Monthly Archives: October 2007

I’m home.

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Wanted to put something out there to note explicitly that I’m home and I’m okay, and things went pretty well. Kassiane’s sense of humor and Kathleen’s general existence might have saved me from the parts that did not go so well. And I will note that I have now for the first time ever experienced the phenomenon of hiding in the women’s bathroom and having a bunch of other women follow me in and start gabbing. (A phenomenon that up until then had remained a complete mystery to me — it appears to have to do with the women’s bathroom being the closest place a person can find relative privacy sometimes. The only non-stereotypical aspect was that my frustration was political rather than having to do with a failed relationship or something. I’d say I pulled a Larry Arnold at one point (which I mean with high respect for Larry’s ability to stand up for his principles in difficult situations), but as has been pointed out to me by many people who were there, I did not say “bollox” often enough.) (EDIT: In US slang, “pulling a Larry” means doing something Larry is notorious for doing, it does not have any of the sexual connotations someone in the comments section described.)

I especially enjoyed the movement differences presentation, and finding out that there are in fact a wider number of people with roughly my pattern of development out there than I had even suspected (and I had already known it was more than most people realize). And talking to Martha Leary afterwards meant I’ve now gotten a lot more information than I had before. Hopefully it’ll eventually make its way out of my brain again (which is always the problem).

I also liked Estee Klar-Wolfond’s presentation about changing the way people look at being autistic.

However, I’m exhausted and also dealing with personal problems offline (unrelated to the subjects of this blog), so my online work might be sporadic for a little while. Also, the kind of shutdown I’ve experienced after this conference is qualitatively different enough from my usual post-conference shutdown for me to be still puzzled about what the boundaries of what I should and should not be doing are. Because of this, I’d like to ask anyone who has my email address not to contact me about anything that’d be stressful to me at the moment unless absolutely necessary. (Exceptions to the “anyone” are friends contacting me about their own personal problems (which I’m glad to listen to but may be sporadic in responding to), and family.)

The consequences of bullying

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Apologies in advance if I ramble off the topic on this one. I’m still preparing and packing and stuff. And I’m rambling a bit personally about things connected to this article:

Attack on Autistic Boy, 11, Videotaped

I have to say I’m glad someone is doing something about it. I know I can’t be alone when I say that nobody did a thing when my fellow students did similar sorts of things to me. Well, actually they did do something. Somehow I was usually the one who got in trouble. Sometimes other kids hit me and then started screaming that I hit them, even if I didn’t touch them. I usually got sent to the principal or my teacher for being bullied. The person who was bullying me got sent there a lot less. Quite often I was told (especially by one particular teacher who had a host of clichés he dragged out for evertything) that “It takes two to tango,” a sentence I couldn’t even parse the words of at the time, let alone the meaning. But he meant that somehow if I got attacked then I was responsible. I was always the “problem” when I got bullied.

And that was because I was different. Being different was the problem, and therefore the reason I got targeted, and therefore okay. And the adults thought my difference was the problem just as much as the children did. Not just in school either, I got bullied in the Girl Scouts and then yelled at by the troop leaders for reasons I never even figured out.

And again I can’t be the only person like this, it seems like that was and in many cases remains the norm. Bullying — the abuse itself — isn’t the problem, the person who is different is the problem.

Which is probably also why I was always the one sent to counseling if I was bullied. (I was in counseling from the age of seven. The counselor decided that I was strange because I fell into a duck pond when I was little and got traumatized. That’s the most inventive cause of autism I’ve ever heard. And here’s a picture of the duck pond, just because it’s there.)

me at the duck pond when little

Anyway, back to the article.

In the meantime, the victim’s aunt said she’s worried he will regress.

“This impacted him greatly. He’s lost a lot of his independence. The trust that he’s had is not there,” she said.

This is the one part of the article that worried me. It’s not ‘regression’ a person should worry about in these circumstances. It’s being traumatized and that kind of thing. It’s not generally called regression when non-autistic children are traumatized by relentless bullying. (Although I think that some of what get called ‘autistic traits’ are sometimes traits caused by relentless bullying. See this post for more details.)

But I also know what that is like. When I was very young, I didn’t perceive the world the same way other people do, but I did not have a terror of people. My terror of people emerged as bullying got worse and worse. The thing I most learned from school was to fear people and to think of myself as stupid and worthless. (High academic ability did not impact on that self-image at all, because it wasn’t about academics. It was about the fact that no matter what I did or how hard I tried I could not prevent these things from happening to me, but others were always acting like it was my fault whenever they did happen to me, so I developed pretty rapidly the idea that I was stupid and worthless because I could not prevent daily assault. School smarts didn’t even make a blip on my personal radar, which was actually noted by the woman who tested me. She said I didn’t seem to feel the need to brag about my intellectual skills. That wasn’t because I was particularly mature, it was just that I didn’t know I had them, and on the occasions where I did compare myself to others, I seemed to come up very lacking. So even if I’d been the bragging sort of person, I was too clueless to actually do it.)

My mom actually used to force me to stay home some days because I was so messed up from the bullying (but of course did not want to stay home if I didn’t have to because that broke both the rules and the routine). I used to come home at night and scream and cry, wondering why people seemed to hate me so much. I really couldn’t figure it out, and being lectured about ‘being different’ didn’t help. All it made it seem like was that being different was the cause of other people treating me like crap. I had not done anything to them, mind you. I was just there, and that seemed to be enough.

So from these sort of incidents, I developed a fear of other people, a pretty extreme suppression of emotion and the possibility of connectedness to other people, a hair-trigger fight-flight response to being approached by other people, a large dose of self-hatred and resulting hatred of everyone who resembled me (and of life in general at times), and an ongoing depression that did not lift for almost two decades. And so did a lot of other people I know, in various forms. This is a totally preventable consequence of bullying and other abuse, and the attitudes that too frequently go along with them. One thing it is not, though, is regression, or anything to do with autism, except that as autistic people we’re targeted more.

I’m glad they’re doing something. But there’s a lot of other people this is happening to daily who don’t get anything done at all.

If this is how they handle abuse, why should it be surprising it’s everywhere?

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Okay, have a bit of time to blog. About this, anyway. I’ve been given permission to blog anonymously about this situation.

I know someone who works in a nursing home. She hit a resident the other day. She knows this was wrong. She knows there was no excuse. She reported this to her boss. She was thinking of quitting her job.

You would think she would get at least one of the following…

  • Fired.
  • Disciplined.
  • Written up.
  • Given counseling.
  • Given training on how to avoid things like this.
  • Kept on some kind of probation.
  • Reported to some sort of authorities.

…after all, this is not even like most abuse situations in institutions. Normally, I don’t care if it’s a nursing home, group home, whatever, it’s either the resident or the family reporting the abuse, and the staff denying it. Here we’ve got a staff person who knows what she did was wrong, feels horrible about it, was considering quitting her job, is very honest, and wanted to stop doing this. She reported it to her boss. Expecting whatever consequences she might get. Knowing that she’d misjudged a power situation big time.

And they told her they are doing nothing about this at all, that it’s not even a problem, essentially.

After hearing that, is it any surprise abuse goes on in these places? I mean there’s not even an attempt being made here to stop her or change things or report her. This is someone who willingly asked them to do whatever they needed to do, who came to them and admitted what she’d done, and they’re going to ignore even this? I think this has stunned her, as well.

My mother has worked in nursing homes, and I’ve volunteered in them. I’ve been in other sorts of institutions (psych and residential treatment), and schools where I’ve seen abuse or experienced it. I have lots of friends whose experiences run the gamut of varieties of institutions, different lengths of stay, whatever. I know there’s abuse all the time that goes unreported. Heck, I saw unreported abuse when I spent twelve hours in a psych ward once. It goes on all the time, both in overt and covert manners. I know that even when you report it, you’re unlikely to be believed. But what has managed to shock me here is that a person who willingly and thoroughly reports abuse she herself has committed is being told essentially that it’s no big deal, nothing will happen to her. Something really twisted is going on here, and it’s earning one big WTF?