The day ‘hackers’ told 6 year old autistic children that they should ‘kill yourself’

For those of you who don’t know me, I started Autcraft, a Minecraft server just for children (and adults) with autism where they can play the game safely, free from the bullying that they found on other servers. Up until April 6th, 2016, I had done a pretty good job of that. But first, let’s go back to 2013.

In June 2013, I started the server and told a few hundred people… 2 days later, I had 750 emails in my inbox. Word had spread like wildfire. Why? Because there were far more kids being bullied than I had realized.

About 3 weeks after launching the server, I got word from hackers and trolls that their fellow hackers and trolls were targeting the server. Three weeks. That’s all it took. And the server has been under constant attack ever since. I’ve never told anyone that until now.

In part of my job of keeping these children safe, I keep this information from them. It hurts to know that there are people in the world targeting them around the clock, around the year, simply because they exist… simply because they have autism, something they never chose for themselves, something they can’t possibly do anything about. In fact, I struggled for a little while in deciding whether or not to even write about this… but here I am.

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On April 6th, 2016, two people attempted to hack into the Autcraft server and failed.

What they did succeed in doing, however, was to hijack our IP address, effectively redirecting all the traffic from our server to a server of their own.

The children that signed on to play, some as young as 6 years old, signed on to their server instead of mine. Once there, they were encased in a bedrock box from which they could not leave and were told that they were rejects from society, degenerates and that they should kill themselves.

When I asked these guys why they’d do such a thing, they responded “it’s funny.

They told us that we’d never figure out what they had done or how to stop it and that they’d continue doing it unless we paid them $1000.

Less than an hour later, with the help of the incredible guys at EZP Hosting, we had regained control of our IP and moved the server to another location. The good news is that only a few of the children ever came into contact with these monsters. The bad news is that a few of the kids came into contact with these monsters.

Having failed that, they turned to a DDOS attack, attempting to make Autcraft unplayable for everyone because if they couldn’t tell the children to kill themselves directly, then they’d at least try to take everything away from them that they could.

This attack was quite massive in scale and was maintained for almost two weeks straight. Luckily, again, we were able to outsmart them and find ways to get around their attacks and the children played on, completely unaware that anything was even happening.

I wish I could say that these were the only people who’d do such a thing but they’re not… not by a long shot.

This is the reality for a child and even for an adult living with autism.

Monsters lurk in the shadows of the Internet, ashamed and afraid to show their face but all to willing to tell perfectly innocent little children that they are rejects and should kill themselves.

Now my hosting costs have gone up, having added in new anti-DDOS measures, more services, better protection. Every time these things happen, the amount of work and the amount of bills goes up, all in an effort just to play a game in safety, like everyone else takes for granted.

For the record, I got the guy’s home IP address and gave it to the police… they will do nothing.

I got the guy’s IP address and username and gave it to Mojang… they will do nothing.

We are left with no choice but to continue to hide away as many autistic children on my server as we can, where they’ll be safe… or at least, as safe as I can make it… and why?

Because the monsters are still out there and no one will do anything about it.

People still ask me why I created Autcraft. This is why.


If you’d like to contribute and support Autcraft, please become a Patron at https://www.patreon.com/autismfather?ty=h or donate directly at http://donate.autcraft.com

Thank you.

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Dad, what happens when you die?

My cat, Prince, my friend for 17 years, is dying. He hasn’t eaten in over a month. He’s very skinny, moving slowly. The kind of thing that even my children can’t miss. Which lead to a talk about preparing for Prince, the cat that is the combined age of both of my children put together, to die soon.

Often while putting my boys to bed, they’ll ask me a question. It’s usually a science question. I figure the reasons being that they truly are interested in science combined with the fact that they know I’ll sit and talk about it rather than tell them to just go to sleep.

Tonight, they asked me what happens when a person dies.

I explained to them that some people believe that if we are good enough, we go to heaven after we die and we see friends and family that have died before us. Some other people believe that we simply… stop, like going to sleep and never waking up but never dreaming either, just no longer existing.

This is heavy stuff for a 10 and 7 year old.

Big BangThen I said that I believe it’s somewhere in the middle because of what I know about science.

I told them that scientists have looked into our molecules, into our atoms and found the very same elements from the big bang… the very start of our universe. The same things that are found in stars and galaxies billions of years ago, billions of light years away, are found right here, in us. Everything in the universe is connected and can be traced back to the big bang… when time and space, as we know it, began.

Again, pretty heavy stuff for a 10 and 7 year old.

So I said “Do you remember when we talked about the Sun? How it’s a big fiery ball of plasma in space and how it’s putting out a ton of energy all the time? It’s moving, it’s emitting light and it’s emitting heat… all of that is energy that the Sun is sending out into the universe all the time. Remember how I said that energy never dies? There is never more or less energy? It just goes somewhere else or becomes something else?”

I continued “We are basically bones and muscles and hair and stuff that is holding in our energy. Some people call it a soul. It’s you and me. It’s the energy that allows us to think, to remember, to move and control our bodies. It’s the energy that stays inside of us until we die. But then when we die, what happens to it? Energy doesn’t die. It doesn’t stop existing. So where does it go?”

They just stared at me. Yup, heavy stuff for a 10 and 7 year old.

So I went on, “That energy goes outward from you, like it does from a star, like our Sun. Some of it goes back into the Earth where it’s used to create new life. Some of it goes to others around us where it becomes a part of them. Some of it goes up into the sky. Maybe some of it rejoins the Sun while other bits go along with the energy that the Sun is releasing, out into the universe, traveling for billions of years over billions of light years. Maybe some of that energy will find new stars, maybe even stars just being born. And those stars will have new planets around them. Some of those planets will get the same energy from their star that we get from ours and maybe… just maybe, life will grow. Maybe plants, animals… maybe a new civilization, not like humans but just as smart, maybe smarter? Maybe those aliens way out there, way off into the future… maybe one day they’ll look inside themselves and their molecules and atoms and elements and they’ll find traces going all the way back to the start of the universe, the big bang. And along with that, they’ll be seeing bits and pieces of…”

At which point Cameron, 10 years old, jumped up and said “Me!”

I finished off by saying “It’s not as nice and convenient as heaven, thinking that we’ll still be us and fine and happy but it’s also not as gloomy as just closing our eyes and no longer existing. But it’s what I believe will happen to us. I think we’ll rejoin the Earth, we’ll rejoin our friends and family and we’ll rejoin the universe. We might not know it or remember it or really be us anymore but we’ll be a part of something as big and vast as space and time itself. And for right now, while we’re alive and able to appreciate that, I think it’s pretty incredible.”

“The truth is that I don’t really know what happens. No one actually does. We can only make our best guesses and believe what we choose to believe. But now you know what I believe. It’s up to you to figure out what you believe will happen for yourself.”

I turned off the light and left the room. They did not sleep. For two hours, while I worked, I heard them talking about it. I was supposed to go in and tell them to stop. I was supposed to tell them to go to sleep.

But I didn’t.

 

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This is why no autism story or program will ever be perfect

Julia is a new character on the children's show Photo: Sesame Street

Julia is a new character on the children’s show
Photo: Sesame Street

So the Sesame Street #SeeTheAmazing autism program was launched and shared and talked about like mad and of course, torn to shreds and judged and attacked.

Why? Well, I could go into the details but honestly, the details don’t really matter. This has happened with every program and story ever created and will continue to happen.

No one autism story takes every single perspective into account. They just can’t. Many of the perspectives conflict, making it very difficult to include together and there are just so many that it’s nearly impossible to remember to include them all.

Personally, I’m attacked every single time I talk about how great a person with autism can be, because I’m not talking about how disabling autism can be. Then I write about how disabling autism can be and I’m attacked because I’m not making autism sound like the best gift ever.

This happens every single time.

Cure vs acceptance
Parent vs autistic
Person first vs Identity first
Children vs adults
Independent vs dependent
Verbal vs non-verbal
Boys vs girls
Toxins vs genetics

It really doesn’t matter to whom you are talking or whom you’re talking about or what position you take or how much good you do. None of that matters.

You will be hated for it.

Sesame Street’s program isn’t perfect because I didn’t create it. Even if I did, it would only be perfect for me. Not for everyone else. Lots of people would hate it.

That’s the whole point.

This is why we don’t only have one company doing one program or one person telling one story.

Parents will reach other parents. Autistics will reach other autistics. Somewhere in the middle of it all, we’ll all reach each other. But not everyone will like it.

There’s 2 things we should work on in this regard:

1. Don’t attack each other. Constructive criticism is educational. Hateful attacks create closed minds. Show people how your story is different. I’m sure they’d even appreciate that. Just don’t attack them because their story doesn’t align with yours.

2. Don’t take the criticism personally. Some people are not going to like what you say because it’s not what they wanted you to say. So long as you have something to say, there will always be people who will want you to say what they want said. It’s personal for them, it’s not personal against you. They’re allowed to wish you said what they wanted to hear.

If you are doing good work and making a positive impact and changing lives, keep going. Let other people worry about their own programs and their own stories.

There’s more than enough room for everyone and there is more than enough stories.

That’s where real autism understanding and acceptance comes from.

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A review of the HBO autism documentary: How To Dance In Ohio

How To Dance In Ohio

How To Dance In Ohio

So you’ve watched all the autism movies and documentaries and found that some were hard to watch, others you could relate to quite well and some were even enlightening but I can guarantee that you’ve never seen one as powerful as How To Dance In Ohio.

Synopsis

How To Dance In Ohio is a documentary by Alexandra Shiva that follows a group of young autistic adults as they prepare for their first formal dance. They must learn how to ask each other out, how to handle rejection, how to hold a conversation, how to dance and in some cases… share that first kiss. More specifically the film focuses in on 3 young woman ranging from 16 years old to 22 years old as they navigate family life, moving on from their family and having a job.

Release Date

October 26, 2015 on HBO

Review

You get a sense that this film is going in all the right directions as soon as the film starts when the first scene opens with actual autistic people talking to you and expressing to you how they feel. There are no actors, there is no narrator, there is no big production made about what we’re about to see. There is simply a young woman, with autism, in front of the camera, saying “We like to socialize, but it’s just, we don’t know how,” and from that moment, you know you are watching the right movie.

As the viewer, you get to sort of ride along with this group of autistic young adults over the course of 12 weeks as they prepare for what is quite literally, one of the scariest events possible… a formal dance. I know that most people would chuckle at that or think it’s silly because the average person tends to look forward to social functions like that. This film not only explains but shows you very clearly why it is as scary as it is for those many people with autism. While other films with actors and writers try to create the perfect situation or accurately portray what may happen, How To Dance In Ohio has only very real people in very real situations dealing with them as best they can.

The real strength that How To Dance In Ohio has is it’s ability to capture very real moments as they happen, as though there was no camera there at all. When you see these people cry, or behave in some awkward way or when they laugh, you feel how genuine that is. You suddenly realize what all those other autism films have been missing all along. The actors in autism movies have incredible talent and did great work in their respective films but no one can ever truly understand or convey what it’s like to be autistic quite like an actual autistic can.

It isn’t until you’re watching a documentary like How To Dance In Ohio that it hits you; you will never know what it’s like to be autistic without talking to an autistic.

I fear that the only downfall for this film and any film or book that does such a great job of depicting the struggles (and triumphs) of autism is that those who do not have autism directly affecting their lives won’t give it a chance until they have to. How To Dance In Ohio is such a great documentary but it’s also a very powerful tool for autism awareness, showing people what autism is really like in a way that not many other films have been able to. In one scene, Marideth, a 16 year old young lady with autism is talking with her family at the dinner table and all seems great until she just gets up and walks away. She’s still a part of the conversation and everyone is still happy but she’s just up and gone. To the average person, that would seem odd or maybe even rude. But to an autistic or someone close to someone with autism, we totally understand that!

There are so many key moments in How To Dance In Ohio where I feel that most people wouldn’t even notice but as an adult with autism myself as well as the parent of a child with autism, I find myself feeling this very strong bond between myself and those on the screen in those moments. They’re so tiny and likely insignificant to anyone else but I just know that those already within the autism community are going to pick up on them in the biggest way and go back and watch them again because they touch them so deeply. Powerful moments likes these can’t be scripted nor prepared for, they are real moments that can only happen spontaneously from someone that is living in that moment and Alexandra Shiva captures them so perfectly in How To Dance In Ohio.

As I watched, I messaged friends that are also parents of children with autism, telling them that this is going to be a hard film for some people to watch. I relayed some of the things that the autistics within the film would say, such as “Cartoons don’t judge you like people do,” and we all felt our hearts sink together. We know that feeling.

As hard as How To Dance In Ohio is though, it’s also incredibly wonderful to watch with so many moments of laughter, triumph and of course, tears. None of it scripted, none of it prepared for or anticipated.

If I could make every person on Earth who has no prior experience with autism sit down and watch any one movie to understand what my own life with autism has been like, How To Dance In Ohio would be that film.

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The effect that blaming autism on vaccines has on actual autistic children

Trump calls autism an epidemic as the result of vaccines

Trump calls autism an epidemic as the result of vaccines

So now we’re back to the whole anti-vaccine thing thanks to Donald Trump’s comments during the republican debates. Despite overwhelming scientific studies that have proven that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism, we continue to have people like Mr. Trump who prey on the fears of parents. I thought I’d take this time to explain to you what I see from the children that come to me asking if it’s true.

Most of the time, not always but a good 90% of the time, when a child asks me about vaccines and autism, they do so from a very personal place. Now granted, those other 10% of kids have a scientific curiosity and you can tell that they are genuinely just curious but for the rest, for all those other kids that I talk to, they’re worried and they’re scared. They feel like a mistake, an abomination and a victim.

I’ve talked to a lot of anti-vaccination parents and I know it’s not their intention and I know they love their children as much as any other parent but to be perfectly honest, that has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Intentions or not, this is about how a child feels when they are told that they are a damaged product of a broken system that their parent didn’t want. Harsh? Maybe but this is the message that the child is receiving.

You don’t understand the damage you are doing to your own child with this nonsense. You really don’t. Your child will never tell you this because they are scared to death that you hate them and what they are… a broken version of the kid that you actually wanted. You are damaging your own child even worse than what you think those vaccines are doing. Your children are reaching out to total strangers on the Internet in search for answers because they are convinced that they are not the child you wanted. They are convinced that they are the source of your anger and your rage and your disappointment.

And you will disagree me and you will tell me that it’s not your child that I’m talking about but I’m telling you right now, and please listen to me… you clearly don’t see the impact. I am talking to these children every day and it’s breaking my heart. No one can convince them that they’re not a mistake and no one can make them believe that their parents love them when they grow up feeling like they are the foundation of your hate. And these children won’t let their parents know this. They don’t want to hurt their parents any more than what they think they’ve already done.

Please. Please! My heart is breaking for these poor children. They can’t take this. No child should be feeling this way! You can’t do this to them. You just can’t. I beg of you. I’m not asking you to stop believing what you believe. I don’t know, maybe I am. All I’m asking is… please stop doing this to your own children. To all of these children. To every child everywhere that is scared to death that they’re a broken, disappointing autistic byproduct of being poisoned.

Please don’t do this to them anymore.

  • I am Stuart Duncan, owner of Autcraft, a world wide Minecraft server with a user base of 6000 children that have autism. I speak to many of these children almost daily about some of the most personal aspects of their lives. I will not be sharing names or direct quotes as I do not want any of those children to feel like I am singling them out or giving clues as to their identity.
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