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May I Have Your Attention, Please?

  • Posted on December 16, 2011 at 8:00 AM

There are many ways to be an advocate. There are many causes we can cling to and many ways we can do it. I tend to be a broad scope kind of advocate. There are too many issues and too many grievances for me to hunker down and focus on one. I’m not really the go-to-gal for anything. Geez, I can’t even stick wholly and purely to autism.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

But there’s also nothing wrong with having a focus, a cause, a very real problem you want to shout about from the rooftops.

Sue is a dear friend with a real problem. Her daughter is the victim of bullying, and has had a hard time coming to grips with all the ramifications of her experiences. Her daughter is also a child with autism, particularly Asperger’s. As a girl, she was misdiagnosed and improperly “treated” for a long time. Sue is a proud mom of her autistic daughter, and all for autism pride and acceptance and respect and all those good things. But she’s focused on bully, because that issue has had such a dramatic and negative impact on her family; and she’s not feeling the love and support her and her daughter need.

There’s nothing wrong with my approach to advocacy. But there’s nothing wrong with hers, either. She supports the other issues involved with autism. But her focus is on bullying. There’s room in this community for both kinds of advocates, and for all the kinds of advocates in between. We should support each other. Sue and I are proof that we can support each other.

Believe me, bullying isn’t a topic you should ignore. Bullying hurts. It hurts the victim. It hurts the witnesses. It hurts the bullies, too. I have no statistics to back me up in this, because, after all, neither statistics nor bullying are my areas of expertise, but I feel 100% confident that your child is going to be bullied, be the one doing the bullying, or witness bullying. Both my two bigger boys, one who is “cool” in all the typical senses of the word and one who is “cool” in the unique way that he is and in the awesome way that he’s been embraced by his peers, have witnessed bullying. Both boys have had bullying touch their lives. My “cool” kid, the one who I’d have least worried about being the subject of bullying, at least at school, has actually been the one to experience it the most. He’s had friends who were bullies, he’s been bullied, and he’s see those he loves being bullied by others—sometimes by his own friends. Willy, who is lucky to be embraced by his peers as a “different kind of cool,” has seen his friends bullied and has been hurt by what he saw. I’m proud to say that both my boys have spoken out against bullying.

I’m proud of my two boys who go out of their way to condemn bullying. But they got that way, in part, because of what I’ve shared with them. A lot of what I’ve shared with them, especially lately, has come through the information, links, and other tidbits that Sue has shared with me. Simply said, Sue is helping me raise better children. I’m grateful for that, and I’m proud to know her and call her friend. It saddens me that, as supportive as I know this community can be, she’s not getting the kind of support and encouragement she needs. She’s doing good work. Please, check her out, support her efforts, and take a few moments out your day to spread the message that bullying is not okay, that it hurts, that the damage can be lasting and painful. Stand up against bullying. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to make bullying your one cause. But, please do something to let those people who’ve been the victims of bullying know that you care. Do something to stop a bully from thinking their behavior is acceptable. Just do something.