EDIT TO ADD: Possible Triggers: Dismissive Attitudes (“Toughen up,” etc.), some PTSD, etc. I will try to be better with trigger warnings in the future.
So an article has been trending from the Autism Daily Newscast about “10 Perks Kids With Autism Get From Bullying” by Karen Sisto.
As someone who thinks logically above all else, I can tell you that it does no good to tell Autistics to “toughen up” and “learn how the world works.” (reason # 9 – Increased Life Skills) For 12 years of my life in the K-12 system in rural East Texas on top of being Autistic, I can tell you how much I yearned to get away from a school system that forced me to be around people I didn’t like, while nothing got done (and not knowing at the time that I am Autistic). Fortunately, the people who were nice to me outnumbered the jerks, but it’s the memories of the jerks that pop up in my mind the most.
On my last day of high school, I was driving out of the parking lot. I stopped and looked back at the high school, peeled out in my car, flipped off the school and said a few choice words.
Here’s my take on the reasons here:
1. Promoting Autism Friendly Programs: Haha! In places like rural East Texas? You’ve got to be kidding me! On top of that, if the children don’t know they’re Autistic, how can you include them in the programs?
2. Team Work: I’m at a loss for words on this one.
3. Autism Awareness Every Month: I like the words of Lydia Brown in this instance:
“Awareness only means some peripheral knowledge that something exists, whether as an idea, a fact, or a reality. One might be “aware” of Al Qaeda, but that says nothing about your knowledge or understanding of the group’s structure, leadership, ideology, or history. All it means is that you are aware that something called Al Qaeda exists. Maybe you know that Al Qaeda is a terrorist group. Maybe you know that Usama bin Ladin was its leader until he was killed a year ago. But if you were to walk into a room full of Al Qaeda’s leaders or full of counter-terrorism agents discussing a sensitive operation targeting Al Qaeda, and proclaim to be “aware” of Al Qaeda, they would all laugh at you.
Awareness means very little.
To be aware of autism means only that you know that something called “autism” exists. You may not even know any Autistic people. Or you may know one or a few, but still have very little grasp on what exactly autism is or means, never mind the full breadth and depth of Autistic culture and community.”
Read her words here: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2012/04/dear-well-meaning-strangers/
4. Kids Learn Skills: Oh, like trying to find ways to sit away from bullies in the classroom? Trying to evade bullies at recess? The original article says that verbal expression will increase. Tell me, Karen Sisto, have you ever been so anxious that you couldn’t speak at all? I’m a very verbal Autistic person, yet, when I get very anxious, my throat can become paralyzed by severe anxiety.
5. Builds Strength: Not in my experience. Nope. I happen to agree with Musings of a Wandering Autistic on this:
“Autistic kids will eventually learn to fight back against their tormentors. Then they will be punished while the bullies get off scot-free.”
There was only one instance when I fought back and wasn’t punished, and that was because the faculty and staff knew how much of an unbearable pain my bully was to them and other kids.
Here’s another great critique from Autistic Academic: http://autisticacademic.com/2015/10/15/ten-things-autistic-kids-pick-up-faster-better-and-with-less-trauma-if-they-arent-bullied-into-learning-them/
6. More Friendships: I don’t remember gaining a lot of friends through bullying. There were also instances when people pretended to be my friends but subtly bullied me and caused PTSD, and it took me a long time to figure out I was being made fun of.
7. Overall Well-Being: So Sisto says that monitoring potential bullying activity requires effort by faculty and staff for interventions. What if faculty is a participant in the bullying? In high school, a couple of teachers bullied me. So what, then?
8. Healthy Relationships: The only people I have had healthy relationships with are my family and friends who genuinely accept me for who I am (plus awesome Allies everywhere). Navigating a Neurotypical world is hard.
9. Increased Life Skills: As I stated above, I can tell you that it does no good to tell Autistics to “toughen up” and “learn how the world works.” We’re quite well aware of how the majority conducts its business, and that’s why we’re anxious.
10. Self Esteem: Although Karen Sisto says that Autistics gain self-esteem in spite of bullying, I can tell you that it took me a LONG time to do so. I’m talking until my early 30s to to so. For so long, I was told by many people that I’m naive or unrealistic, etc. I didn’t gain my self-esteem until I started reclaiming my life on my terms, and not according to how some vague societal notion told me I should act.
“But there will always be mean people!” I know that as a fact, but that’s no excuse to not try and help someone or be complicit. (EDIT TO ADD: There is no excuse to be complicit. PERIOD)