The other day the New York Times scooped other publications to break the startling news that Autistic people are frequently bullied. (Gasp) According to the article as many as 46% will likely become victims.
Some may read this statistic and note that “lots of kids” get bullied. They might even call it a “right of passage.” Heck – even Mitt Romney was bullied. Oh wait, no. He actually was a bully. (Sorry.) Others, (especially professionals), may wistfully posit, “if only Autistic kids had better social skills training so that they fit in better this wouldn’t happen.” There might even be one radical out there who notes that bullying doesn’t necessarily stop at graduation and it occurs in the workplace too. My reaction? Only 46%?! Are they out of their (bleeping) minds?!
I may have mentioned this already, but I am Autistic. I also know many other Autistic people. Being individuals, we have many differences. (Go figure) Everyone who I have EVER met on the spectrum, however, has one thing in common (no, not STAR WARS – another thing). We were all bullied. It’s a forgone conclusion when you meet someone Autistic. The only question is to what degree. Even if we just limit it to kids, (since everybody does that already anyway), I would have to guess that the number is probably closer to 96%. (The other 4% are homeschoolers.)
This article also shared another key piece of information. Apparently “high functioning” kids or in their words, “those who also hold the most promise for leading an independent life” (yes, it really said that) are almost always the targets. Why? Because they end up in mainstream classes. It is true that when you are denied access to other kids, your chances of being bullied by other kids does decrease. That’s why school staff members (classroom aids, teachers etc.) so frequently take it upon themselves to fill that role for kids in special ed classes. Anyone who doesn’t believe me should read the news more. Tabasco dipped crayon anyone?
The point of this latest little diatribe is that bullying is a very serious problem for almost all people across the entire spectrum and throughout our lives. Something needs to be done about it rather than yet another (bleeping) study. How about we start by calling it what it is. Abuse. Then we should maybe educate people about how to treat others with respect and dignity and stigmatize the bullies instead of the victims for a change. And if all else fails maybe we should make sure there are serious consequences for abusers who hurt people, especially people who are more likely to be victimized because they are devalued by society already. I think that in other contexts they actually have a name for that already – hate crime.