Tag Archives | bullying

I am no longer with Autcraft

AutismFather AutcraftLet me start out by saying that there is no drama, no behind the scenes reasons, nothing that must have happened to set me off to do this… this is something that I’ve been planning and working towards for a while now.

Autcraft started as I watched more and more parents with children on the autism spectrum reach out to other parents hoping to find friends to play Minecraft with. Why were they looking for other parents? Well, their children first tried playing on regular servers like most other children but because they had autism, because they struggled with the social aspect of the multiplayer experience, they were bullied repeatedly everywhere they went. So these parents turned to each other hoping that their children could play together where they’d be free of such bullies.

Only it wasn’t that easy. Sure they could find each other but there was still nowhere to actually play together. In order to do that, they’d have to both go to a server and as their experience had shown, there were no safe servers. I realized that I could help.

Autcraft was born almost a year and a half ago.

Now here we are with nearly 5000 people on the whitelist. To put that in perspective, that is more people than the entire population of the town in which my kids go to school. That’s amazing! In a way, it’s sad because to me that signifies quite clearly just how bad the bullying problem truly is. On the other hand, it’s remarkable that there are so many great people that can all relate to each other and lift each other up.

From the very first day back on June 23, 2013, the demand and the pressures placed on me were much larger than I had anticipated. Hundreds of emails rolled in immediately. As celebrities visited, as people wrote about us, as the news picked us up… that only made the demand and pressure grow even more. In time, that demand grew even more as people started to come to me with their problems. Fights with others, bullies, depression, problems with parents… even suicide. I never said ‘no’ when someone needed me. I never turned anyone away.

I had lost count how many times I had to say “I can’t right now” when my own children would ask me to come play with them. I had lost count of how many times I had to tell my boss that I had to go because someone needed me on the server and that I’d finish my projects a little later.

I woke up to dozens of emails, dozens of messages on our website, hundreds of Skype messages…. every single day. Each of them a problem. Small problems, big problems, trivial and truly significant problems… all of them, adding up more and more each day.

I never said ‘no’.

Now, I’m not saying it was a thankless job, quite the opposite. I was praised. I was called a “rock star.” People recognized me all over the Internet and said the nicest things. However, that too, comes at a price. The more people that knew me, the more there were people who needed to doubt me, who needed to believe I couldn’t possibly be who I was. People who had to hate me either because I was too nice or because they refused to believe it.

Even some of the children that I had talked out of suicide several times would find themselves doubting me, throwing away all I had done for them the moment anyone anywhere said anything negative about me. I don’t hold it against them, I truly don’t.

Over time, all of this, all of it and more, grew bigger and bigger.

Now, I’m fine with it. All of it. Wait, almost all of it.

I have a good job, I have great kids. And I’ve been putting them on hold for Autcraft.

The kids that Autcraft helps… they are absolutely incredible and they are worth the demands and pressures and the time. But I have to put my children and myself first. I just have to.

So I worked hard to build up a reliable team, a strong team, a supportive team that can help the children, help the server, build like pros, get those children through anything and just do all the things that I did and more without me having to be there. And now, Autcraft has that team. They truly are amazing.

Now it’s time to let it go. It’s time to wake up without having to respond to hundreds of messages. It’s time to go to bed at bed time. It’s time to go and play with my children when they ask me to.

I will miss the server fully and completely. I miss it with all of my heart. But I have to let it go. 100%. Anything less would draw me back in. I can’t say ‘no’ to someone that needs me. I can’t turn away from people that need my help.

So I need to leave Autcraft. I need to leave it in capable hands. I need to take care of myself now.

Thank you for entrusting me with your most valuable treasures, your children.

But it’s time for me to say good-bye.

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10 things I’ve learned from running a Minecraft server for children with autism

It wasn’t that long ago that I registered a domain name, opened up a shiny new Facebook page and Twitter account and announced to the world that I had started a Minecraft server just for children with autism and their families. Now, one year later, I can honestly say that I’ve changed a lot. I’ve changed because I’ve learned a lot. Some of it good, some of it not so much.

This is what I’ve learned in 1 year of running a Minecraft server for children with autism.

Bullying1. Bullying is far worse than anyone realizes

In one year, Autcraft‘s list of approved players (whitelist) is now over 4300. From a very humble Facebook post to a few hundred people, word spread like wildfire. This happened because parents had finally found a place for their children to play where they wouldn’t be bullied.

It’s not just the quantity but also the quality. Most kids are used to the hitting, kicking and teasing. On Minecraft servers, the bullying usually involves killing them, destroying their stuff and stealing everything they have to the point of making the game unplayable.

The worst though, is that these kids, some as young as 5 or 6, are told that they should be killed or never have been born because they are dragging down the human race. They’re told they’re less than worthless, they’re a burden on everyone, even their own parents. They’re told that, if they care about people, if they care about their parents, they should commit suicide.

Next time someone talks to you about having autism and being bullied, don’t respond with “well, everyone is bullied” because there is no comparison.

2. Being autistic makes you a target

Three weeks after opening our doors, Autcraft became the topic of several troll/hacker forums including the infamous 4chan website. A victim of our own success, these places heard of us quickly and immediately determined we’d be an “easy target” to “make a bunch of autistic kids cry.”

Since then, we receive applications from troll/hacker groups at least 2-3 times a month and our server is DDOS attacked at least once a week.

3. Autistic is to ‘retard’ as Autcraft is to…

People are using ‘autistic’ in the place of ‘retard’ in their lame attempts at insulting others but I didn’t realize just how much until I started finding Autcraft being used as the insult across the Minecraft community. For example, when two people are insulting each other, one would suggest that the other belongs on, or should go back to, Autcraft.

If we aren’t targeted for attack, we’re used as an attack on others.

calm down4. Autistic children are mastering a technique that most people lack

I have seen many autistic children on our server get so mad that others can’t help but change ‘rage’ from a noun to a verb. “He’s raging.” When a child with autism gets to that point, there is very little self control. The worst of the worst behavior that they are capable of can and often does present itself.

However, many of these children, most even, have this remarkable ability to stop, recognize this is happening and remove themself from the situation and return after calming down.

I can only assume that this is due to the very hard and diligent work of their parents and care givers (and even some handy apps) but this is something I am witness to very often and always amazed by. While most people don’t ‘rage’ quite as extremely as some of these autistic children do, they still prolong the issue and hold grudges for far longer than they probably should.

A secondary benefit to this is that they are able to recognize this in other autistic children as well and often come to quick resolutions after apologizing and forgiving each other upon the child’s return from calming down.

5. The kindest community in all of Minecraft

Ok, that’s a bit of a bold statement to make and I can’t really confirm it since I haven’t been on every server but I can tell you that every guest we’ve had from YouTube celebrities, Minecraft news sites, other server owners, teachers and more have all told me that they received the biggest and kindest welcome when they joined Autcraft and continued to experience the friendliest atmosphere they’ve ever had while child after child offers to give them tours, help them find a place to build, help them build, give them advice and even just offering to be their friends.

This is surprising to most people as they assume a community comprised of socially awkward or special needs children couldn’t possibly be that well natured… that friendly. But it is. It really is.

Equality vs Equity6. Equality vs fairness

One of the most famous quotes in the autism community is “If you’ve met one autistic, you’ve met one autistic” which is another way of saying, each autistic is different with different characteristics, symptoms of autism, personalities, strengths and weaknesses.

On other Minecraft servers, rules are set in stone and everyone that visits that server must abide them. With Autcraft, while we do have a set list of rules, each child is essentially treated quite differently.

While this sometimes leads to some being upset that “it’s not fair” that two children are not treated equal, I have found that for 2 very different children to learn a new task, complete a task and have an equal experience, it is imperative that those two children not be treated equally in the beginning.

You treat them fairly, based on their strengths and weaknesses such that both children have an equal opportunity and that’s when everyone does well.

Positive Reinforcement7. Encouragement vs Discouragement

When children do bad things on a Minecraft server, the instinct is to jail or ban them. When they say bad things, they are muted.

On Autcraft, these things happen very rarely despite the fact that many of the players are children that have more communication impairments, less emotional control and more learned negative behaviours than even their own parents may realize.

The reason these punishments happen so rarely is quite simple: we encourage them to do better.

We reward players that show great improvement from Sunday to Sunday with Player of the Week. We take the players that show respect, maturity and a need to be a helpful contributor to the community and reward them with the added responsibility of being a Helper.

We offer many great rewards for players who simply do their best or make improvements over how they were previously.

Children want your attention. You can either wait for them to do something wrong to get it or give them opportunities to make you proud.

Communication is key8. Communication is key

When a player does act out, rather than mute or jail them, we ask them if they’re OK.

Nine times out of ten, we’re told about something happening in their life that is troubling them. We talk about it and they either feel better or don’t but the ‘acting out’ stops.

Communication is not limited to talking. For some we contact the parents with something their child did or said, sometimes it’s with concerns about how they’re feeling and sometimes it’s to tell them about the really great thing their child did.

Sometimes we have children on that are very young or unable to read/write the chat, in which case we set up a system with the parent such that if we move their child to a special room, that’s their cue to get mom or dad so that we can relay information to them, they tell their child and then they continue on playing.

Open communication, in what ever form we can achieve it, at all times, makes the whole experience better for everyone.

Be Yourself9. Progress is made when you’re free to be yourself

We’ve received so many emails from parents saying that their children are making better progress now than with years of therapy. Others are making friends for the first time ever. Some are learning to read and write when it seemed nearly impossible before.

I believe that the reason for this is simple: the children are unafraid to just be themselves.

When you remove the fear of bullying, embarrassment and the shackles of self-doubt, these children open up and do the things they love. They do it in the open and for all to see and others rejoice in it and encourage that. That’s when real progress is made.

They’re no longer afraid to spell something wrong, they’re no longer afraid to admit they like something they feel like maybe someone else would think they shouldn’t, they’re no longer afraid to speak up and say what is on their mind.

This is when real education happens. This is where real power comes from.  This is how real progress is made.

respect10. Respect

Many of these children are fighting battles that most people can’t imagine. For some it’s constant bullying while others have unaccepting parents. For some it’s not having any friends or the struggles that come with being unable to communicate effectively or it’s the blinding rage that seems to bubble up all too often despite their best efforts or maybe it’s other things like also having ADHD, Tourettes, seizures or any other number of other disorders or problems.

When I talk to many of these children, they are going through more battles than most adults would be capable of handling. We often joke that life was so much easier as a child than as an adult but for many of these kids, that simply is not true.

Talk to them with respect, make your best efforts to listen and to understand and never dismiss their struggles.

They will respect you when you respect them and that’s when you’ll have an opportunity to truly help each other.

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I asked the Minecraft community to help stop bullying and this happened

Back at the end of March, I wrote a post asking the Minecraft community for help on autism awareness day to help end the bullying. That post was picked up over at Reddit and people shared it further.

Over the course of April 2nd and beyond, I found a bunch of videos from YouTubers talking about bullying and even sharing their own stories and experiences!

I can only share the bunch that I had come across and I’m sure there’s even more out there that I don’t yet know about but I felt that these people deserve the extra views, a thumbs up and if you can, even a quick click on their subscribe button.

I don’t expect that you’ll watch them all but hopefully at least one or two because these people deserve the recognition for taking the time and making the effort to help stop bullying.

(https://www.youtube.com/user/TLCheeto)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/MCsoapthgr8)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/Greatlando)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/MrPop2213)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/TillDeathOrRespawn)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/2girls1minecraft)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/ItsStrapz)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/akirbs80)

(https://www.youtube.com/user/DevertonJuntion12)

To all that shared links, to those that made their own statements, to those that made videos like these and to anyone that stands up to bullies whether they are bullied or witness someone else being bullied…

Thank you.

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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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