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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bullies Are Brats

Were you ever bullied as a kid?
Maybe you didn't even think of it as being bullied, at the time. Maybe you just thought you happened to be unpopular, or, as they called me at my elementary school, a "nerd." (Not because I was particularly smart or anything. It was actually the kids in the gifted class who taunted me the most, because they thought I wasn't as smart as them!) 
Until I was in about fourth grade, I fit in pretty well with the other kids. I didn't always like to do the same things that they did. In second and third grade, when the other girls were already starting to care about fashion, makeup, and boys, I still preferred to play on the jungle gym or in the sand box. I liked reading Little House On The Prairie books, and pretending to be a pioneer girl. I didn't enjoy watching music videos (which I found incredibly boring) and I didn't want to get my ears pierced. I was a little louder and more intense than some of the other kids, yet also more nervous and more easily overwhelmed than many of them. But although I usually just had a few close friends, there was nobody in my school who teased me, or even disliked me as far as I knew. 
But around fourth grade is when kids started noticing the difference. The district moved the gifted program to my school from another school, so there were a lot of new kids, as opposed to the kids who had known me for years and just sort of accepted me. The new kids made fun of me mercilessly. They's gather around me and make mean comments about my crazily curly hair, my clothes, whatever they could. 
By junior high, the teasing grew worse. The boys weren't so bad. They did do things like try to throw wads of paper into my curly hair (because seriously, it was so frizzy, stuff would get stuck in it!!!) But they never seemed to be trying to hurt me, as much as they were trying to make each other laugh. Maybe because I was used to my brother and cousin teasing me, I didn't mind as much.
The girls, on the other hand, were vicious. I can't even remember a lot of what they did... I probably just blocked it out of my head when I got older. I do remember them spraying me with deodorant in the locker room once, kicking my ankles during a soccer game in gym class, and calling me "Hairy" because of, yeah, my stupid curly hair. I also remember a lot of nights of crying because I didn't want to go to school, and a lot of mornings of stomachaches. I remember I actually used to pray for those mean girls to die, so that I could go to school in peace.
Fast forward twenty years. Now, schools hang "Bully Free Zone" signs on the classroom doors, teachers attend workshops on preventing bullying, and there are even laws in place that supposedly protect kids from bullies. So, luckily, no kid has to go through what I went through. Right?
I wish. 
In February of this year, a boy named Noah, about to turn 13 years old, posted an InstaGram message saying that he planned to commit suicide on his birthday. His mother intercepted the message, and immediately took her son to the hospital, where he started being treated for depression. He'd been getting bullied for the past year. His mother had known Noah was very unhappy, but hadn't realized how serious it was getting. She sent out a plea to her friends on Facebook, asking them to send encouraging cards and letters to Noah. Word spread all over the Internet, and thousands of people across the world wrote to Noah, offering support and sharing their own stories of hardship. Noah's story also caught the attention of the media, and helped publicize the problem of bullying. Yet, when Noah went back to school after spring break, just a little over a month later, the same kids were bullying him even more. This time, they were encouraged by their parents, who claimed that their children had been wrongly accused of being bullies. (These boys were actually encouraged to bully Noah because supposedly they weren't bullies. Make any sense???)
A mother I know through Tori Joy's Smiles told me a similar story. Her 10-year-old son, who is in special education, was getting bullied at school. He even got stabbed with a pencil, leaving a hole in the back of his sweatshirt. Each day after school, he cried, because he didn't want to go back. When his mother spoke to the principal about the problem, she was given the cold shoulder. This mother was under financial strain and couldn't afford to put him in a private school. Then one day, she came outside to find her son in a tree in the yard, with a rope around his neck, ready to hang himself. 
Noah and the 10-year-old boy were lucky enough to be stopped from ending their own lives... but they continue to live with being bullied every day. But there are others who "succeeded" in committing suicide... just recently, 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons ended her life after she was not only raped by some peers, but also experienced the rapists taking pictures of the assault and spreading the pictures all over the girl's school. Instead of getting sympathy and offers of help, Rehtaeh was teased and bullied until she literally couldn't take it any more.  In April, 13-year-old Kitty McGuire, a sixth grader from Maine, killed herself after being bullied for a long time. (Her school responded to reporters and investigators by saying Kitty was not bullied... she was merely "teased" a lot.) 
Bullying doesn't even have to happen in person, to be harmful. About a year ago, 15-year-old Grace McComas, committed suicide after classmates posted cruel things about her on social media sites. (One person posted, ""i hatehatehatehatehatehatehate you. Next time my name rolls off your tongue, choke on it.. and DIE") In fact, sometimes cyberbullying can feel even worse to a kid, because they feel like the rumors and nasty words about them are being spread not only around the school, but around the whole world. They can feel like their whole life is ruined. 

Some people point out that kids have been bullying each other since the beginning of time, and that it is just part of growing up. Some even hint that the kids who are bullied somehow deserve it, for being "weak," and that these kids need to learn to stand up for themselves. 
But these aren't the stereotypical bullies of yesteryear who would corner kids after school and demand their lunch money. These are kids who will target one or two peers, and get the rest of the kids at the school to taunt them, ostracize them, humiliate them, and do whatever they can think of in order to break their victim's spirit. Often the victims of bullying are kids who are a little different... kids who have ADHD, learning disabilities, or autism, for instance. I find it baffling that we, as adults, can't stop this from happening. How can we allow kids to torment each other, as if they are in the jungle of Lord Of The Flies instead of their local public school? Why is it so hard to get kids to just act like decent human beings? 

After learning that Noah, the young boy who received thousands of letters of support, is back in the hospital after being tormented at school once again, I made two videos aimed at kids. They aren't professional videos at all.. in fact I think they are a little goofy in some ways... but I hope the message is pretty clear. If you like these videos, I hope you will pass them on through Facebook or whatever else, so that maybe they'll get the attention of some kids who can make a difference.  Nobody Talk To Hannah by Nicki Mann on GoAnimate

Video Maker - Powered by GoAnimate.

You Look Like A Parrot by Nicki Mann on GoAnimate

Video Maker - Powered by GoAnimate.

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