Tag Archives | Minecraft

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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What the BBC failed to mention in their “Minecraft can help children with autism” story

The BBC has released a news story that says that Minecraft can help children with autism. This is wonderful news as it’s something that I’ve not only said for years but have actually proven thousands of times over with my Autcraft server. I’ve been very eager for the rest of the autism community and science to catch up.

It’s incredible watching a child visit us for the first time, type randomness into chat, spam, use all capital letters, get very upset over and over again and demand that everyone give them everything… and then to see them transition over time into a polite and articulate young player that is eager to share, help other new players and even remind other players not to spam or type in “all caps.” I see this happen with children over and over again. Their spelling improves, their creativity improves and most of all, their social abilities improve to the point where they’re not just making friends on the server but at school now too.

Minecraft itself offers many benefits even without the social play. In single player mode where you play by yourself, you still have the opportunity to expand your creativity, your artistic prowess and even to some extent, your social strengths as you take what you learn with you elsewhere and find other people that share the game and start up a conversation. Kids even get hooked on Minecraft videos on YouTube where they can see others playing together and learn more there.

There is, however, one real danger which the BBC article never addresses.

Children with autism, like all other children, will eventually want to play Minecraft with other children. It’s only natural. However, unlike other children, they’re going to struggle with communication skills, social cues and most of all, emotional control. When a child ventures out to a random Minecraft server and is killed, or their base is destroyed or someone says something mean to them, it can be heart breaking. For a child with autism, it can be emotionally devastating. Rage ensues, self confidence is destroyed and depression sets in. And it can happen in the blink of an eye.

AutismFather AutcraftWhen I started Autcraft in 2013, it was done so in response to hundreds of parents seeking each other out in hopes that their autistic children could play together because they were at a loss as to how to help their children from being bullied on every server they tried to play on. Unmonitored servers run rampant with bullies, trolls and griefers. Any child that stands out as simply being different becomes the ultimate target for hate. This can be devastating for any child and much more so for a child with autism as they feel like they were cheated in life, they are cursed and worse… that they should just die.

In fact, I’ve heard from some parents that their children, some as young as 6 or 7, have been told by bullies on Minecraft servers that their parents never wanted a kid with autism and so, if they love their parents, they should just kill themselves. They tell these children that they’re dragging down the rest of the human race and if they really wanted to do something useful, they should just commit suicide. Can you imagine someone telling a 6 year old child something like this?

The BBC article is bright and cheery and encouraging to so many parents, especially those that saw Minecraft as just an obsession or an annoyance and I’m not trying to shatter that feeling, honest. I will always be the first and loudest to sing the praises of Minecraft and it’s benefits on kids with autism but I will also always do so with a word of caution… safety is the key.

Your child must play in a safe environment otherwise the benefits of the game will quickly be replaced with the perils of bullying and hate. If you are going to let your autistic children play Minecraft with others, than consider the following:

  • Play on an autism friendly server, preferably one run by an autism organization or someone with autism themselves.
  • Play with your children. Be involved. Buy a second account and play on a second computer and join in. If you aren’t teaching your children proper behavior online then someone else is.
  • Enforce frequent breaks to ensure that emotions don’t build up over time and if emotions do build up, encourage breaks to calm down. Rage at the keyboard only ensures that the other players will single you out as a target from that point on.
  • Moderation above all else. Even the nicest players that are on 20 hours a day can start to become aggravated more easily and others can become more aggravated with you more easily as well if you’re always there. Plus, no one should be on that much. Minecraft is great but only when combined with other activities, like playing outside.
  • Set goals before playing. Start with solo goals such as finding X amount of diamonds or iron. Finding X amount of biomes. Getting a barn built. Things like that. As you branch out more, set more social goals such as saying “Hi” to at least 5 players or sharing your items at least once with some other player. Give your child something to focus on doing that they can then continue to do after without thinking about it.

On Autcraft, we always encourage the parents/guardians to play along with their children. We often set up community events and encourage group activities. We do not tolerate bullying or swearing or rudeness of any kind but we don’t just ban a person for it either. We take the time to explain to them what was wrong about what they did and how that could affect others and what they could do better.  Not many servers do these things.

What I’m trying to say is, not all Minecraft servers are made equal. If you just throw your hands up and say “I don’t get it”,  then your child is left to try to get it on their own and I would rather help you now than have them join my server later and end up talking to them for hours about how they wish to commit suicide due to the bullying. And believe me, I’ve done that a lot already with so many kids already.

When I started Autcraft in 2013, it was done so in response to hundreds of parents… within 48 hours, I received over 750 emails. 2 years later, we have approximately 6000 names on our list. That’s how bad the bullying is. That’s how very real the dangers are.

If you would like to support the Autcraft server, please visit our Patreon page where you can not only help us but also help those thousands of children by ensuring that they continue to have a safe place to play: https://www.patreon.com/autismfather

Have fun with Minecraft and the learning and growing and progress will come. But only so long as it stays fun.

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This is what happens when the autism community asks the Minecraft community for help

For the second year in a row, I put out a plea to the Minecraft community to help me put a stop to the bullying that happens on Minecraft servers around the world but also bullying that happens anywhere and more specifically, how much more often it happens to those that have autism. For the second year in a row, the Minecraft community answered.

This year several people that make YouTube videos of themselves playing Minecraft made some heartfelt and powerful videos sharing their experiences and opinions, helping to support us in our mission. These people did this because they knew that these videos, as painful or awkward or difficult to make as they may be, will help at least one person somewhere and that makes it worth it.

I put some of those videos at the bottom of this post for you to watch.

On April 2nd, I decided to live stream (play Minecraft in a live video for others to watch and chat with me) in an attempt to get my message out and to explain why I was so passionate about this. My Minecraft server, Autcraft, was built specifically to give children with autism a safe place to play, free from bullying and hate. It’s a place that I wish never had to be made in the first place, and so I spoke out to what few viewers I had.

As hour followed hour, my viewership grew. More people came to watch me. I took a ten minute break for something to eat, fearing to take too long for I might lose those people. But they didn’t leave. The numbers continued to grow, as did the support.

I intended to stream for a few hours at most but more and more people came to watch me… to listen to me! And then, it happened… Arkas appeared in my live stream chat.

Now, I’m going to start mentioning a lot of names in this next part and you are forgiven if you don’t know who they are. They are people that play Minecraft on YouTube and in live streams of their own and have thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of people subscribed to watch them. They influence these people. When they speak, their viewers listen.

If you play Minecraft or have a child that plays Minecraft, some of these names may be familiar to you, if not, then just believe when I say that they are “celebrities” in the Minecraft world.

Arkas shared the link to my live stream on Twitter and appeared in my chat room to let me know that he supports me. Shortly after, he was followed by Docm77.  He too, shared the link on Twitter. Suddenly I had more viewers than I imagined I ever would have and they were in my chat room, talking with people and me and supporting me.. supporting the autism community that I represented.

Before I knew what was going on, I was adding them both to the server’s whitelist and they were there… on the server… with the children! Talking to them, taking screenshots together, giving those children on the server, autistic children, autistic adults and family, giving them the best day of their lives.

We had a wider audience, we were teaching so many people about bullying, autism and about how amazing people with autism can truly be!

But it didn’t stop there.

To my total amazement, another YouTuber then joined the server. Etho.

You need to understand that for me, Etho is the first that I had watched and quite literally taught me most of what I know about Minecraft and, without ever knowing it, gave me the know how and confidence to ever start a server of my own. But more so than that, he’s just as important to so many of the children on my server.

But what made his appearance truly amazing is that… that just does not happen. Etho is “illusive,” in fact, that’s what many people call him. He just does not “make appearances.” To show up on my server, with dozens and dozens of children that idolize him (some of the grown ups too)… that told me that what we were doing here truly was that special, it truly was that important. That’s when I knew that we were doing something amazing.

But wait, still not done!

Shortly after that, I was messaged by Keralis! Keralis (along with Arkas) are two of the best builders in all of Minecraft, in my opinion. He messaged me and said that he would come on too. Then another message… Xisuma Void! Xisuma Void passed along the message to the rest of the members of a server he helps to manage called HermitCraft and then suddenly I found myself in a chat room talking to a whole bunch of people that I’ve been watching for years! Biffa2001, ZombieCleo, Zuelgin and Sl1pg8r then joined the server too!

Here I was, this guy all by himself, asking the Minecraft community to help me. To help us. To speak up. All I wanted to do was help but somewhere, in the back of my mind, I thought… “what am I doing?” because I really didn’t think anyone would listen. That’s what I’m used to. I have autism myself and to be quite honest, I’m used to people not listening to me too.

But not in the Minecraft community. They listened. No, they didn’t just listen, they shared the message, they got behind it and amplified it. They didn’t just listen, they talked to me about it and helped me to reach so many people that I never would have reached on my own.

They were so very kind to me and to the kids on my server. They changed lives that day. Not just on the server but in their audiences, in my audience… in our communities and more.

This is what the Minecraft community is capable of and it’s amazing. I want to thank all the YouTubers that did this but I also want to thank the rest of the Minecraft community. I have received so many messages from so many people in YouTube comments, Twitch messages, tweets and so much more from people telling me what a great thing I’m doing and how they support me. When they support me, they support the autism community. When they support the autism community, they support these kids that need us so much.

That’s not to be taken lightly. So thank you Minecraft community, on behalf of myself, my server and the autism community.

These videos are from very kind people that have spoken out… the bottom 2 videos are from the live stream in which all of those YouTube celebrities came to visit Autcraft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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