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:
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.)
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.