I was a little hesitant towards writing a blog post reflecting on Autism Awareness month seeing that April only has a few days left, but I was given a little motivation from Aldon Hynes, the social media master here at CHC. I have been reading up on Autism Awareness and wonderful advocacy foundations, such as Autism Speaks throughout April and it has been highly educational but I did not feel like I had enough of a personal connection with autism in order to write something meaningful enough to generate awareness. After talking with Aldon for five minutes or so, he had directed me towards a recent segment from NPR he had heard on the radio. The story was about a thirteen year old girl reflecting on the social repercussions she had received while growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome. She saw herself as “cool and different” and her peers decided to turn her uniqueness into reasons for bullying her.
According to the NPR article online, a new survey by the Interactive Autism Network found that nearly two-thirds of children with autism spectrum disorders have been bullied at some point. The survey polled the parents of more than one thousand children with autism and found that bullies choose them as their target almost three times more often than kids without a disorder. Abby, the thirteen year old girl talks about her immense passion for Star Wars and how she has memorized nearly everything about it there is to know. She mentioned how hyper she knew she could be in class on some days and how other students used that to torment her verbally. She had some really awful stories about her peers targeting her and on one occasion a student physically threw something at her head. Before it got any worse, Abby’s mother decided to remove her from school and educate her from home. After two years of excelling in her passion for learning at home, they decided it was best to allow Abby to be in a more social setting when it came to education. Now at her new school, specially designed for children with autism, Abby has a new group of friends and is trying new things such as acting.
The survey that I mentioned earlier helped turn up lots of stories similar to Abby’s, and according to a specialist, the problem is all too common. Kids who want to make friends but may appear to have a different approach to things are vulnerable to bullying from others. Just within the past few days, a news story has erupted about a father in New Jersey discovering how awful his autistic ten year old son was being treated by not only his fellow classmates, but by his teachers. The dad noticed his son acting very different and wanted to record how his average school days were going by wiring a device into his son’s shirt. After listening to teachers use profanity towards his son, and blatantly neglecting his needs, the father took bullying awareness to a new level. He has already set up a petition calling on lawmakers to remove any teachers from the school after the first account of bullying a student. In just two days, the petition has over sixty thousand signatures. According to the specialist commenting on the NPR story, children with autism would have fewer problems if every school had a policy on bullying and enforced it.
As the last few days of April fly past us, I think it is important to continue to promote the importance of autism awareness at all times. An estimated one out of fifty-four boys and one out of two hundred and fifty-two girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. The population involved with protecting the autistic awareness movement is rapidly growing so you might as well join in. To give credit to Aldon one last time, he introduced me to an Apple Commercial first launched in 1997 which is a must see if you haven’t already; it is definitely something that just reiterates the fact that being different doesn’t just mean being an easy target, it means having the ability to change ideas and promote new ones in a world filled with conformity. I think it is a good way to remember all of the incredible people who altered our world in one way or another by simply thinking and acting outside of the box no matter how many people tried to tell them not to.
To read more about autism awareness, the definition of autism and the different classifications of spectrum disorders, please visit our patient resource page.