I run a Facebook page called We Care About Someone With Autism. I started it over a year ago and every Thursday (or most Thursdays) I host what I call "Topic Talk Thursday." I pick a specific topic that relates to Autism and find about five links about it. Sometimes I post my opinions, other times I just simply let the discussions happen ... it depends on my time and my mood and my knowledge about that particular topic. As today is Thursday, it was time for another Topic Talk. But I didn't have any ideas. I've been too focused on things happening in my own home. So I asked the page members to suggest a topic. They asked to do "Autism and Bullying".
I wasn't able to spend much time researching the articles, but I did what I always do when looking for anything on the internet. I typed "Autism and Bullying" into the Google search bar. And the stories that came up ... they brought me to tears. I found a few sites that weren't personal stories but more fact reporting and those giving statistics and posted them on the page and promised to do a better job on this topic next week.
You see, bullying is everywhere! And children with Autism are considered easy targets because they can't stand up for themselves. Many are non-verbal. And, even those who are verbal, act "strangely". They look "normal" but they don't act as we expect. They flap. They echo what they hear. They spin. They walk around with their hands covering their ears. Children in school learn conformity. It may not be taught by the teachers, but their own survival instincts tell them that they need to "fit in." According to the dictionary app on my phone (Dictionary.com), the secondary definition of the word "Autism" is "A tendency to view life in terms of one's own needs and desires." This describes my Music Man to a tee! He will walk around humming or talking to himself. He will constantly repeat words or phrases from his favorite television programs or computer games, and with the same inflections. He flaps his arms whenever he gets excited. Whenever he enters a new situation, he covers his ears with his hands as a means of retreating back to his comfort zone.
He is going to be an easy target. And he's not alone. There are millions of children with autism being bullied every day. There is now an effort to eliminate the bullying behavior, but I don't know if people realize exactly what that effort is undertaking. You see, I truly believe that bullying is a natural behavior. It is in our nature to try to fit in and to shun those who don't. Autistic kids (often) don't fit in. And, just like our fellow social animals (you name the breed), it is human nature to attack the weak. To attack those who can't stand up for themselves. To attack those who don't or can't fight back. It's easy to tell someone that they shouldn't be a bully. It's much harder to make someone understand that they have to fight their own instincts.
As an "Autism Mom," I have to watch for it. I have to assume that my children will be bullied and I have to be ready to jump in the moment I see it. I hate that I have to make that assumption. I always try to see the best and to hope for the best, but in this case, if I miss the signs, my children will suffer. And I will not permit that to happen. No parent should let that happen.