Some thinking I did about self-harm awareness day really got me thinking about the bullying I incurred as a teenager and what other kids on the spectrum are likely still incurring, so I decided to ramble to all of you who read my posts in the hopes that it will encourage parents to remember to ask the tough questions.
Yesterday was self-harm awareness day, and it got me thinking. As an Aspie, I tend towards self harm during meltdowns, typically via banging my head against the wall or other objects, but as a teenager, I would melt down into cutting sprees, and I did it with some regularity. I was bullied a lot back then, and I guess that is what self-harm awareness day really got me thinking about- bullying.
Being bullied is not uncommon for kids on the spectrum. Heck, it isn’t uncommon for adults on the spectrum. As a kid, it was usually verbal bullying at the hands of my peers, but by middle and high school it was physical and even sexual. I was getting beaten up at school, on the bus, and even by kids who would come to my house if Grandpa wasn’t home. That’s how the sexual bullying happened, too. Kids could see whether the car was home or not, and if it wasn’t, they would just come into my home if I had forgotten to lock the door. It was terrible.
Looking back, I know I should have told someone what was going on, but nobody asked. A lot of my tormentors threatened me with worse harm or even harm to my family if I told, but I still wonder what I would have said if someone had asked. Would they have had to be specific? Did I see it as bullying or just as part of life? I don’t know, but I have been wondering that very thing all day.
To the parents out there who have kids on the spectrum, don’t be afraid to ask your kids specific questions about what goes on at school, on the bus, or even in other places where they may be alone for brief periods of time. Kids can be unspeakably cruel, and no matter how great your relationship is (my Grandpa and I were as close as you can be with a parent), sometimes we Aspies don’t know how to tell or even if we should. I can think and talk about what happened to me as a teenager now and be okay, but it took a lot of time and therapy hours to reach this point. I’m questioning writing a book about that part of my life, maybe with advice for other Aspies and parents, but I guess my point in writing this is simply to encourage parents to ask the hard questions and to be specific in asking. I don’t want to tell anyone how to parent or suggest that anyone is doing it wrong, so please don’t misunderstand. But bullying is rampant and has always been, and keeping kids on the spectrum (and all kids) safe is priority number one. Stay on top of how people talk to and treat your child, there are many kids like me out there just praying someone asks the right question.