Advancing Through Autism is a series that focuses on all aspects of ASD from a biased perspective, that being my own. That means that it is subjective. It is my biased opinion. Today’s topic is bullying and misconceptions. Firstly, this topic is heavier than what I usually cover. However, it is an important topic to me, and one that I need to get off my chest.
I was teased and bullied growing up. My autism was a particular hot button point, as was my weight. People called me a ‘fat bastard’, ‘retarded’, and the most creative ‘fat retard’. My weight was the primary target in primary school, not so much the autism, but this changed in high school, when I was learning about my condition.
Why was I a target? Firstly, I am open about my condition. I see no reason to keep it from people. Secondly, it was a chink in my armour. It was a topic that would get a rise out of me. My peculiarities would be a source of humour for people, and they still are to an extent. Not to the point of attacking me, but light humoured jabs that I laugh along with nowadays. Thirdly, I am an emotional person. People make me cry, and overwhelming me makes me cry.
The bullying was not physical. I was never hit or physically attacked because of it. That isn’t to say I haven’t been hit by people, but usually that was my own fault, and I wasn’t a victim in those circumstances. It was mostly name-calling, and nasty jabs for people who didn’t get it. Most of them stopped by the end of school, started to understand me, and I became friendly with them, while others were kicked out of school for their behaviour. In short, some of the people I considered ‘bullies’ I have forgiven and forgotten.
Closure for Autistic People
But despite that, I feel like I haven’t gotten the closure that I want from some people, mostly because I never got the closure I wanted from that experience. There are people out there that, after 6 or 7 years now, I still hold grudges against. A friend of mine told me about one person who we knew from school, and that he apologised to him for his behaviour to him. Good stuff, but I can’t forgive him. I never saw him. I never heard it from him. My friend isn’t a liar, but I can’t accept it, despite how petty I sound.
The way my memory works is that, while I can be quite forgetful of things, or flippant about other things, I do remember experiences and strong memories. And it feels like these people, who are dead weight to me now, still gnaw at my head. Its not a healthy thing to think about, but it is there. It has been there more and more, especially as I learn about my autism, and I become a teacher. These days, I have the power to stop injustice if I see it. And I will uphold righteous vengeance on people who bully others for being different. It is not OK. It wasn’t when it was me.
There’s a song I like called Circles by George Harrison. There is a line in it I like. ‘He who knows does not speak, he who speaks does not know’.
I was a ‘fat retard’ because people didn’t understand the differences of Autism. Autism is a spectrum, and it doesn’t mean one condition, it can mean many. That is why I don’t like the spectrum. A spectrum is unclear, and can be blurred. That’s why I argue for some change to the designations. Autism is a group of conditions, but we need more differentiation between them, in my opinion. For example, Asperger’s Syndrome is a form of Autism, but it needs to be Asperger’s first and foremost. Severe Autism is a form of Autism, but it needs to be named, and clarified, to better differentiate the needs of the individual.
I personally believe that the term ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’ is wrong. I agree that some conditions do indeed have similar neurological symptoms that are common, but to term it as a ‘spectrum’ is what I believe doesn’t help people. To say you have ASD means you categorise yourself as having one of a series of similar conditions that impact your life in different ways. On the extreme ends of the spectrum, there’s High Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome (which is where I am at). People with HFA don’t necessarily have the intellectual disabilities that affect those with Classic Autism. People with Classic Autism may have learning disabilities of varying degrees, from moderate to severe.
Despite the bullying, I know I am not a fat retard. Of course, I am fat, but I am also a History teacher, who passed his degrees with a 2:1 and a distinction respectively. I have also completed further training since then, and live a normal life. I have a girlfriend who I love, and who I am crazy about.
To those people who did bully me: you never stopped me. In fact, you drove me to this. Your bullying fuelled me. This post is my tribute to you, and your shortsightedness. Often when you’re shortsighted, you don’t see the pole you’re about to hit when you drive 80 mph. Look out, and look forward. Most importantly, be kind. You never know what your kids might be like growing up.