No Rest for the Bullied

Posted by on Apr 25, 2016 in Autism, Justice | 4 comments

**EDIT** Folks that know us in real life, please don’t mention this to your kids. I thought a lot about Zoo Keeper’s privacy before posting this and decided that bullying is something that needs light shone on it to wither and die. What I didn’t realize was the possibility that his friends would find out, by good intentions on their parents’ part, and they would treat Zoo Keeper differently. I don’t want that. What you can do, is talk to your kids about what bullying is and what to do if they witness or experience it.


It’s happening again and I’m just so very tired.

Young boy sitting on the ground, arms crossed over his knees, head resting on his arms, and sad-looking face turned toward the camera

Young boy sitting on the ground, arms crossed over his knees, head resting on his arms, and sad-looking face turned toward the camera

Zoo Keeper is being bullied at school. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The bullying has been going on for Zoo Keeper, in one form or another, since his first month of kindergarten. Before then, actually, but right now I’m just talking about incidents at his current school. He’s in third grade now, so we’re coming up on four years of bullies.

Just this past week, Zoo Keeper was called names and locked out of his classroom after an emergency drill. Ironically, the kid who helped him get into the classroom was his predominant bully earlier this year. The one who threatened to slice our dog’s head off and kill the rest of the family, leaving Zoo Keeper an orphan. My brain doesn’t really know what to do with that knowledge.

I had a talk with one of Zoo Keeper’s therapists on Friday that upset me enough that I decided to go to school with Zoo Keeper every day to sit next to him, protecting him with my presence. Because I haven’t been able to protect him with complaints to the school.

I wrote an email to the advocate I hired to help with his IEP (Individual Education Plan) asking her to edit my email to the school about bullying. She replied that it’s totally unacceptable that he’s experiencing bullying like this and there are legal protections we need to discuss. And that I shouldn’t have to sit in the classroom to keep him safe.

We discussed options on the phone this morning and she’s going to draft an email to the school tomorrow. She asked me to give her an idea of all the bullying Zoo Keeper has experienced, so I went through emails with the school dating back to September 2012, when he started kindergarten.

Here’s the first paragraph of email in response to her request:

Closeup portrait of an angry young boy displaying the loser sign, finger and thumb in the shape of an L, on his forehead while pointing at viewer with disgust.

Closeup portrait of an angry young boy displaying the loser sign, finger and thumb in the shape of an L, on his forehead while pointing at viewer with disgust.

He’s experienced bullying every year since preschool when he was 4. It generally takes the form of following him, mimicking him, excluding him, lying to him about how something bad (he’s going to die from his cough or have to go to the principal’s office…) is going to happen to him, pushing him, pulling him by his backpack, closing doors in his face, and calling him names. One year the name of choice was shrimp, right now it’s grandma.

Looking back through all those emails reminded me that I have been proactive about the bullying over the years. While it relieves me a little to see that I haven’t just ignored the problem, it infuriates me that my actions have not improved Zoo Keeper’s school experience at all. He thinks school means getting bullied and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

So I had a talk with Zoo Keeper. I told him that the advocate and I have been working on getting him a better IEP – and that an IEP is the document that tells the school what kind of things he needs to learn, like that he needs a fidget and a wobbly stool to sit on and his Neo. And that we realized that the bullying is the thing he needs to stop the most, the thing that’s keeping him from really learning at school, so we’re going to meet with the school to figure out what to do to make sure it stops this time. Because it’s been what’s normal for him and he needs to know that’s not okay and shouldn’t be the norm. He said that would be great.

I also told him that they might try switching him to another class first, to which he said that won’t work. I think because lots of this happens on the playground, so it doesn’t really matter which class when they’ll all be at recess together and he is well aware that there aren’t enough teachers out at recess to notice what’s really going on. I told him I agree that it won’t work, but the school may want us to try it anyway.

And he agreed to tell me when bullying happens so that we can tell the school and get them to really do something about it this time.

As the advocate and I finished up our phone conversation this morning, she asked if I felt any better. I told her the truth: no. I think I’ve been worn down by the lack of results almost as much as Zoo Keeper has and it’s hard to believe that anything will ever change.

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Posted by on Mar 20, 2015 in Justice | 1 comment

I’ve been trying to write something to post here all day (Thursday), but have been thwarted. By my own damn self, mostly. I spent some of the morning answering emails about something I hadn’t intended to work on today, but I also spent a lot of it looking at Upworthy videos and following threads. There was one on whales that I followed to the documentary’s page and then downloaded the documentary.

Then I got an email from a friend asking if I had time for tea. I responded that I needed to work on my blog, which was true, and then I felt guilty enough to actually work on it for awhile.

I was about half-way done when it was time for lunch. I saw that the documentary had finished downloading and decided to watch a little bit of it while I ate my pumpkin ravioli.

I ended up watching the whole thing. It was about Sea World; how they get their whales and treat them and about the deaths of several animal trainers. Sea World maintains that they were all due to trainer error. Former trainers in the documentary dispute those claims and tell about how the animals are treated.

I was horrified and I will never set foot in another Sea World or any park that holds marine mammals in captivity for entertainment purposes.

I finished the documentary and tried to go back to writing, but ended up doing other little tasks instead, filling the time until I went to pick up BamBam to go to speech. I took a notebook with me and did my best to finish the blog piece while I waited for him.

I tried to type it when I came home, but spent the time kind of roaming aimlessly around the house. When Sparky came home, he immediately asked me what was wrong.  I was agitated and I didn’t know why. Actually, I didn’t realize I was agitated. Once he pointed it out to me, I knew why. The documentary. I was still thinking about it.

It had me thinking about those poor trainers, put in harm’s way so that Sea World executives could make more money.

It had me thinking about those poor, beautiful animals crying out for help. Crying out for their babies. And going crazy with frustration.

It had me trying to reconcile in my head how people do such atrocious things.

And, in the end, it had me comparing them to other groups that we have kidnapped from their families, transported and held in tight quarters with others whom they didn’t know and who didn’t speak their language, forced to perform acts they didn’t want to do just so we’d let them have a little food, punished when they didn’t perform to our satisfaction, and flat out lied about how they like to do these things for us.

So, I decided to push the blog I was working on out to next week and write about this instead.

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Black and White Thinking, Part 3

Posted by on Jul 4, 2014 in Autism, Justice | 1 comment

Happy 4th of July! I love the name of this holiday because it’s so inclusive. Yes, it’s a celebration of America’s Declaration of Independence, but it also works for every non-American as well because it’s July fourth for everyone. Even if you’re following a different calendar, it’s whatever July fourth translates into for that tradition. I love inclusion.

I love independence, too. At first glance, it seems like independence and inclusion would be mutually exclusive, but they’re not. Our forebears won independence from England, but two centuries later they had become our greatest allies. You shouldn’t have to give up your independence to be part of a group. Most groups have rules and certain beliefs tying them together, otherwise they’d fall apart. But when those rules become mandates that are not up for discussion or dissent, that group is no longer inclusive and the members are no longer free or independent within it.

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The Focus

Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Autism, Justice | 3 comments

***Warning: This post is about violence. It’s not graphic, but I want to make sure you know the topic before you read ahead.***

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m still miles away from having a finished blog post for tomorrow. I asked Sparky to read the draft last night and he came back with a page filled with comments. I haven’t been able to work on it yet today. I read his comments out of order and barely glanced at the text they discussed. I know it’s disjointed. There are three basic sections that should each probably have their own post, but they’re not fleshed out enough for that. Besides, I want them all in this post.

One of Sparky’s comments really hit me. The end of the comment, actually. He said, “I know you’re mad, sorry. ☹” He’s right, of course. I’m beyond mad; I’m fuming. That doesn’t usually come through in my writing. This time, though, it’s all right there on the page and I can’t seem to make myself go back and look at it.

Thinking back on what I had been trying to say in this post, I realize the theme that does such a poor job of holding the pieces together is focus. Which strikes me now as hilariously ironic.

The impetus for the post was the Santa Barbara killing spree last Friday. The three parts are supposed to say:

  1. Autism does not cause people to commit premeditated murder, so stop focusing on the autism in perpetrators who happen to be autistic.
  2. Don’t focus on the perpetrator either. And a small reference to focusing on gun control in the Sandy Hook and Treyvon Martin killings.
  3. In the Santa Barbara case, do focus on misogyny and the prevalence of violence against women.

Now that I’ve told you what they’re supposed to say, let’s see if I can rework them to actually say it. Here goes…

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Rape Culture and Mr. Peabody

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in Autism, Justice, Musings | 4 comments

Adults with Asperger’s syndrome can be renowned for being honest, having a strong sense of social justice and keeping to the rules. They strongly believe in moral and ethical principles. (Attwood, 2008)

We’ve talked about my honesty and need for rules, so let’s discuss my sense of social justice. Sparky will no doubt confirm that, at least when it comes to stories, I’m all about justice and am a sucker for the underdog. Most anyone who knows me can tell you I’m the same way in regard to social justice. I used to be very quiet about it, but that ship has kind of sailed.

I have strong opinions on various social justice topics, but the one I’m focusing on today is violence against women. Specifically, rape culture. For those not familiar with the term:

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