Ten Things Autistic Kids Pick Up Faster, Better, and With Less Trauma If They Aren’t Bullied Into Learning Them

[UPDATED to include links to other rebuttals of this piece.]

In a previous post, I said that when people who support the abuse, bullying, and belittlement of autistic people “praise me for my accomplishments … it feels like a slap in the face.  You’re proud and impressed because I got here in spite of obstacles you created and that you support?

Object lesson: a piece posted today at Autism Daily Newscast and penned by Karen Kabaki-Sisto, titled “10 Perks Kids With Autism Get From Bullying.”  I won’t link to ADN’s site, but I have saved the article in .pdf format, which you can access here.

As an autistic adult who is spending thousands on therapy per year to treat the PTSD caused by childhood bullying, I’d like to do two things.  The first one is to unleash a barrage of swear words not limited to the languages of any particular solar system.  The other is to consider, carefully and in great detail, the exact ways in which this article is wrong wrong wrongity wrong.

That is, I’d like to do two things.  In this post, I’m just going to do the second one.

Here we go.  Trigger Warnings for bullying, abuse, PTSD, and paaarents making it all about them.  Because I quote content from Ms. Sisto’s original article, I have placed my analysis below the cut.  (Or you can read a different but also completely honest analysis by Wandering Autistic here.)

EDIT: In addition to the piece at Wandering Autistic, here are a few more fantastic takedowns of Karen Kabaki-Sisto’s piece:

1. Promoting Autism-Friendly Programs: Bullying in schools can sometimes be the result of prejudice against the unexpected ways that children with autism speak and socialize. Not unlike other prejudices, this is an opportunity for parents and the school to promote social justice, tolerance, respect, and acceptance.

As an educator, I’d like to say this: Why in corn’s name are you waiting for a child to be abused by their peers in order to “promote social justice, tolerance, respect, and acceptance”?  The time for that promotion is all the time, no matter who is or is not in your current classroom.  If you wait until after your kids have already picked up on your lack of these basic expectations and started bullying one of their peers, your students will know that your new social justice initiative is so much horseshit.

My husband and I have three classroom rules.  The third one is “be kind.”  It’s there because basic kindness is not optional in our classrooms.  It’s not an add-on.  It’s not a patch you hot-glue in place this marking period because, whoops, we’ve got the autistic kid in the back row.  It’s all the time, for everyone, or no one.

As a bullied autistic child, I’d like to say this: The bullies know you don’t mean it.  They know that if you really saw me as a person, you’d have demanded acceptance from the start and punished them for stepping out of line – not patched in a feel-good seminar after the fact.

2. Team Work: Working together as a team in partnership with you as the parent, the school’s teaching staff, aides, principal, counselors, and psychologists will provide the safest environment for your child to learn and enjoy.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll just point out that this one, like the first, should be a basic requirement you demand because your child is a human.  It concerns me deeply that Ms. Kabaki-Sisto, as an ABA practitioner and speech-language pathologist, is highly likely to be on one of these “teams,” yet here she strongly implies that she doesn’t even see this kind of close-knit teamwork as essential until after one of her students has already been abused.

Additionally, I find it exceedingly ironic that “bullying will make you better at teaming up with the school!” is on a list of reasons bullying is totes good for your kid.  …If bullying is really so good for your kid, why are you teaming up with the school to stop it?  (Hint: It’s because you know it’s hurting your child.)

3. Autism Awareness Every Month: Not just during October’s National Bullying Prevention Month but always, more awareness of the bullying of kids with autism means more awareness of autism overall.

As both a former bullied autistic child and a current autistic teacher, I say to you:

Bullies are aware that autistic classmates are autistic.

The idea that bullies don’t realize the kid is different, and that they will just magically stop picking on the kid once they’re clued into why the kid is different, isn’t even horseshit.  It’s fairytale unicorn shit.  No bully in the history of ever heard the words “Don’t pick on Johnny, he’s special,” and quit.  Ever.

They just get better at hiding it from you.  And since they already know that you live in a world where unicorns are real, they know it’s not even that hard to hide it from you.

4. Kids Learn Skills: Teaching your child how to deal with bullies increases her verbal communication with words, nonverbal communication like body language and facial expressions, survival skills, civil liberties, and independence.

I confess: Before I read this article, I really wanted one of author Karen Kabaki-Sisto’s ten points to be “your child learns to throw a punch.”  I’d still feel obligated to point out that there are faster, better, and safer ways for your kid to learn how to throw that punch, like a martial arts or kickboxing class, but at least I’d believe Ms. Kabaki-Sisto knew the first thing about either being autistic or being bullied.

Nope.

Being bullied did not teach me any of these things.  My parents “teaching [me] how to deal with bullies” did not teach me any of these things either- especially as my parents employed an ABA-inspired model that assumed that if I wasn’t learning better communication, nonverbals, survival skills, or independence, then bullying must not be a sufficient aversive to motivate me to learn.

Some of these did improve for me over the years, because kids develop: a six-year-old is less good with words than a ten-year-old, and your average third-grader cannot duck or dodge as quickly as your average ninth-grader.

But getting better at these didn’t end the bullying.  In fact, it made it worse: the closer I got to ABA’s “indistinguishable from peers” gold standard, the more I got bullied for “faking it” and “trying to pretend like you’re not some r*tard.”

Being bullied taught me that no matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried to get better with words or facial expressions or “survival” or civil liberties or independence, it wouldn’t matter.  I’d be abused if I did and abused if I didn’t, and no one would step in to intervene.

This dynamic set my development – and my academics – back for years.  When I finally started proceeding at the pace I should have been running from the start, it was only after three years in a supportive, safe environment where no one bullied me.

5. Builds Strength: As your child learns defensive skills from you, his friends, and his teachers, he is growing stronger connections with everyone.

You know, I identify with Ms. Sisto’s point here – but not as an adult.  Oh no.  I identify with it as a child whose mother did jack shit about the daily bullying her kid endured, in part because it made her feel better to provide tea and sympathy when her child broke down with daily panic attacks.  That was a “stronger connection,” all right.  It was also pathological as fuck.

If you need other people to injure and traumatize your kid for you to “connect” with them, words cannot describe all that is wrong with your parenting.  Hie thee to therapy.  NOW.

My husband, also a teacher (but not autistic), adds: “Yeah, connections with everyone except the bullies.  Which just makes it worse, because that means [the bullying]’s not getting handled.”

Ms. Sisto’s sixth point I will quote in its entirety, because it’s quite possibly my favorite:

6. More Friendships: Discussing the communication and social deficits experienced by kids with autism puts greater social responsibility on their peers who don’t have autism. When it comes to a child with autism, being a proactive observer can make all the difference to prevent bullying and protect them. As a result, your child will spend more time with good friends, make new friends, and possibly will want to get involved in different activities with them.

Are. You. Even. What.

If I wasn’t convinced before that Karen Kabaki-Sisto has never been a bullied autistic child, I am now.

Here’s what happened to me.  From kindergarten until third grade, I was reasonably well-liked by my classmates: not the favorite, but not the class scapegoat, either.

Between fourth and sixth grades, I lost every friend I had ever made at school – and I never got a single one of those “friends” back.  The friends I made in high school came from different elementaries, and they were not friends with anyone I’d attended fourth through sixth grades with.

What happened?

When the bullying became overt in fourth grade, my so-called “friends” sided with my bullies over me.  The bullies had the power.  They had the popularity.  They had the tacit approval of the teachers and administrators, who did not even pretend to address the problem with lectures on “tolerance” until well after the bullying reached its peak.  My “friends” faced the option of siding with me and becoming targets themselves, or siding with the bullies and keeping themselves safe at my expense.  After that, every lecture about not picking on me because I was “different” and every attempt by me to “make friends” was treated as incentive to redouble the bullying.

Bullying does not buy your kid friendships.  It buys your kid bullies, opens the door for everyone else to abandon “the weird kid” out of self-preservation, and breeds resentment against your kid when adults attempt to intervene to “explain” your kid’s “weirdness” and “put[] greater social responsibility on their peers.”

7. Overall Well-Being: Monitoring potential bullying activity requires the teaching staff to supervise more and create new interventions to ensure the well-being of your child.

Right.  Because teachers don’t have anything else to do.

Good teachers already “monitor[] potential bullying activity” in the classroom.  They don’t wait until someone has been abused, as Ms. Kabaki-Sisto’s first point on this list seems to recommend.

But good teachers don’t pay attention to classroom dynamics so they can “supervise more” or “create new interventions.”  They pay attenion so they don’t have to “supervise more” and “create new interventions to ensure the well-being” of their students.  They do it so that they don’t have to micromanage their students’ behavior, which frees them up to answer students’ substantive questions about the lesson.  They do it so that every member of the class is already invested in supporting the well-being of every other member of the class.

In a Twitter response to another critic of this article, Karen Kabaki-Sisto (@KarenSisto) claims that we can’t stop bullying “100%.”  But many teachers do, at least within the walls of their classrooms; many coaches do on their sports teams.  We do it by building the culture in ways that defuse the option.  “Be kind” is a rule for a reason.

A classroom run right doesn’t need to be micromanaged to prevent harm.  If your child is being bullied to the point that they need an in-class bodyguard, you have a problem no ten-point list of ersatz silver linings is going to fix.

8. Healthy Relationships: Ways to deal with bullying also help your child deal with sibling rivalry, ‘stranger danger’, or any other personal threat.

Like learning to throw a punch or to tell a blistering “yo momma” joke, learning to deal with sibling rivalry, strangers with candy, or “any other personal threat” can be done faster, better, and with less trauma in a bully-free environment.

Additionally, I see Ms. Kabaki-Sisto’s ethos in peril with this comment.  Although she claims to have extensive experience working with autistic children as an ABA practitioner and speech-language pathologist (SLP), the author’s statement here assumes that autistic learners will generalize lessons learned in fending off bullies to skills available in a fight with a sibling, when approached by a nefarious stranger, or in “any other personal threat.”

Ms. Sisto seems unaware of the significant body of clinical evidence suggesting that autistic brains are particularly ill-equipped to generalize lessons, to carry skills learned in one context to another context, or to retain any learning at all while in a “fight or flight” state (a known challenge for any brain, autistic or not).  Instead, she suggests that one “perk” of bullying an autistic child is that that child will demonstrate an ability that even non-traumatized autistic children struggle to demonstrate.  It flies in the face of both clinical data and common sense.

9. Increased Life Skills: With your child’s increased communication, survival skills, and independence, she will become more aware of the people around her. This makes your child a conscientious citizen and a good Samaritan towards other people who may be in need overall, not just due to bullying.

Steve Rogers did not beat up bullies in back alleys because he was bullied.  Steve Rogers beat up bullies in back alleys because he was compassionate.

Know how I know?  Steve Rogers is a Hufflepuff at heart.  And so am I.

I’m not a Hufflepuff because I was bullied.  I was a Hufflepuff before my first bully ever showed up on the scene.

But.  For thirty years of my life, I did nothing with all that compassion and empathy that is endemic to Hufflepuffs.  I did nothing because all the trauma built up from years of being abused froze me in place.  I needed years and thousands of dollars in therapy (and several suicide attempts) before I began to unfreeze.  I’m still working on it.

What good is empathy and compassion if childhood trauma prevents you from using it?  Besides, not every kid is a Hufflepuff at heart.  Studies show that abused children are more likely to become abusers themselves than non-abused children are.  Gryffindors might respond to being bullied by rising above it – Ravenclaws and Slytherins will burn your house down or destroy your Google search engine results.

Why the hell are you taking that risk with your child?  Being bullied is THE WORST way to have to learn compassion.

I repeat, incredulously: You’re proud and impressed because I got here in spite of obstacles you created and that you support?  You have no right.

10. Self-Esteem: Ironically, and in spite of the bully’s goal to do the opposite, your child will grow self-confidence and self-preservation esteem.

Wrong.

Also, a damned lie.

I made my first plan to kill myself at the age of seven, and I did it because bullying had taught me that I was worthless.  Twenty-six years later, I struggle daily with suicidal thoughts, self-hatred, and PTSD flashback episodes – many of which are to the bullying I endured in childhood.

What self-confidence and desire for self-preservation I have today, I scraped out of my consciousness in spite of the bullying I endured as a child, not because of it.  That should not be celebrated.  It should be mourned.  How much happier and healthier would I be today if I had not had my physical, emotional, and mental health damaged for all of my formative years?  How much closer would I be to achieving my personal goals?

We’ll never know.  Because I was bullied.  Bullying took things from me I will never get back – and hearing Ms. Kabaki-Sisto praise me and others like me on Twitter for surviving our bullies is demeaning in the extreme.

Karen Kabaki-Sisto’s article hits a new low in “autism journalism.”  I would not have expected to see this piece posted in the darkest, most self-absorbed corner of Autism Speaks’s website, much less plastered in the opinion section of a soi-disant “positive” source like Autism Daily Newscast.  I’m appalled that it was ever published.  I beg Ms. Kabaki-Sisto and ADN alike to reconsider its existence.

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38 thoughts on “Ten Things Autistic Kids Pick Up Faster, Better, and With Less Trauma If They Aren’t Bullied Into Learning Them

  1. I know that it may not make a difference to hear, but I have to say it anyway: I wish anyone who ever bullied you could see you now. Because despite what you still deal with, you’re an amazingly kick-ass person who is inspiring for me to know (in a good way – not because you’re disabled, but because you have a strong sense of what is right, and I respect people who stand up not only for righteousness, but for justice).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you. 🙂

      Sadly, my childhood bullies do see me now – it’s a small town, and most of them still live in it, as do my parents. Thing is, the ones who were kids at the time don’t remember doing it, and the ones who were adults still think it was for my own good and/or that I didn’t get bullied enough (because still not “normal” like them).

      In all these years, I’ve had one apology – from a classmate I wouldn’t even have characterized as a “bully.” (He was a loudmouth who challenged me publicly on many occasions, but he was never abusive.)

      I sometimes wonder how my bullies are raising their own kids. Do their kids torment weaker peers? Do their parents know?

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      1. Sorry to intrude on your conversation, but your words resonated so richly and echo loudly inside my Being-sphere that I have to butt in and thank you again for saying what I am unable to say. For some people, pardigmic shift to embrace difference is stolidly ruled out from their modality.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes on both counts, I’m sure of it. I’m sure they don’t care either way. I’m sure they’re vile human beings. Like so many.

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  2. Bullying taught me that anyone could do *anything* to me and no one would even blink. Teachers didn’t bat an eye at bullying by classmates. Parents didn’t blink at bullying by teachers. It did not matter what anyone did to me–no one would even say it was wrong.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yep. I just got told “sticks and stones etc”. So, when I got older, I had learned that abuse must not be talked about and not to be so silly and to put up with it.

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  3. MY Ten Things I Learned From Bullying, as an Autistic:
    1) Avoid anyone my age. No one relates to me.
    2) Authority does not look out for you; in fact it eggs bullying on.
    3) Autism Hatred Every Month
    4) My skills were subterfuge, lying, and reclusion.
    5) Built an Abuse-Accepting Pattern of Being Controlled
    6) No Friendships, and Extreme Suspicion of Good People
    7) A Decline in Overall Well-Being
    8) Abusive Relationships, because I was a Freak
    9) Decreased Life Skills and Life Appreciation
    10) No Self-Esteem

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Being bullied taught me no matter how much I tried I would never be like them, and they could see what was so different about me. Even if my mother, doctors, and even teachers couldn’t. It taught me that a fair fight is bull.

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  5. I learned that existing anti bullying measures were collaborationist BS at my middle school in the 90s (then in the form of anti-violence, anti-drug and anti-gang “zero tolerance” measures). Sadly this century has given me no less reason to be skeptical. Thanks for this piece.

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    1. That was about the same time I learned it. Made it really clear that the default expectation was NOT basic dignity or respect. Because otherwise why would they need videos and posters and mascots and “motivational speakers” to drive the point home?

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  6. My school did nothing about bullying as well, and ultimately decided to warehouse me in a room for the school day. I could understand that children didn’t know better, but I truly believed school was supposed to be a place of enlightenment. So when they warehoused me. It was like the ultimate confirmation that I was unworthy, unworthy of being helped or educated. The positive forces in my life didn’t matter, because they were a minority with no power.

    That so many of us get PTSD before even reaching adulthood is deeply saddening.

    One thing I believe with certainty is that experience deprived the world of a potentially talented scientist, I’m not dead yet though.

    I wish I could impart how I overcame self-hatred and came to a place of full self acceptance(I still get depressed all the time, but not due to what I think of myself anymore) but it’s still a mystery even to me, just theories.

    One of the “perks” I’m trying to heal from is my intense distrust and skepticism of all people, seeing everyone as a potential threat. My experiences have continued to show me that just because someone seems genuine and well intentioned does not mean they are trustworthy. Bullies, including politicians calling us “epidemic” don’t get to me on a personal level anymore. It’s those kind, genuine people that I take a leap of faith on and let my guard down with that wound me the most.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Words are failing me right now. “I can’t even…” seems trite, but – for all of my ability to pump out angry rants… I have nothing.

    Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The points you make are so true and whoever wrote this article had no clue about Autism or being bullied. Dealing with bullies is a skill set th st needs to be taught, particularly to children on the Spectrum.

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    1. Sadly, the author claims to have extensive experience working with autistic kids. Exposure isn’t the same as knowledge, it appears.

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    2. You are so right! I can’t think of any professional therapist of any kind who thinks bullying is GOOD for self esteem! Heck, I can’t even think of a human who thinks being bullied would make anyone learn anything better or feel better about themselves or the world. Shocking!

      Interestingly, most of the anti-bullying work I hear about nowadays (that I think may work) is about empowering bystanders, not trying to ‘teach’ bullies to not bully, or blame victims for being targeted….

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      1. That’s true, also what you say about empowering bystanders is good. But there has to be a way to teach autistic children skills to effectively defend themselves, when required.

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      2. I agree. But I think this has to happen where the kid is safe and getting good advice from a knowledgable teacher (of any age – my same-age cousins taught me to sass back at bullies and to practice brushing off their insults when we were in middle school). Not, as Karen Sisto advocates, waiting until the kid is being pinned down by a bully and expecting them to figure it out themselves.

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      3. I would have welcomed what your cousins taught you and as you say all of these skills need to be taught in a safe environment with a knowledgable teacher. The “throw them in at the deep end” approach won’t work on any level.

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  9. Reblogged this on bunnyhopscotch and commented:
    I am still locked inside a shocked and traumatised nonverbality over the original offensive artile. My hands are shaking as I type this, the PTSD from a life of being victimised in myriad ways (mostly subtle and insidious) by a plethora of people at different levels of connectivity, is not something to be made light of. So I shall have to once more allow my fellow autists to speak on my behalf. Thank you for yet another wonderful eloquent post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on The Asperger Blog and commented:
    All the way through school, High School in particular I was name called and generally picked on and I was either “sticks and stones etc” or “just ignore them”. This post from the Autistic Academic highlights to some extent that we need to teach kids who are likely targets for bullies the skills to survive.

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    1. What are the skills they need to survive? I suspect my son is being bullied. I have approached the teachers about it and they’re like ‘Oh no, everything is fine!’ My son is somewhat verbal and I cannot really rely on him to tell me what *exactly* is going on. He did say that kids were mean to him but beyond that statement, I don’t have anything else to go on…

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  11. Yes, I learned so many social skills from being pointedly ignored outside of group-work situations with other high-achieving kids…

    How to walk by the people who had been “Sister” Girl Scouts in your troop for a few years, and wonder if they will say something to you this time. Though they’d pretty much said it when 9 of us went to an event where it was 4 to a tent and they wouldn’t think of dividing up so that I wasn’t with 3 strangers.

    I learned that even though I only asked for people’s phone numbers when we were doing a group project and never even ended up using them, the 3 times my planner disappeared, in different years, every number was inked out.

    I learned that people would blink and say okay if I asked to sit with them at lunch, the kids I worked with on projects, but would then talk to each other. And since I’m face-blind and knew every trick I read about for learning names didn’t work because they require visualizing the person (knew the names of less than half the kids in my elementary school classes) and using some feature… but didn’t know I couldn’t see faces in my mind… and my brain can’t understand sports, even if they tried to bring me in to the gossip session it failed.

    I learned that if I ate in the Talented and Gifted resource room in high school when I was a junior and senior and they started some intellectual debate I could participate, but when the kids in my class were talking about doing something I was invisible.

    I learned that our school couldn’t be bothered to make a list of people’s birthdays for the announcements but depended on people’s friends calling it in. It never occurred to me to call in my own. I never had anyone who wasn’t related to me wish me a happy birthday when I hadn’t just told them it was, or that it would be the next day. In 1997 the student sitting at the table with me, hearing that they officially had left me out each year, did look surprised. I think. Nothing came of it.

    I know what study groups are through TV and books. Grabbing a soda or coffee after something. Because what I learned was to go read my book if it was in school hours and to go on home when class got out. A group I was meeting with for a learning opportunity finished up, and a few of us were back in the lot after. They didn’t think it was odd to say “hey, it’s Friday (we normally met on Thursdays), why don’t we grab a drink before we head home?”.

    I was undiagnosed. So no therapists pushing ABA. There was one trying to figure out what to do with my repetitive pacing, with a certain pivot, that I did when lost in thought rather than as an attempt to escape a problematic repetitive thought (they were considering OCD though that really fell apart quickly). I do have ADHD.

    But I was sick, physically. So going to high school, the last few years, then in college getting to where attending class half-time and doing the coursework was all I could do… it didn’t seem unusual. At least, it made sense. I graduated and did what I had learned from my peers. I read a lot. I started playing a game. I learned that the people in the live chat would let me participate and I could chat. And didn’t care I was a few decades younger than them. And it is very, very hard to unlearn this.

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  12. Hello.

    A much deeper-cutting analysis than mine. Most people don’t get that memories of bad sticks with us MUCH longer (and very vividly, I might add). This is especially true for an Autistic adult such as myself who went until last year not knowing about my own neurological makeup. To add to all of it, I grew up in rural East Texas. Although there were many people who were nice to me, the bad memories tend to overshadow the good ones.

    If you want to read it, here’s my take on the so-called “perks.”

    https://adastraaspie.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/re-10-perks-or-a-small-word-on-having-grown-up-autistic-without-knowing-it-and-being-bullied-without-knowing-i-was-autistic/

    There’s not much on my blog yet. I’m a rookie when it comes to self-advocating.

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  13. Wonderful article. It raised all kinds of memories for me, too. I wasn’t diagnosed with autism until I was 48 years old. I went through school and early adulthood having to deal with frequent bullying and also discrimination in my job. For anyone, even neuro-typicals, facing down a bully is a difficult and sometimes dangerous problem.

    As @puppetjill points out, our culture needs a change in order to provide some kind of social incentive for by-standers to intervene when they witness bullying. There have been countless situations I have been involved in where good people tried to intervene but were powerless in the face of school or workplace authorities. This enabling of the bully needs to stop, and perhaps if enough people get fed up with this (bullying has increased in recent years to be a problem of epidemic proportions, thanks to our reality TV culture and the behaviour of our political leaders), maybe a sea change will occur. I won’t, however, hold my breath before this happens.

    For now, and with blogs like yours, this problem can be tackled at the grassroots level and will hopefully advance this important cause to the social and political arena where it really belongs. I fervently hope this will happen soon. Not only do people on this blog know first hand what it is like to be bullied, they also know what it is like to be piled on mercilessly by those in charge, society, and people with attitudes like Karen Kabuki-Sisto, who only serve to empower the bully and corrupt our society further.

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  14. The “Autism Daily News” people have LIGHTLY re-edited the article (changing “perks” to “strategies” and a very few other words) _and_ they have closed comments there, removing several people’s comments (mine among them) It’s still at the same URL …,and, of course, the ten things they are calling “strategies” now are even less “strategies” than they were “perks”!

    So go there, read the article, then (if you agree that it’s even worse than it was!) DIRECTLY reach the author and editor (the author is VERY easily Googled, and the editor/owner gets messages via Facebook Messages at Autism Daily News’ Facebook page.

    Below is my response, in full, to the (unacceptably) rewritten article, which I have sent to the persons concerned. Feel free to use it to,spur your own ideas, if it helps.

    The article’s vaunted change of title is a “Band-Aid” superficiality: plastering over the tiniest fraction of the surface of the wound you caused (which your article continues to inflict).
    
    Changing the title, adding a word here, shading and a phrase there — without _fundamental_ change in the underlying presuppositions and attitudes — reveals itself clearly in thexslightly revised piece’s ineffectiv attempt to purvey ten alleged “bullying perks” as now, oh-so-nicely, “strategies.”
    
    Let’s look, point by point, at what you are now dubbing “strategies.”
    
    SISTO: “1. Promoting Autism-Friendly Programs: Bullying in schools can sometimes be the result of prejudice against the unexpected ways that children with autism speak and socialize.”

    ———– RESPONSE: To say that bullying is “sometimes” the result of prejudice is false. There is NO act of bullying that does not stem from someone’s prejudice. Prejudice instigates EVERY act of bullying — or (to call things by clear names) every act of torture, harassment, and assault.
    (Torture, harassment, and assault are the words that the English language uses when these things are done to someone we care about. When they’re done to someone we don’t care as much about, such as someone else’s child, the same things get called “bullying” instead.)
     Calling prejudice only “sometimes” a cause of bullying is not only false, but dangerously false — because, when you only _sometimes_ identify the roots of any evil, that evil will remain and spread. (Imagine where we’d be today, if we still thought that scurvy was only “sometimes” caused by lack of vitamin C!)
    

    SISTO: “Not unlike other prejudices, this is an opportunity for parents and the school to promote social justice, tolerance, respect, and acceptance.”
    
    ———- RESPONSE: Promoting justice, respect, and so on, definitely matters. But justice, and all the rest of it, should have mattered _before_ the torture and assault. Treating these important and non-negotiable values as mere “strategies” to be hastily patched in after the fact … that is like watching me break my arms, then telling me that health and restored function are “strategies” which you will now use to promote a campaign to build a hospital. (And why does anyone call justice “_social_ justice”? — it is as if someone imagined that simply being just, simply being fair, couldn’t possibly be worthwhile unless it was “social” too. )
    
    
    SISTO:
    “Along with your help,”

    ——— RESPONSE: Who is the “your” here? Whom do you consider your audience? Us autistics? Our parents? If you meant to write the parents should be helping here, why not be clear about whom you’re talking to? Why not write “Along with the help of parents”?
    The context, evident throughout the rest of this piece, does of course make plain an unstated presupposition that “you” = “parent.” I’ll return to this a bit further down, at the point where you begin to make inescapably plain that you wrote as if you assumed an autism-interested audience to be parents and _only_ parents. It is just as if you and your editor had forgotten, or had never learned, that a VERY large percentage of the people reading anything with “autism” in the title are — surprise! — us autistics (Many of us are NOT parents, and are more than a little sick of the presupposition that “a person reading about autism = a parent = probably a person without autism. “)

    SISTO:
    “schools should focus not only on integration within the mainstream for education but also guidance of how to better connect socially to their peers with autism – possibly through workshops or specially-structured activities.”
    
    ———- RESPONSE: That isn’t strategy: it’s a goal (which could, presumably, be reached _by_ strategies which you aren’t, here, spelling out). Calling it a “strategy” is like a speech pathologist telling a patient who stutters that “your treatment strategy should be to not stutter.”
    
    
    SISTO:
    ”2. Team Work: Working together as a team in partnership with you as the parent,”
    
    ——– RESPONSE: Why, again, equate “you” (each reader) necessarily with “parent”? Why not write “in partnership with _the_ _parent(s)_,” instead of presuming that everyone in your audience can be described as “the parent”? Writing “in partnership with parents” would have conveyed your meaning WITHOUT the exclusionism of using a “you” that immediately specifies it doesn’t REALLY mean _everyone_ present.
    

    SISTO:
    “the school’s teaching staff, aides, principal, counselors, and psychologists will provide the safest environment for your child to learn and enjoy.”
    
    ——– RESPONSE: Again, do you or your editor Imagine that “Autism Daily News” is only for parents? Why assume that “your child” makes sense about every reader? Why not “provide the safest environment for _each_ _child_ to learn and enjoy”? (This would include each child — and each parent — without leaving so many of your other readers feeling, once again, as though “Autism Daily News” had a sign on the door reading: “Parents Welcome — People With Autism: We don’t mean YOU.”)
    
    
    SISTO:
    ”3. Autism Awareness Every Month: Not just during October’s National Bullying Prevention Month but always, more awareness of the bullying of kids with autism means more awareness of autism overall.”
    
    ——— RESPONSE: Again, this is not a strategy — in fact, it isn’t even a sentence. It’s relabeling a hoped-for goal as a strategy (“Treatment for stuttering: Don’t stutter”) because you had to give up calling it a “perk”
    
    
    SISTO:
    “4. Kids Learn Skills: Teaching your child how to deal with bullies increases her verbal communication with words, nonverbal communication like body language and facial expressions, survival skills, civil liberties, and independence.”
    ———- RESPONSE: Again, this is not a strategy. It’s a vaguely worded curriculum item (“Teaching your child how to deal with bullies” tells _what_ to accomplish, not _how_), followed by some hoped-for outcomes (one of which is poorly expressed: “verbal communication with words” is pleonastic, like “female adults who are women.”)

    

    SISTO:

    “5. Builds Strength: As your child learns defensive skills from you, his friends, and his teachers, he is growing stronger connections with everyone.”

    ———-RESPONSE: “Builds strength” (with what follows) is, again, not a strategy, but an expected outcome. Further, “stronger connections with everyone” are not always even _desirable_ outcomes. “Everyone” after all,,includes the child’s tormentors. It is immoral to expect — let alone to teach — the victim of tortures to grow stronger connections” with his or her torturers. (Further, it is psychologically destructive. Google “Stockholm Syndrome.”)

    

    SISTO:

    “6. More Friendships:”

    ———- RESPONSE: “More friendships” is not a strategy.

    SISTO:

    “Discussing the communication and social deficits experienced by kids with autism puts greater social responsibility on their peers who don’t have autism. When it comes to a child with autism, being a proactive observer can make all the difference to prevent bullying and protect them. As a result, your child will spend more time with good friends, make new friends, and possibly will want to get involved in different activities with them.”

    ———- RESPONSE: Again, this is not a strategy; it’s what you _wish_ would happen. “Discussing the communication and social deficits” does not mean that the people with whom they are discussed will _do_ anything about the “greater social responsibility” they now supposedly have. It does NOT mean, for instance, that the target of torture will now get better friends. Too often, all that “discussing the communication and social deficits” actually _does_ is to give a a child’s actual or potential tormentors a better idea of just how and where to take advantage of these and damage the child further.

    SISTO:

    “7. Overall Well-Being:”
    ———- RESPONSE: That isn’t a strategy, It’s a wished-for outcome.

    

    SISTO:
    “Monitoring potential bullying activity”

    ——— RESPONSE: This, at last, is a strategy … or might be. ONE strategy, 3/4 of the way down a list of ten, is a very poor intellectual or practical return for an article that claimed to deliver strategies.
    

    SISTO:

    “requires the te7. aching staff”

    ——– RESPONSE: Hmmmm, “requires the …” _what_, exactly?! That glaring typo (“teaching” misspelled to include a numeral, a space, and a punctuation mark) appeared also in the earlier (“perks”) version of your article. Anyone can make an error: but preserving the error, in two successive versions of the document, provides clear evidence that it was carelessly edited both times — if it had been carefully edited for its revision (as the circumstances demanded), an error of this size would have almost certainly have been caught before the article appeared in its (barely altered) new form. (Especially disturbing is the fact that the particular error made — involving, as it does, a space added within the word — causes the five letters of the intended word “teaching” to appear as the separate word “aching.” Of all the words which might be created — and retained — through careless editing, the word “aching” is particularly unfortunate in an article on the subject at hand.)

    

    SISTO:

    “to supervise more and create new interventions to ensure the well-being of your child.”

    ———— RESPONSE: This (which of course should be done _before_, rather than after, any child ends up tortured) is not a strategy. (If a professional exam in any professional field were to ask for a list of strategies for attaining some curricular or practical goal, how many of the strategies in this article’s list of ten would be evaluated as being concretely and specifically measurable enough to rate as strategies and to monitor in action?)

    

    SISTO:

    ”8. Healthy Relationships: Ways to deal with bullying also help your child deal with sibling rivalry, ‘stranger danger’, or any other personal threat.”

    ———– RESPONSE: “Healthy relationships” is not a strategy. To state that “ways to deal with bullying” exist and have advantages — without detailing what those “ways” are — is, again, to call a non-strategy a strategy.

    

    SISTO:

    “9. Increased Life Skills: With your child’s increased communication, survival skills, and independence, she will become more aware of the people around her. This makes your child a conscientious citizen and a good Samaritan towards other people who may be in need overall, not just due to bullying.”
    ———— RESPONSE: Again, you are using the label “strategy” to (mis)name a goal — or, more precisely, a wish. It is as if a nutrition article on”ten strategies for losing weight” told readers to follow a “strategy” which was: “With losing weight, you will be healthy and you will start helping others to lose weight.”

    

    SISTO:

    ”10. Self-Esteem: Ironically, and in spite of the bully’s goal to do the opposite, your child will grow self-confidence and self-preservation esteem.”

    ———– RESPONSE: Again: this is not a strategy. Further: “self-preservation esteem” is not good English, but is (once more) most likely to be sloppy editing.

    

    CONCLUSION:

    The “Band-Aid” quick-fix quality of the revision suggests a rush job — as if the writer, and/or the editor, thought that changing the title and a couple of surface details would prevent people from noticing that the piece remains substantially unchanged. In particular, as shown above the decision to reclassify alleged “perks” as “strategies” makes the content and structure of the work even more difficult to take seriously and to apply as real-world advice. The problems throughout the revision (notably including the weaknesses of structure and content which were created by misusing or misunderstanding the concept of “strategy”) do not speak well for the writing, editing, or other expertise involved. (I cannot speculate on whether the problems were allowed to pass into print because of sheer haste — people scrambling to fix a misguided article, and hoping that a surface retouching would pass muster — or because someone assumed that not everyone in the audience would bother to read very carefully after having discerned problems with a previous version of the work — or because of some other reason. Whatever the cause, though, the [slightly] revised article remains conspicuously inappropriate, in more than one regard, for “Autism Daily News” or any publication which strives to be helpful, fair, and respectful of its readers and of their experiences and concerns.)

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  15. After the site-owner of Autism Daily Newscast VERY suddenly sold the site (she documented this the other day, in an e-mail to all of her site’s subscribers), the new ownership brought in a substantially revised editorial policy, dated today. If you, like me, oppose their previous “professional” worship of “person with ______ ” talk, read especially the paragraph including the words “Identity First”: as this establishes that they now admit a variety of uses but will prefer “autistic person’ to “person with autism” — http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/editorial-policy/

    AND (even more importantly) the “bullying perks”‘article has been COMPLETELY REMOVED from the Autism Daily News site. Its link now comes up “404” (nothing there), and it is GONE from where it appeared: the site’s Editorial section at http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/category/opinion/editorial/ — and likewise GONE from everywhere else on the site. There is no reference anywhere to it, anywhere on the site.

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