A difficult talk I often have with parents involves when one of their loved ones on the spectrum has been a victim of bullying. The behavior if repeated can lead to depression, anxiety and a long list of challenges for that kid.
With that being said though you will be shocked by the number of times I receive a blank stare when I ask them what a bully actually is.
We need to make sure our loved ones actually know what a bully is and also what a friend is.
When they actually have the education of it, are able to define what a bully is and what actions a bully may do it can lead to advocating. Once those are defined it’s important to explain different actions they can do when they are the victims of that bullying (i.e. go to a teacher, ignore the situation, etc.)
My childhood on the spectrum involved me never really understanding the concept of bullying. I also had difficulty with sarcasm and because of my communications abilities being less than my peers; I would often be a victim of these without realizing it was happening to me. I could always understand when it was physical but the verbal end was a true challenge for me.
It’s as important that the bullies and the general public know the definition of autism and what are some things that their peers may experience. Then it’s important to also role-play different scenarios so they have an idea of what a bully and a friend actually do. Because of the prevalence, these kids will know someone with autism in their lifetime. Being aware and than being accepting are vital.
That’s why I often share with students in grammar and middle school a video called My Name is David.
The video that you can watch above is an animated short film from one of the animators of Robot Chicken that looks at a young student’s speech to his fellow classmates about his autism. What makes the video that much more impactful is that the words and voice in the film are actually from a 14-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. Hearing his story, what he likes and what his challenges are it opens students to think outside of their own bubble and into this student’s world for a few minutes.
Bullying continues to be an epidemic in schools and in our communities so when we educate and really get down to the nuts and bolts it can make a difference. For anyone reading this I hope you will encourage this education throughout October that is National Bullying Prevention Month and all yearlong.