How Do You Know? Recognizing and Teaching Kindness via Special-Ism 4

How do you know anything? Did you know World Kindness Day is November 13, 2012? When did you first recognize an act of kindness? Do you remember?

The Challenge
More than one person has told me that some special needs children and adults do not realize when others are mean to them. Others may recognize someone is mean, but they may believe this is just the way the world is and they are powerless to change it.

So how do we convince them that they matter? Can we teach them …. Read More

Dear Autism Mom 18

Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial

I hate that I disappointed you so much that you felt you could only give my novel one star. Yet, you make me wonder. Are you really a special needs parent, or are you one of the bullies, who does not like that I still speak out about how wrong bullying is? There are three reasons I think this is likely.

First, I do not believe a special needs parent would intentionally wound anyone; especially not another special needs mom. Second, special needs moms who do take the time to leave reviews on Amazon.com usually have more than one book they have reviewed. Their name would identify them as an autism mom too. They would not use the name “Mom.” Third, I see a pattern. The only bad review Delightfully Different received previously appeared on Barnes and Noble just after my local book signing. The most recent review appeared the day I announced on Facebook that I was appearing on a local radio station the next day.

Your review would be wounding if I thought you really were a mother of a girl with Asperger’s. No author wants to disappoint her audience, and as a special needs parent, I really do not want to disappoint another parent. I apologize if you are truly a parent of a child with Asperger’s, and I want to explain a few things to you.

My daughter saw psychologists from the time she was in kindergarten. She did not receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s until she was ten. During that time we listened to bad advice and followed it. Therefore, my book was not written just to address bullying. I do not believe the information on the cover indicates that it was. I am reasonably sure you know that if you are a special needs parent.

I wrote it because too many doctors, teachers, and others let us down along the journey to getting my daughter’s diagnosis. I wanted to help other parents avoid the pitfalls by clearly showing signs of Asperger’s and sensory sensitivity that doctors and others missed when my daughter was younger. I hoped to educate extended family members too. My daughter realized she was different and she did not know why. She saw herself as flawed, and she thought we saw her that way too. This allowed the bullies to inflict deeper emotional wounds. The fact that the Queen Bee was someone she previously trusted and confided in did not help either.

Thankfully, she no longer sees herself that way, but she is still working to recover from the wounds inflicted by a group of vicious girls and an intolerant English teacher. I really hope you are not one of her tormentors, but I have a message for you if you are. You will not get me to shut up by criticizing my novel. Every author has people who do not like their style of writing, and even bad reviews can sell novels. So, mahalo for writing your review, and mahalo for giving me a new resolve to write a better second novel that will address cyberbullying.

I have one more message for her former bullies if you are reading this. I hope one day you will wake-up and realize how wrong you are, and you will have the guts to tell her how sorry you are. Please do not expect her to absolve you of your sins. You are no longer important enough for her to wish you pain, but years of abuse cannot be forgiven overnight. I do hope you can forgive yourself and that you will turn your life around and help others instead of inflicting more pain.

Bringing a Village of Support Together 6

What village you wonder? I am hoping it will be a very large village. Calling all parents, all teachers, all principals, all school counselors, all employers, and everyone else! Your support matters! It really does. I dream of a day when everyone gets it.

Bullying is an emotional cancer. Please don’t say it doesn’t kill like cancer. Obviously it does. Unfortunately, we hear the stories all too often. That is why Amalia Starr and I are co-hosting a Twitter Chat. What’s a Twitter Chat you ask?

It is a Twitter party of sorts and you’re invited. Come to this address: http://tweetchat.com/room/bfvllgesupprt, on October 16, 2012 from 9:00 AM HST/3:00 PM EDT until 10:00 AM HST/ 4:00 PM EDT. I hope you’ll come and bring questions related to how we can all come together to change our world to a place where kindness is the norm. I also welcome your ideas for solutions and I look forward to meeting all of you. Just remember we will have to keep communication within the 140 characters or less including the hashtag, #bfvllgesupprt, it stands for bully free village of support.

You can go to http://tweeparties.com/beginners_guide.html to read more about how to participate in a Twitter party. I will also be glad to bring your questions and/ or suggestions to the group if you are unable to attend. You can leave them in the comments on this post or you make contact me @dswalkerauthor on Twitter.

Please remember that a quick e-mail or text saying I miss you or a card saying I’m thinking about you can make a big difference in the life of those who experience bullying. Better yet, how about acknowledging that you saw what happened, and you are willing to go with the person to talk to a teacher or school counselor with them, or to your employer or higher in command for adult bullying or even to the police.

I dream of a day when this is the norm. Two examples of adults being bullied have been in the news this past year and people have rallied around them. Please realize other victims experience even worse bullying, and it is not just one episode like in these two cases. They too deserve this level of support. I want groups to rally around those who experience bullying the same way we rally around those with physical illnesses. Instead of telling kids it gets better, when we know adults are bullied too, let’s really make it better.

Parents teach your children the value of kindness not just by your words, but by your deeds. Schools, you have to stop saying it is not your job to teach values. That might have been true once upon a time, but I doubt it was ever true. Employers you owe your employees a safe environment. I hope all of you will join the party on Tuesday.

Dreaming of Acceptance and Understanding and Carefree Days 9

©DelightfullyDifferentLife

Can you see Pegasus in the clouds? Pegasus is the white-winged horse of greek mythology and a constellation. He has always been special to me. I am not really sure why. Maybe because I grew up with horses. I fell in love with Colorado before I ever moved there listening to John Denver and watching his specials, so naturally when I saw these clouds I thought of the old John Denver song, “Pegasus.”

“A kid knows what he wants to be before he’s nine or ten,
cowboys, clowns and men of war, someone else’s friend.
But nine grows into big boy’s pants and then to scars and pain.”

“…..Tell the one about the man who saddled up the wind,
Pegasus and flying fish and woodmen made of tin.
Pegasus and flying fish and woodmen made of tin.”

©DelightfullyDifferentLife

Do you see the flying fish? It is really a bird, but it looks like a fish doesn’t it? If you use your imagination you can see an angel just above and to the right of him.

I do not have a woodmen made of tin cloud picture, so you’ll have to use your imagination for that one.

You see in the words of Joni Mitchell, “I really don’t know clouds at all.” But, I do know that perceptions of autism frequently are illusions based on limited experience, and I know that nine and ten-year olds or anyone else should not experience bullying. I know it grows into scars and pain.

I had a dream when my daughter was born. A dream of a life filled with joy and happiness, of a house filled with her friends.  I imagined them walking to and from the mall together chatting along the way. I believed with all my heart that it would come true. The bullies and the teacher who had an illusion of Asperger’s and the long-term effects of bullying put a huge hole in my dream, but they did not destroy it.

Her future still holds promise. She dreams of leaving this island and going away to college to somewhere no one knows her. She dreams of starting fresh. She can still grow up and live a full life. She will make friends that share her interests and see her kind heart one day. Tween and teenage years are not the end of her story. I know this because I have met some of my closest friends as an adult. We share a bond of friendship stronger than teenage friends.

The world will be more understanding one day because I and others refuse to allow it to be otherwise.