This is what happens when the Minecraft community accepts the challenge – autism, bullying

Hi, I’m AutismFather. Well, that’s what I’m known as in Minecraft. I recently created a Minecraft server for children with autism and their families. Due to its crazy success and the incredible amount of stories from those children about how often they’re bullied, not just in real life but on other Minecraft servers, I put out a challenge to the Minecraft community to speak up and take a stand against bullying on April 2nd, Autism Awareness Day.

Most people seem to believe bullying can’t be stopped and that it’s just a regular part of growing up or that it’s so common place now that it’s a normal part of life. So I figured people would think it’s nice that I want to try and stop it but that it’s really quite pointless.

To be honest, I thought that my plea for help would go largely ignored.

I was wrong.

Support

Support on Twitter

Support on Twitter

Twitter lit up, sharing my blog post and retweeting it far more than I ever expected and then a couple days later, I discovered that it was shared to reddit. I thought to myself that, knowing reddit, I should just not even click because reading the comments there often upsets me. But I was getting a lot of clicks, so I checked it out. To my surprise, it had received over 1200 “up votes” and 200 comments and almost the entirety of it was in support of what I was doing. People opened up about their own experiences with bullying and people were vowing to pitch in and help out. It was awesome!

People told me that bullies would never stop bullying just because I or anyone else asks them too and then I discovered discussions such as this one: http://forum.minecraftpvp.com/t/minecraft-and-autism/46082

Videos are already starting to appear:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCWH4jRRaJw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vp3I9yL6lpM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUEekNgbfMs#t=175
(Please give them a thumbs up and/or comment to show support. They’re pretty awesome to do this.)

The Marathon

Created by LapisLauri

Created by LapisLauri

One Saturday, March 29th, 14 different live streaming Minecraft players got together and filled over 12 hours of consistent live video to help support my server (Autcraft) by raising money and also awareness of not just the server but autism in general as well as bullying.

The campaign raised $800 in total for the server but more importantly, got people talking. During several live streams, I joined in to discuss what autism is, why autistics are targeted often by bullies and some of the things to be aware of when you see an autistic on a server, especially if you see them being bullied.

This spurred on more conversations both in the chats of those streams and on forums and twitter (that I saw). It was extremely encouraging to see and be a part of.

Some live stream entertainers went the extra mile, setting benchmarks along the way as AudioModdified danced for the entire “What Does the Fox Say?” song, Tewkesape did 20 sit-ups at one milestone and then “twerked” (or tried to) at another and finally, HypeGameboy shaved his head on camera for all to see when we reached $700.

So I have to include a huge thank you to those that dedicated their time and support in this: Wout12345MKtheWorstKohdWingWynAudioModdifiedHardingboyz, Hype, Pantertainment, Tewkesape, Braveheart1234TheQxQ, ClasslessDeadra, Glis6Jarren and OneWolfe.

An even bigger thanks to Graphoniac who came up with the idea and organized the whole thing. This was a huge undertaking that I, personally, will never ever forget and just can’t thank her enough for.

And the biggest thanks goes to those that donated, participated and showed your support. If you listened to any of it, you took the time to just find out what I am all about or what I’m doing, I just can’t thank you enough.

What now?

Well, the money from the marathon is already set and ready to go towards new servers. Our server has some very unique challenges in that survival servers were never really meant to be networked together the way minigame servers are. So we have to solve many problems, have all new plugins developed and most of all, get even more servers. Growing to 3800 people on the whitelist in 9 months has not been cheap and so the money raised is just an incredible life saver for me.

We’re going to continue to be there for these children and their families. We’re going to be there for as long and as many that need us.

And for the fight against bullying in the Minecraft community? Well, this blog post continues to build upon that. I’ve written 2 rather dark posts to help show just how bad the problem really is.

This post, I hope, both counters and adds to those posts by proving that the Minecraft community will not sit idly by and let this happen. Whether people think that bullying is normal in schools or on the Internet or anywhere else, clearly the Minecraft community refuses to accept that it should have any presence on our servers.

This is very encouraging to me. I hope it’s encouraging to you as well.

Help Stop Bullying

Help Stop Bullying

Please, don’t sit back and hope that others will speak up so that you don’t have to. Record a video, write an article, tweet it, share it, get on a server to talk about it… what ever you need to do whether your audience is 10 or 10,000, please don’t ever think that you’re not important enough to make a very real difference and a very real positive change.

This post should prove to you that bullies can change, people will stand up and support you and that lives can be saved. All you need is a keyboard and the passion to see it through.

By doing this on April 2nd, you won’t just be supporting me. Not anymore. You’ll be joining us. All of us. The Minecraft community and the autism community and everyone that has decided that it’s not ok and that it’s time for the bullying to stop.

I’ve always been proud to be a part of the Minecraft community but now I have a whole other level of respect and admiration for this great group of people. We still have a few days to go until April 2nd and already I am seeing changes being made and lives being affected. That’s a very powerful thing.

Big things are happening and I would love for you to be a part of it.

Thank you for your support.

Stuart (aka AutismFather)

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What if I fail even just one time – on Minecraft, autism, bullying and suicide

I wrote recently, a plea to the Minecraft community from the autism community for help on April 2nd because I had received not one but two messages from children that were ready to take that final action, suicide. They’re both great kids but their lives are plagued by bullies. It affected me, I became emotional and that post was the result.

bullying - suicide

Click for full size

Monday morning, the start of a brand new week and first thing in the morning, another child was on the server, demolishing his buildings, giving away all his belongings and talking of committing suicide. The difference this time being that he refused to talk to me in private. 3 hours of talking to him and working with him and eventually he was building again and feeling better again… and it was all made public for the whole server to see.

On average, using my best math and recollection, I’ve had a conversation like this with a child at least once a week since I started the server just about 9 months ago. This is the first time that it’s been in front of everyone.

Perhaps it’s because it was public that, for the first time, I started to ask myself, what if I fail? Even just one time… what if I can’t help? Maybe I already have and just never got word about it. But what if I do fail and I do get an email. What then? What will I feel? How will I react? What will I do?

I’ll be honest, a million answers run through my mind and the majority of them are not good. But I feel that I can’t honestly even pretend to know. If 2 great kids coming to me in one week can catch me off guard the way it did, then getting such terrible news could only be worse, right?

The more I think about it though, the more I realize that there’s only two things I know for certain.

1. In 9 months, 3700 people with autism have joined my server. 3700 children that are bullied on every other server they try. There should not be 3700 in total much less that many in 9 months. And my server has only been spread by word of mouth. These numbers should be alarming to you.

2. I am going to fail eventually. Even the best, most well trained professionals can’t save every person that has reached that level of desperation. Me? Well, I’m not trained and I’m certainly not a professional. The law of averages is working against me in this case as the reality of it is, I can only keep doing this for so long before I find myself facing down a parent’s last email to me.

I can’t even begin to tell you how terrifying that is to me.

It’s time to get proactive.

Instead of sitting back and waiting for that to happen I’m going to try my best to motivate enough people into taking action on this.

What I need is to reach as many Minecraft players as I can. Whether you make videos, live stream or just play on servers with others to please speak up on April 2nd, Autism Awareness Day and tell the world that you are taking a stand against bullying.

Then, every day after, when you see someone being treated unfairly, rudely, brutally or in any other manner that resembles a form of bullying, don’t just turn away… please, say something.

Let those bullies know that you are not ok with how they are treating others and that it’s not going to be tolerated any more.

Don’t just do this because it’s the nice thing to do and certainly don’t do it as a favor to me… do it for those children that should never even be thinking these terrible thoughts much less ending their own lives before they ever had a chance to really truly live them.

Bullying doesn’t just target autistics, that’s true, but autistics get it far worse. As we all know, bullies prey on those that are different somehow and being different pretty much defines the autistic experience. This is why this is my focus and this is why I encourage you to speak out collectively on Autism Awareness Day but the truth is that this is for everyone that has ever been bullied everywhere.

By doing this, by speaking up even just one time, you could be saving someone’s life. All they need to know is that someone cares and that there’s more to life than just the bullies.

Please spread the word. Please help.

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Destroying the term “special needs”

uwe-quote-jpg“Special needs children” is the all encompassing term used to describe all children that have a disability or disorder. What it implies is, and this is where people start to see “special needs” people as a burden, is that special accommodations are needed just to make life easier for “special needs” people.

An example of this is when a library spends a bunch of money to put in a ramp along side their entrance stairs so that a person in a wheelchair can get in. An architect, disability specialist/advocate, contractor, construction team and a whole host of other people and costs are all put towards getting in this ramp to help out a few out of the thousands of people that visit that library each day.

As more and more libraries get on board with his “affirmative action”, we start to see more and more libraries with this “convenient” ramp at it’s entrance and we smile to ourselves as society is finally starting to do something for these poor “special needs” people that need that little bit extra.

Yuck.

Let’s flip this around and look at it from another point of view.

Imagine a world where no one was considered special but instead, as people. And as the first library starts to go up, the designers and planners say to each other “well, we have blind people so there’ll be braille, we have people in wheelchairs so there’ll be ramps with stairs over here, we have people that require animal assistance so we’ll make sure the floors are safe for them…” and on and on. The second library follows suit, then the next and then the next.

No one thinks twice about it.

Then one day you’re travelling to a place you’ve never been before and you come across a library that has no ramps or braille or any of that stuff. How shocking would that be?!?! What an abomination that would be to every ounce of common sense that you were raised with in believing that libraries were just made for everyone… not to exclude anyone.

No one would question this library for it’s lack of accommodation… they would judge it, quite harshly, for it’s shutting people out. Not “special needs” people, but people. Just… people. 

If only that could be how it is, right?

The library example is just one example out of billions but in the end, what it comes down to is that no one has “special needs”, we just have needs.

I have needs, you have needs, we all have needs. We all want access to the same things, we all want to read and watch and do the same things. Some people just do it differently than others but that doesn’t make it a special need. It makes it the same need that someone somewhere hadn’t thought about putting into their designs or, worse, just left out of their designs because they either didn’t care or didn’t want to spend that little extra on “accommodation.”

We can’t go back and tell those libraries to get it right the first time, although it really would be great, but we can work to fix these things so that future generations don’t have to think of anyone as needing something special done to give them special help to their special need.

One day, one generation of people will find it odd to have a movie without a subtitle option, or a library without ramp, or a debate/discussion without transcripts or sign language accompaniment, or a bus without wheelchair access or a building that doesn’t allow guide dogs or….  well, I could go on. One day, instead of finding it pleasantly surprising to find places that have all these things, people will find it disgustingly surprising to find a place that doesn’t.

That probably won’t be in my lifetime but it’s a good dream to have. I just wish everyone shared it.

Get it right in the first place and there’ll be no more “special needs”… only similar needs that people achieve differently.

Comments { 5 }

This is a plea to the Minecraft community from the autism community for help on April 2nd.

Creeper On your Dessssssktop 2 by BrotherPrime

Creeper On your Dessssssktop 2
by BrotherPrime

This is a plea to the Minecraft Community from myself and the Autism Community, whether you are with Mojang, or you create videos for Youtube, do live streams or just play on servers with other people, I beg you for just a moment of your time.

Recent studies show that children with autism are 4 times more likely to be bullied than anyone else. And although research can’t ever rate such a thing, I can assure you that the severity of the bullying is far worse as well. These studies are done in schools and playgrounds. But if I were to guess, I’d imagine these numbers to be far, far worse in the Minecraft Community.

I started my server for children with autism less than 9 months ago and in that time, I watched our whitelist skyrocket to over 3600 people. Each of them with the same story… they were bullied on every server they went to.

Just last night, a new player said ‘this is the only server i have found without being judged for being “different”‘.

This is just not ok.

I am a grown man with 2 children of my own. I can’t remember the last time I cried. Maybe when I was 6? But I can honestly tell you, with no shame, that I couldn’t help but cry last night as I had received the 2nd email in less than a week as 2 separate children were reaching out to me because they had a knife in their hand and they were done. They’re hurting themselves, their parents can’t help them, they’re bullied and beaten every single day, they have no friends and they can’t take it anymore. They seek solice with the game they love but on every server they try, they find more of the same. They’re griefed repeatedly, killed constantly and people say the absolute worst, most hurtful things they can say to them. Sometimes it’s even from the server admins.

Each of their messages to me finish the same… “I feel like you’re the only one I can talk to AF”.

Something in me broke. I couldn’t hold it back anymore. It really hurt and I cried.

If I was to average it out, I’d say that I’ve received a message from a different child at least once every week since starting the server 9 months ago. Just 1 child, emailing a server owner, reaching out because they can’t take the abuse anymore, is too many. But once a week for 9 months?

It shouldn’t be like this. We have to do better.

So on April 2nd, Autism Awareness Day, I’m asking… no, I’m begging, the Minecraft Community to stand up with the Autism Community and declare that it’s time to put an end to bullying. Bullying of autistics, bullying of anyone that’s different and bullying in general.

Proclaim it in your livestreams, in your videos, in your blogs, press releases and even on the servers that you go to that bullying is wrong.

And if you see someone being bullied, speak up. Don’t be afraid. You tell them that bullying doesn’t belong here and it’s not going to be tolerated anymore.

Please, I can’t do this on my own anymore. I will always be here for these kids when they need me but they shouldn’t have to need me. They shouldn’t have to come to my server to find someplace safe to play. They shouldn’t have to feel so scared.

The Minecraft community is incredible. I know it, I’ve seen it. I love being a part of it. But we can do better.

Please, as the owner of a server that I wish had never been successful in the first place, that I wish had never been needed to be created in the first place, as a fellow Minecraft player, as a father, as an autistic myself, as the father of an autistic child and as a friend… please help me.

If just one person is bullied just one time less than they would have been before, sure, it might not change the world but it’s a start. It means everything.

Please help. On April 2nd, let’s do better.

On Autism Awareness Day, let’s do more than just raise awareness.

Stuart Duncan (aka AutismFather)
Owner of Autcraft

Comments { 31 }

When you have a teenager sibling that is driving you crazy

frustratedI received a request for advice recently from a rather frustrated sibling who’s brother seemed to be doing well… until he hit puberty. Since then he’s peaked, maybe regressed, diet went downhill and has become aggressive, with yelling and breaking things.

If only I could say that the teenage years are supposed to go smoothly… if only I could say that there was some kind of therapy, or words of wisdom or even a pill that could make it so that everything would settle down and… and be normal. And I’m still talking about a neurotypical teen here. It’s infinitely more complicated with a teenager that has autism. And I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but you’re going to have to be the strong one and be there for them and ride it out and hopefully go back to how things were on the other side.

The autistic mind is an over active mind. Brain scans will prove it but you just need to be with an autistic for a while to see it. Lack of sleep, constantly obsessing over what they love, needing to stim constantly… there is no off switch. There is no slowing down the activity of an autistic mind.

When puberty hits, as it does for anyone, the chemicals and hormones of a person go radically out of balance and changes start taking place from head to toe. Emotional states shift wildly, the mind goes on overload and the body sends rapid signals too fast for the brain to handle as if it wasn’t already overloaded already.

When your brain is set to speed times 2 and it never turns off and you have to go through all of that… let’s just say that it can be a lot to handle for anyone.

It’s easy to become frustrated with them when it’s been happening for years now, it’s getting worse instead of better and it seems like there is no end. But the teen years are finite. Puberty doesn’t last forever. And as difficult as it is to remember year after year… your teenage autistic sibling is far more frustrated than you are. They have it much worse than you right now.

At the same time, when you have all of that going on and you just wish you could fix it, you just wish you could make them all better, you start to get frustrated with your parents, with the therapists, with the people who make the drugs that are supposed to calm you down, with the teachers… and on and on. Why isn’t anyone helping? Why isn’t anyone trying harder? Why are they doing such stupid things with their dumb ideas and only making things worse?

You have to realize that they care too. And they probably understand what is going on much more than you realize. But they are as frustrated as you are. They just as powerless as you.

I have only two words of advice on this…

First, on their wild roller coaster of emotions and attitudes and outbursts, there will be down times. Times of regret, hurt and defeat. They may be momentary and they may be a lot less frequent than all the other emotional states they will be in but in those moments, they will need their siblings to be their rock. They will need their siblings to be their role model. The ones to see them through this. The ones to never give up on them no matter how hard it gets.

Second, as much as it feels like it will last forever, it really won’t. I won’t lie to you, in all these chemical imbalances and changes, people don’t always come out the other side better off. Sometimes there is regression, especially for those with autism and they may become more secluded. But most often, with someone to see them through it, they stabilize and mature and move beyond that and forever remember the brother/sister that was there for them.

This might not be the advice you’re looking for but honestly, other than learning some coping techniques to handle aggressive behaviors or in handling your frustrations and such, this is just something that you’re going to have to do. You either decide to walk away because it’s too much or you stick it out and you be there for them.

Either way, don’t judge them for it. Certainly don’t hate them for it. This is beyond their control and not something they’d wish on anyone, certainly not themselves and certainly not you.

I leave you with some links that provides more insight on how teens with autism will change, behave, grow and even may give some insight on how to help out.

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