justify tying a 4th-grader, or ANYBODY up in a duffel bad. It happened in Louisville, KY. Fourth-grader Christopher Baker, a special needs student with autism, was “jumping off the walls” according the school officials. I guess their means of keeping him off the walls is by restraining him in a duffel bag. That is not only wrong: it’s illegal.
It seems we’re seeing a rash of stories of SCHOOL OFFICIALS bullying special needs students. It’s bad enough for them to have to worry about being bullied by other students. No one should ever have to go through that. It’s a whole different ball of wax when the ones doing the bullying are the ones who are paid to educate and provide them with a safe learning environment. The question that begs to be asked is “how can we expect the students to stop the bullying if they’re seeing school officials doing it, themselves?” The answer would be “we can’t”. Do you ever remember me saying that, in order to bring about the necessary change, it’s going to have to start with the adults? This story drives home the point.
It is my opinion that the one(s) responsible for this shouldn’t only be terminated immediately, they should face criminal charges. In a surprising turn of events, the interim school superintendent cited confidentiality laws as the reason he couldn’t comment on the situation. However, after reading the article, I came away with a very clear understanding that the school officials feel that this boy got what he deserved. It’s the price you pay for “jumping off the walls”. Especially when you’re a 10-year-old autistic student.
So, here’s a definite call to action: Lydia Brown, herself an 18-year-old autistic student at Georgetown University, started a petition online calling for change in Mercer County’s handling of autistic students. It, quite thoroughly, asks for the heads of the school officials responsible for this despicable act. And, it goes further as to add measure to prevent it from ever happening to another student again. I would like to encourage every follower of this blog to sign the petition. Sign it, and pass this along to your own circle of friends and family. We cannot expect to stop the kids from bullying if we allow the school administrators to get away with it. (are you listening, Maryland?) Zero tolerance means absolutely that.
Oh, and if you have kids, tell them unless they like duffel bags, it’s probably best they stay off the walls.