Thursday, September 4, 2014

Target: Autism

I have to begin by saying that I'm angry; furious actually so I'm trying to stay positive but it's difficult as there's been an epidemic of... of... I don't know the right word to use.

The past two months or so on Facebook have been shocking as story after story of a person being abused, kicked, mocked, or some other dehumanizing act performed on them and I have gotten to the point where I am asking, "What is wrong with the world? How has our culture gotten to a point where the person or persons performing the act think that it is okay?"

Look, I realize that 99.9% of the population frown upon any sort of bullying, or worse, to anyone on the autism spectrum (or anyone for that matter) but the stories... My God! How is this happening.

I don't want to share the vast amount of stories and talk about the brutality of it as most people understand this. What is alarming to me is that these stories are increasing. Maybe it's always been this way and is just being reported. Or, is it that the autism spectrum is increasing as a target for, for, I want to write what I'm thinking about these people but you can use your own words to describe them.

I've spoken to many students on the autism spectrum, and over 10,000 students in general nationwide, and from the students on the autism spectrum that have been bullied in any form the lingering effects are, well, lingering isn't the right word because that hints of something that hangs around and slowly dissipates as the smell of burned popcorn lingers for a while. No, lingering isn't the right word because the pain these students described was as if the event had happened right then and there. In my life I've never had a bully event or something of the like (or worse) but when painful events happen they don't linger but rather they stay fresh as if the event happened five minutes ago despite the fact that years go by.

What this all means is this; whether a person plays a tasteless and humiliating small prank, to doing something that crosses every line known to mankind, there can be extensive damage. And not only that, as much as these events are showing up and being reported it is almost open season and autism is becoming the known target. Is it because we won't speak up? Is it because we are misunderstood? Odd? Quirky? How can any person deem and desire to cause hardship, pain, and dehumanize another living, breathing person? Living life on the autism spectrum is hard enough and now there seems to be a band of bullies that wants to amplify the hardships. Again, I'm at a loss when I ask, "How can anyone do this?"

With all this I'm afraid of a new stereotype. I've written at least a hundred times on my introduction about my diagnosis of Asperger's and the website I read that stated, "People on the autism spectrum will never have a job, will never have friends, and will never be happy" and for someone being diagnosed today, and seeing just how many sick minded people are exploiting and demeaning people on the autism spectrum, well, how could they think otherwise? Have all of our awareness and understanding campaigns been for not, or our some people just that way and they will find the easiest target they can find? If this is the case then does this mean we have to doubledown on our efforts? One school I presented at, and it was the first school I presented at actually, there was a student with Asperger's who was subjected to a brutal dose of bullying each day, but after my presentation enough students built a bully buffer and the problem disappeared. That's one of the events in my career that sticks out when I think about what I do, but I'm just one person and the stories of hate, and that's the word I'm going to use, the level of hate directed towards people with autism, per the amount of shocking news stories on the internet, is going up and I, for one, feel helpless about it because to the perpetrators that pull these events off they may think it's only going to cause a temporary pain, or temporary moment of humiliation, but for a person on the autism spectrum, contrary to some who think we lack emotions, that event will stay with us for a day, a month, a year, and potentially a lifetime. A lifetime, how can any person want to cause that much pain? I just don't get it.

1 comment:

  1. We have become a society that is bombarded 24 hours a day with news coverage. Social media has increased that exposure many times over with a good majority of it being dubious at best and downright wrong more often than not. So, yes, a lot of it is we're just hearing more about evil things happening in the world. Bullies have been around since Cain and Abel. People with disabilities have always been an easy target. I was overweight as a child (and as an adult, truth be told) and I received my share of bullying and teasing. And, to my shame, I passed that bullying on to those who I considered weaker than myself. Not a lot, to be sure, but they were there. And I can definitely see now that some of those I teased as a child were undoubtedly on the autism spectrum.

    I'm not using your forum as a chance to redeem my past actions but it is there and I won't hide from it. But, for every story that I see about someone with a disability being bullied, I also see a story where someone's friends band together and stick up for the bullied person. They don't get quite the publicity that a story of violence gets, but they are there.

    By no means should we ignore the stories of kids and adults being bullied, but we absolutely need to hold up to the light those that are more uplifting. The heroes are out there and you're one of them Aaron. I know you're probably uncomfortable with that label but I think that kid that you spoke to years ago might feel you were absolutely his hero at that point. And the kids that stuck up for him were his heroes too. The world is full of them if we just take the time to recognize the good over the bad. Great article Aaron, as always.