In this video, I discuss our perceptions and assumptions of people that either can not speak or speak in a way that seems younger or less intelligent than we might think they should.
In this video, I discuss our perceptions and assumptions of people that either can not speak or speak in a way that seems younger or less intelligent than we might think they should.
I find that movies are great ground breakers for my son Cameron as he tries to learn and understand social situations. We try to point out who is sad, who is happy and why.
This causes him all sorts of grief as the adults shake their head when he walks by and other children call him “freak” and laugh at him.
Near the beginning, introducing the main character and his life, he gets caught up in what the dead are doing, completely missing what his teacher is saying and the other children laugh at him. Other accidents happen, they laugh some more and it ends with him sulking away from his locker that says “freak” on it, for the second time that day.
It was at this point that Cameron, completely on his own, said “aww… poor kid.”
Now, I’m not going to get into the whole “do children with autism lack empathy” thing because, they don’t. However, one aspect that is quite common is the difficulty in being able to look at a situation from another person’s perspective. This is something that is difficult for all children. It’s just more so with autism.
When a child sees another child do something funny, they laugh. They don’t recognize if it’s embarrassing, hurtful or mean.
When a child sees another child as strange, odd or bizarre, they treat them as such.
Many times, it’s fully intentional and they truly are a bully. But sometimes it’s simply a lack of understanding that what they say and do is so hurtful.
I find, the best way to teach Cameron that what he says and does, while funny to him, could hurt someone else, is to show him from an entirely fresh perspective, as a 3rd party.
And that usually works to a point. He sees it, recognizes it… doesn’t truly understand it.
So when this part in the movie came on and he not only recognized the bullying but expressed his emotions about it, I was a bit shocked.
Of course this sparked a whole conversation with him about bullying and how bad someone can feel when you call them names or laugh at them but not as a lecture but rather, as something he was starting to understand and even explain back to me.
For any child, this is a great step. For a big brother, this is a momentous occasion, especially for his little brother. And for a child with autism… this is huge.
He gets it. And he expressed it.
I’m very proud of my boy.
A recent news story, filled with a lot of science and interesting information, also included the insight from a man with autism, named Jeff Hudale.
You can read the news story here, in fact, I suggest you do: What’s Different About The Brains Of People With Autism?
Now, the science behind the story and the things that they are finding out about the human brain, specifically the differences between the typical and autistic brains, are really quite amazing.
But I would like to focus on the very last part of this piece, where Jeff Hudale states:
“I don’t want to quit until they finally can get this set right and get this thing eradicated,” he says. “I’d like to have some semblance of, just be a regular person like everybody else.”
There’s been a lot of talk about this through out the autism community but despite the attention it’s attracting, I see very very little (none to be honest) support or even acceptance of his feelings.
The general consensus that I see from people is that it’s sad that he feels this way and that he’s simply confused. That somehow it’s the life time of bullying, judging and other messages he receives either intentionally or unintentionally, that has caused this man to think of his autism in such a negative light.
There’s a lot to take in there as you begin to wonder if his parents had pushed for a cure or treated him differently because he was “broken.” Keep in mind, at 40+ years old, his diagnosis came at a much different time than how things are today.
Was he raised to be proud of himself or to always be aware of his differences. Did he read a lot of what the media had to say about autism and reflect those things inward?
Did years of bullying or lack of friends cause him to hate autism for making him the way he is?
Generally, it comes down to outside forces.
Put it this way, when we generalize his reaction into a “who said what to make him feel this way”, we are sort of dismissing him entirely and “putting the blame” on others.
That’s a nice way to look at it, to be honest. It means there is nothing wrong with him, it’s society that got to him and made him think this way.
However, the “nice way to look at it” isn’t always the honest way to look at it.
See, I like this news article because it’s honest and real. He is not the first autistic I’ve heard of, or even talked to, that has expressed a desire to be rid of autism. Or to use the “fighting words” version… to be cured.
I think, and this may just be me, but not everyone needs to “just accept it” and “just be proud of it”… some people don’t and never will. They simply wish that they do not have autism.
While it’s not the approach I take nor is it what I suggest, as it is obviously negative and self defeating, it is a reality.
Sure we could just say that Mr. Hudale should just be happy with himself despite what anyone else thinks but that’s what we think of his life.
That might not be so easy for him to think, nor is it a requirement. We can’t just demand that of him.
Wouldn’t that be more of the “stop thinking so differently and conform to what the rest of us believe!” mentality anyway?
Besides, this line of thinking ignores the simple fact of what autism really is… a disorder or disability.
There are a great many struggles, heart aches, things you can’t do, negative messages and so much more that you have to live with for your entire life when you have autism.
Some examples for some autistics include never going anywhere loud (concerts, subways, movies, etc), never being able to play sports, never being able to make friends and the list goes on and on. I couldn’t possibly list every possible thing that autism could limit or cause you to never experience at all.
There is just so much negative in life that comes with having a disability (or disorder) that it would be a bit naive to assume that it’s only due to bullies or other people that a person would wish to not have that disability.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s never the case. I think it’s safe to say that some people do hate autism or what ever disability they may have simply because of how it causes others to treat them or how others look at them.
Perhaps some of those people could grow to accept and maybe even love having autism if only people were more accepting of them.
But I think it would be a stretch to think that is true of every single person.
Some people may just wish to no longer have autism because they simply do not want to have autism. No matter their age, no matter what others say or do, no matter what you or I think they should feel… they just don’t want to be autistic anymore.
And we need to be accepting of that too.
Acceptance means we that don’t judge people for how they feel or what they think whether or not we agree or even understand it.
That goes for people who are not proud of having autism. Not just the people that are.
Let’s talk to them. Not ignore or dismiss them.
I would like to start this post stating that there’s a growing trend but it’s much likely that this is a much longer lasting trend than most of us think it is… it’s just that we’re becoming increasingly aware of it. Thanks to better recording devices and such, people are getting caught. And thank God for that.
What I’m talking about is when we trust other people to care for our children… to make them feel safe, secure and comfortable…. and those people betray that trust and become the bullies that we were hoping our children would be protected from.
To anyone with autism or that has a child with autism, it’s never been a secret that autistics get bullied more than most other children. Recently, some researchers crunched some numbers and confirmed what we’ve always known.
The shocking part is when we discover that it’s not just the other children doing the bullying.
Grown ups… adults… trained people that are being paid… paid with your tax dollars… adults that supposedly became the person they are today because they loved working with children…. adults… the ones that look you in the eye and tell you that they will take great care of your child…
They’re not adults… they’re monsters.
Children are supposed to be afraid to look where they think monsters might be. They’re not supposed to be afraid to go to where they know a monster actually is.
You see, children don’t see other children bullies as monsters… they see them as meanies or bullies. They’re just kids. They’re just mean. And it hurts and it really sucks. No one likes to be victimized by their peers.
But it’s a whole other level of victimization when it comes from a person of authority… a grown up that is supposed to be keeping them safe. They’re not just mean, they’re not just a bully. They’re the real monsters.
Most kids move on from school and put the bullying behind them. It still hurts to remember but it’s behind them.
But it’s so very much harder to do that when it’s the teachers that did it. That kind of thing scars you for life. You never let that go.
The worst part is… these adults know that. They’re in that position, so they know. They took the courses, they’ve dealt with children long enough… they’re not unaware of the effect they’re having. They’re not oblivious to how smart kids really are, just how much they take in.
People that create bold face lies to parents, that verbally or physically assault a child… they are criminals.
What really gets me sick is how much the education system is quickly becoming just like the political or religious systems. When these things happen, neither the police nor the media, and certainly not the parents, can get any information out of the school. It becomes an “internal matter” and they just quietly go about their business, giving no information to anyone.
Later you find out that the person that abused the child was simply reassigned, or given leave with pay or… if they are fired.. they’re fired with a nice severance and likely rehired elsewhere to care (or not as the case may be) for other children.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself… there’s a reason that much of this goes unchecked in the first place.
See, children are very unlikely to ever say anything. I mean, think about it… you’re a little one at school, who believes completely that the grown up that is in charge is actually allowed to do everything they do… and worse, if you do say anything… they could do much worse than they already have.
How do you speak up to that?
It gets even worse if your child has autism because then there’s next to zero chance that they will tell anyone.
See, in the mind of some people, that makes it “the perfect crime”… they can do and say anything they want because they’ll never get caught.
They also don’t much care what effect it will have, if any, on the child for the rest of their lives. Because they are likely not thinking about anyone but themselves.. they certainly aren’t thinking of the child’s future.
But they know. They know full well what effect it will have. They’re just not thinking about it.
This is what makes them a monster. This is what makes this truly despicable. This is what makes them less than human.
And they’ll do it again… where ever they get reassigned to or rehired with… because it’s an internal matter that the school will handle. Right?
Disgusting is what it is.
Now that you’ve read all of this, I’d like to show you the latest two cases in the news… which are what prompted this post…
First is Stuart Chaifetz’s video where he reveals what he had recorded one day when he was forced to put a recording device on his child. His child was acting quite contrary to his personality and he was getting no answers, so he did what he had to do to find out the truth.
Second is another story is taken from video cameras on board a school bus where aides were supposed to be helping a child put on his safety harness but instead, began smacking him on the head.
I am quite happy to report that on this latest story, the aides have been let go, without pay and will be on trial to answer for these crimes.
Well, many parents refuse to take the risk and choose to home school their children… and I can’t blame them. If it did happen to their children, they’d likely never know, or at least not for a long time… too long. There really is no way to be sure before hand. It could happen to anyone anywhere and finding out after the fact means the damage has already been done.
Still though, much like plane crashes… even though they do happen, when you take into account how many planes are travelling at any given time… the crashes happen so rarely that airplane travel is still the safest way to travel.
The same can be said for child care, teachers and teachers aides… yes, this disgusting behavior is happening out there… and we’re finding out about it more and more… but it’s still rare.
Still though, even if it’s only happening with 1 in 5,000,000 teachers/aides/care providers…. is it worth that risk?
Is better screening the answer? Well, I don’t know since I’d wager that these people probably really were happy to work with children in the beginning. Years can change a person. So maybe they’d be the best of candidates one year… while not the best choice the next.
Better monitoring systems? That’s probably what I would suggest most but doing so is very costly and takes away from the money available to be doing the actual learning and caring for the children. Still though, it does seem to be becoming more and more of a necessity.
Is home schooling the answer? Well, home schooling does have it’s pros and cons, but if you’re keeping your child home because of the risk of a bad teacher… where does it end? Keep them off the sidewalks for the risk of bad drives? Keep them out of planes for fear of crashes or terrorists? Keep them out of corner stores and banks for fear of robberies?
Sheltering is an option so long as it’s not taken too far, I guess.
I don’t know what the answer is.
All I do know is that by law of averages, the more teachers/aides/care givers there are… the more likely there is to be a bad egg in the bunch. And those laws of averages get heavily swayed when a lack of funding is involved in the equation.
The average is again greatly swayed when there are more and more children that need those teachers/aides/care givers.
The numbers keep going up, the demand keeps going up, the quality…. well, there’s only so many great teachers out there.
Think of it this way… if you can have 20 teachers in the country, you’ll pick the 20 best.
But if you have to have 10,000,000 teachers…. then you’ll have to pick the 10,000,000 best. And the 9,999,999th best teacher is… well, not the best.
So what do we do? Population control isout of the question, not to mention a bit late if it ever was…
I just don’t know. How do we stop this from happening? How to we keep our children safe from the people that are supposed to be keeping our children safe?
The only thing I know for sure is that there needs to be more accountability. Like those aides on the bus facing trial and not getting paid right now… we need more of that.
No more sheltering or handling things internally or shuffling the deck…. people need to be held accountable. A criminal is a criminal whether they are a politician, religious leader or a part of the education system.
Enough of this.
No more “system” except the justice system.
It’s the only one that matters.
I haven’t written about bullying because I’ve been fortunate enough to have not encountered it yet with my children and even if I had, I certainly wouldn’t know much about what to do… so I’m definitely not an authority.
But today, on #SpiritDay (October 20th, 2010), we wear purple to put an end to Anti-LGBT bullying and bullying in general. So I figured today is a great day to do more than just wear purple.
It’s time to get some information.
Sonia Sharp, an expert on bullying, said in a speech for Brighton and Hove Education Authority
- 1 in 2 students experience occasional bullying during any school term
- 1 in 4 students in primary school are bullied more than once or twice at least in any term (so they are more than twice as likely to be bullied as those in secondary schools)
- 1 in 10 in secondary school are bullied more than once or twice at least in any term (some research says one third of secondary students are bullied during the course of the school year)
- 1 in 10 primary aged students are persistently and frequently bullied – possibly every day
Some facts from other experts:
- Between 15 and 25 children every year commit suicide because they are being bullied (there may be more we don’t know about, and many more than this attempt it because bullying has made them so unhappy.
- More than a quarter of students get threats of violence whilst at school, and half of these threats have been carried out.
- Attacks on boys accounts for 75% of these incidents.
- Around 10% of children have missed school because of the violence.
- Up to 40% of secondary school students feel that their teachers are unaware of the bullying which goes on.
- About 17% of calls to ChildLine are about bullying. For five years running it’s been the most common reason people call
- More 12 year olds call ChildLine about bullying than any other age group
Bullying comes in various different forms. It doesn’t just happen at school, it happens in the workplace, social settings in general and even online.
The worst is racial, discriminatory and of course, in the case of the Anti-LGBT movement today, bullying based on sexual preference.
Norwegian researcher Dan Olweus defines bullying as when a person is “exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons.” He defines negative action as “when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, through words or in other ways.”
I don’t have the answers, but I know that sitting around saying that I don’t have the answers is certainly not helping. So instead, I found some great sources and am sharing them now.
Please share these resources and for goodness sakes, please USE these resources if you need to. Bullying can happen to anyone, it’s not your fault if it happens to you. Recent stats puts unreported bullying at over 2/3 of cases. That’s tragic.
What is more tragic is when bullying leads to depression or worse, suicide.
You are not a victim so stop being one. And don’t let people you know be the victim either. Pick up the phone or a keyboard and get some help. It can be stopped but you have to stand up and take a stand for that to happen… and you’re worth it.
PS, if you have more resources for your country or just in general, please feel free to include them as a comment to this article. The more information the better.
PPS, please don’t shy away from blogging about bullying today, even if you don’t know much about it. It’s an important issue that people need to talk about. Only then can it come to an end.
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