A child was bullied. He is autistic. He is a minor. These are the facts of the matter but the details of its effects are not yet realized. It is not just one child, this is the story of many others. The bullying culture is an issue that has plagued Pakistan’s society primarily because of the ignorance of the population. It happens all around us; in our schools, colleges, homes, workplaces, even the internet is not safe from this virus. Through someone else’s words, the boy in question was made to feel lesser and subjected; shattering his confidence. The power words possess. We are here now to use that very power for the better, to bring about a positive change and maybe make this world a relatively better place; somewhere we can co-exist in harmony.
When you google bullying what comes up is, “seek to harm, intimidate, or coerce (someone perceived as vulnerable or inferior).” Thus, what this ideology actually represents is the notion that racism, sexism, transphobia, islamophobia, etc. are based on. What we can deduce through this fact is that all humanitarian crises swarming our world currently are a product of coercion by someone who deems themselves superior. The racist, the sexist, the transphobe and islamophobe are all essentially bullies. If you are a bully and have victimized, subjected, harassed or violated boundaries, you are the problem. The problem we are raising our voices against and the problem we will solve.
According to the National Centre for Educational Studies, “One out of every 5 (20.2%) students reported being bullied.” The children who are persecuted by bullies are more prone towards developing mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. They have an increased feeling of sadness which translates into not being able to enjoy the bliss of childhood. When exposed to such a harsh environment at such a young age they are stripped of their innocence and lose confidence and self-esteem. These issues may continue to persist into adulthood. These tormented and bullied children also have decreased academic performance and class participations; the adverse effect of which may negatively impact their future. According to the Students who experience bullying are twice as likely as non-bullied peers to experience negative health effects such as headaches and stomachaches.
Even the perpetrator, the bully, is not safe from detrimental consequences. Bullies are reported to have higher rates of DUIs (driving under influence), aggressive behavior, criminal convictions, and domestic violence. Bullying does not only affect the lives of the victim and the bully, it can also be costly, problematic and catastrophic for the human society as a whole. As it may later construe increased violence, behavioral issues and abusive nature.
Unfortunately, children with special needs are victimized more than their neurotypical counterparts. About 50% of children with special needs are bullied at school, while most parents and caregivers of these children fear that their child may be bullied. While bullying comes in the form of verbal, physical, indirect and cyberbullying; children with special needs also experience other forms of subjugation. This includes manipulative bullying, conditional friendship, and exploitative bullying. The reason for such cruel and hurtful treatment of these children can be linked with negative attitudes towards disability, a lack of understanding of disabilities and conditions, and so they may be seen as “different.” It becomes clear that these neurotypicals begin to think of themselves as “superior”, but based on what? Yes in fact they are superior; superior in terms of bigotry, superior in terms of ignorance, superior in terms of intolerance.
It is the third decade of the twentieth century, and being different is unacceptable. We would like to utilize this platform to raise awareness about autism, a disorder people know very little about. According, to the WHO “One out of every 160 children, has an autism spectrum disorder.” This means that there are more than 40 million people in the world as of now, who are born with autism. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by some degree of impaired social behavior, in communication and language, and a narrow range of interests and activities that are both unique to the individual and carried out. Children with autism have a different thought process than someone who is neurotypical, they look at the world in a fascinating way. A child with autism may easily be able to put a puzzle together, may learn to read and write fluently at an earlier age, may think and learn in a visual way, and their biggest strength may be that they are exceptionally honest and reliable.
Autism, however, is different in every case, two people with autism will have different strengths and abilities. With the right support, love and guidance, children with autism can get an education, go to work, get married, and independently perform self-care tasks. While some may consider autism as a limitation, the world has seen people with autism turn this into their superpower. While these real life examples are a source of motivation for people with special needs and conditions, they face several external difficulties in reaching their true potential. One of those external factors that deter their growth and not allow them to lead a normal life is the bullying that they have to face. They are subjugated just because they are a little different, rather they come under your definition of who’s different.
We understand that people are different but what we fail to comprehend is why the populous is so afraid of those who are different. They are people with special needs; remember they are a human before their disorder or disability. The incident, the bullying of an autistic kid, which compelled us to write this article, was just the catalyst which led to the initiation of a conversation about bullying. You, me and everyone have the moral and social responsibility of keeping this dialogue going. Let us be the positive change this world needs, together.
Raise your voice.
Never stand by.
Be the change you want to see.
- Hurley, Katie. “Short Term and Long Term Effects of Bullying.” Sep 26, 2018. https://www.psycom.net/effects-of-bullying/
- “Preventing Bullying.” Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/yv/bullying-factsheet508.pdf
- “50% of Children with Special Needs Are Bullied at School. Let’s Stop This!” 2017. https://www.angelsense.com/blog/50-of-children-with-special-needs-are-bullied-at-school/
- Alexander, Roberta and Krans, Brian. “Anxiety, Depression, and Suicide: The Lasting Effects of Bullying.” December 20, 2019. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/bullying-affects-victims-and-bullies-into-adulthood-022013#5
- Stuart, Keith. “How to help people with autism? Just be nice” June 16, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jun/16/how-to-help-people-with-autism-just-be-nice