Tag Archives | bullying

Second annual plea to the Minecraft community to take a stand against bullying on April 2nd

Last year I wrote a plea to the Minecraft community to help those of us in the autism community on April 2nd to take a stand against bullying. I am doing it again this year. Why? Because we still need your help.

The response last year was incredible as many live stream gamers and YouTube video makers spoke up and shared their personal stories and explained to people the effects that bullying has had in their lives. Since then, the media has picked up on what has been going on as well and increased awareness to more than just our little community.

But we’re not done. Every single day on Autcraft (Minecraft community for those with autism and their families) we talk to children that are being bullied at school, bullied on other Minecraft servers and in some cases, they’re even bullied by their own parents that fail to accept that they have autism and the struggles that come with it.

words hurtSome children miss days or even weeks of playing on the server due to the emotional stress and even sometimes due to the physical pain they suffer as a direct result from bullies. Some children come to my server angry having just been on another server where they were tormented and ridiculed… called “retard” and told that they should never have been born or worse, that they should kill themself.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it. – http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html

It breaks my heart every single time a child asks me for advice and though we talk for hours and they feel better by the end, the truth is, I have no real advice to give. I can’t make the bullying stop. I can’t make that pain go away for them. I know that no matter how I can make them feel in that moment that the next day they will just find themselves being bullied once again.

Almost all children encounter some form of bullying at some point, which in itself is a terrible thing to consider but what’s worse is that those with autism are far more likely to be bullied than anyone else. Not only are they more likely but the amount and type of bullying is often far worse as they are made to feel like they are a burden on society and even their own parents. They’re made to feel like they’re worse than worthless, that they’re a weight on the human condition and are bringing down the world just by existing. They are encouraged to commit suicide. They’re only kids.

Just yesterday, I heard that a 10-year-old in our community took his own life. I sat down and had a long talk with my girls. [My child], who plays on your site and has Asperger syndrome, was bullied so badly by a boy that the boy was given a cease and desist order not to go near her. Something has to change.

– From the mother of a child on Autcraft

Why are those with autism more likely to be targeted or treated this way? Well, because people with autism are inherently different from most people. They struggle to socialize and communicate in the way most people would and are often more prone to extreme emotional outbursts. The truth is, you know as well as I do that all it takes is a tiny spark of being different to make you a target for bullying.

Despite those differences, despite what people and more specifically, those bullies, may think, I see autistics in a very different way. Ever since starting my server, I’ve watched a community grow around a foundation of support, friendship, sharing and compassion. These kids are there for each other, they’re excited to see each other, they support each other in what ever their ambitions are and they work hard and play together better than any community I’ve ever seen before.

If I could open the doors to the world and let people see what I see, I think many people would be very surprised. It’s not at all what most would expect from kids that they think are anti-social, non-communicative introverts. That’s not them at all.

But once they leave my server and visit another server or go back to school or head to the playground… they’re not protected by that strong supportive community anymore and I’m the one that they come back too. Myself and my team on Autcraft, we’re the ones that these kids come too and unload all of their hurt and pain and suffering on. We’re the ones that hear all of the stories that the rest of the world doesn’t… but probably really should.

There is no reason that a child should be limited to just one Minecraft server to play on because of bullies. Children with autism, all children for that matter, should be free to play on the servers that they wish to play on without fear of being told to kill themselves, or to be tormented by griefers, thieves and constant PVP deaths making the game unplayable for them.

The Minecraft community is better than that. I know it is. But only when we speak up and don’t allow those few bad people to do these things. We must speak up. We must make them stop.

These kids can’t suffer in silence anymore. We can’t be afraid to share our stories and to take a stand against this.

Bullying isn’t bullying, it’s abuse, it’s torture, it’s assault. We need to stop pretending it’s not.

Children are dying. Good children, beautiful children.

So please, I’m begging you on behalf of my server and on behalf of the autism community… please take a stand against bullying on April 2nd, Autism Awareness Day.

If you stream live video, if you make YouTube videos, if you just happen to be on a Minecraft server chatting with others, if you blog or vlog… what ever it is you do, on April 2nd, please help me and help us to prevent this abuse and to save real lives.

I can’t do it. But maybe we can do it together if we work together.

From one Minecraft player to another, please help me.

– AutismFather

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We need to stop referring to abuse as bullying and schools need to stop doing nothing about it

Picture this, if you will, as disturbing as it is: A woman sits in a hospital room with a fractured skull, broken jaw and leaking spinal fluid. Everyone knows who her attacker is but no one is doing anything. No arrests. No charges. The attacker is free to do as he pleases.

Make sense?

Well, the truth is that it wasn’t a woman. It was a 12 year old boy with Aspergers and his attacker was an older boy, in grade 8. Because this happened between kids in school and not adults, instead of being abuse, this is just bullying…. “just bullying”.

Wait, he has a fractured skull. He was almost killed. How is this “just bullying” when, if this was a grown man doing this to a grown woman, it would be abuse? or manslaughter? or attempted murder?

You can read about this in the news, although, it’s not easy to watch: http://www.cbs12.com/news/top-stories/stories/boy-aspergers-syndrome-hospitalized-after-bully-attacks-him-at-school-parents-23752.shtml?wap=0

You’d like to think that this is an isolated incident since we don’t read about this in the news every day but it’s not. This happens ALL. THE. TIME.

Let me break some of this down for you.

  • » 64 per cent of kids had been bullied at school.
  • » 12 per cent were bullied regularly (once or more a week).
  • » 13 per cent bullied other students regularly (once or more a week).
  • » 72 per cent observed bullying at school at least once in a while.
  • » 40 per cent tried to intervene.
  • » 64 per cent considered bullying a normal part of school life.
  • » 20-50 per cent said bullying can be a good thing (makes people tougher, is a good way to solve problems, etc.).
  • » 25-33 per cent said bullying is sometimes OK and/or that it is OK to pick on losers.
  • » 61-80 per cent said bullies are often popular and enjoy high status among their peers.

(Source: Centre For Youth Social Development, UBC Faculty of Education)

The core problem here is that bullying is very rarely, if ever, witnessed by a teacher. This means that even as a child is lying in a hospital bed, the only real ‘evidence’ anyone has to go on is a bully’s story versus a victim’s story. The school board “business heads” send a mandate down to the schools telling them that they can do nothing. They can’t make any statements, they can’t hand out any punishments. The most they can do is “investigate” which is to say, ask around and see if anyone else saw anything but none of that circumstantial hear-say really holds any weight either way anyway.

And so this becomes school yard bullying. A “normal part of school life” where both victims and the parents of the victims are powerless to stop or prevent it.

This is very similar to another phenomenon happening within hospitals around the world where doctors are having their hands tied while their administrators are forced to make decisions based on funding and stature. For example, several times in the past we’ve seen doctors refuse to do life saving procedures on good people with special needs based solely on the fact that they do have special needs and therefore, do not merit having their life saved versus someone else that might need the same procedure and does not have “anything wrong with them.”

Don’t believe that happens? I’ve written about it before.

A teacher that does nothing to stop bullying because of the rules from their administrators is in the exact same position as a doctor that does nothing to help save someone’s life because of their administrators. I don’t blame them… sort of.

Still though, I’m reminded of something that John Stuart Mill once said:

Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.

I sit and watch as parent after parent on social media cries out for justice, that the bully be charged, expelled or much much worse. (“if it was my child that he did that too…“)
But nothing is done. Nothing will be done. Schools will continue to sit on their hands, unable to make statements, unable to stop it.

To the teachers, counsellors, principals and everyone else involved at the school level, please help us.

I get it. The administrators sitting at the top, they won’t let you do anything. But I’m calling on you to do something anyway.
This has to stop. Now.
And the schools are holding all the cards to do that.

Until the schools all step up to do something more than assemblies or “anti-bullying awareness campaigns”, this will continue to get worse and worse.

Maybe the school board tells you no. Maybe you will get fired for it.
But do something anyway. Because the next child to fall victim might be yours.

If the person that did the bullying is not to be blamed, then surely those that stood around and did nothing about it are.

When it’s a man and a woman and even when it’s a man and another man, this is abuse. But when it’s two children, it’s bullying.
We must stop looking at this way. Abuse is abuse. A human life is a human life. Let’s stop trying to make it sound like it’s not important just because it’s between children.

If a teacher can’t get away with breaking the skull of another teacher without consequences then a student should not be able to do it to another student.

Stop saying “just bullying” and let’s call it what it is. Abuse.
And let’s start treating it as such.

 

For more heart breaking statistics and information, please visit http://www.stopabully.ca/bullying-statistics.html

Einstein Quote

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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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