The Old School Yard

Silver play equipment in a school playground. Shape in a spiral like tunnel to climb through.

Silver play equipment in a school playground. Shape in a spiral like tunnel to climb through.

Have a listen. Remember the days, remember them, weren’t they fantastic, weren’t they wonderful, weren’t they the best days of your life, aren’t they the days you would most like to return to?

Well….

No. Actually. No. Not. At. All. Ever. No. Way. In. Hell.

Think of laughing a lot, playing games, football, jumping elastics, downfall, handball or foursquare or whatever other games you think of when considering the schoolyard. Hopscotch, marbles, lines of bikes, children taring around playing games of kiss and catch, Brittish bulldog or good old chasies.

For many there are wonderful memories, wonderful times, times of great friendships wrought in the common goal of getting to lunchtime to tare out the door into the ever continuing game of cricket or football. Then the common goal of getting to 3:30 pm to again tare out the door to roam the neighbourhood in and out of each others houses. Pure childhood fun.

Well I have to tell you this was not a universal experience. Cast your mind into that old school yard for a moment and look closely. What do you see that is not consistent of that above description. Can you see it too? Can you see them?

alone with his hand covering one side of his face. The boy is sitting with his knees up and next to a window.

alone with his hand covering one side of his face. The boy is sitting with his knees up and next to a window.

Does it make you sad to think of them? Does it make your recollections of the schoolyard change at all, does it reframe the images of that “old school yard where we used to laugh a lot”? But hang on what is it you see?

Do you see them? Let me show you. There is one, the young boy all alone, sitting by the classroom, desperately hoping for someone to play. The girl head in the book, under the tree looking wistfully across to the groups of girls playing. There another heads to the library, as they know there won’t be any bullying or persecution there and there will be solace in the information and technology systems available for use.  Can you see any others? I’m sure you can if you try. Take a moment. Stop reading, take this moment, just close your eyes and cast your mind back to that playground. See if you can see them. I wonder how many more you can see?

Yes. Remember the days of the old school yard!

I don’t miss them. I know I am not alone.

The school yard. A place of constant change, constant fear. An ever-present sense of not fitting in and an ever continuing effort to be a part of it, to be included, involved and, in essence, a part of the group. Not an outsider, not a weird one, not the different one. Such is the nature of the schoolyard.

I’m an Âûtistic, back then I didn’t know I was. But I did know I didn’t fit in. I did know it didn’t work. I did know that friends were hard to come by. I did know that bullying was a daily part of life. I did know that even if I did manage a little bit of success it was always fraught. All it took for it to come crashing down was one tiny faux pas. One little badly expressed thing, one literal interpretation. Just one, that’s all it took. It was then back to the beginning, back to the beginning but with the additional baggage of the failed social experiences.

This is a common thing for Âûtistic kids. This is a way of life for many of us, and not just as children, as teenagers, as young adults and adults as we negotiate our lives through school, higher education, employment and community life.

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A diamond shaped image with the word success in square vortex pattern with a hand in the middle holding a black marker.

I know that for me, there is always a desire to be social, with all the challenges that this interaction brings in regard to reciprocity, social input, and sensory concerns, there is a strong desire for that social connection. I know this to be true for me, and I believe it to be true for pretty much all of humanity. Âûtistic or Allistic. It makes no difference. We all want success in this regard. Our make up is to connect with each other.

It is common knowledge that many Âûtistics suffer this social isolation in school and other aspects of their upbringings. We, it seems, are easy fodder to the bully, easily identified, easily targeted, and of course easily silenced.

It was with horror that I discovered the following quote on the website of one of Âûtstralia’s peak Autism bodies. Aspect.  You can read the entire page here at Aspect’s Website.

Ben isn’t alone – there are thousands of children with autism who struggle with bullying every day. Some find it hard to play sports, like Ben. Others don’t always react the way their peers expect and are targeted as a result. Most just find it incredibly hard to fit in and desperately want to be understood.

With your help, we can encourage understanding and acceptance in the community and put a stop to bullying. There are programs in place to equip children with autism with the communication and social skills to make friends; to teach students in schools about what it’s like to have autism so they can understand their peers; and to empower parents and teachers with the knowledge to support children with autism in the best way possible. But we need your help to do it.

The implication here is that teaching social skills which don’t really work anyway is going to stop bullying? (See here for my blog about Social Skills in general.) Clearly there is an underlying, tacit, and terrible unwritten assumption here – It is the Âûtistic kids fault because they didn’t have the social skills.

What the fuck! really. I mean really what the fuck is that!

Orrange Image making the word BULLY. Other words superimposed on the individual letters

Orrange Image making the word BULLY. Other words superimposed on the individual letters

We all know that bullying is a huge issue in schools, in universities, in organisation, in workplaces. Essentially everywhere we gather as humans in life we see bullying. It is not something that is restricted to Âûtistic people, this is something we know. Yet Australia’s peak body presents this as a way of targeting the bullying of Âûtistic people.

You have got to be kidding me.

I am disgusted. I am angry.

What makes it worse is that this “story” of Ben, and others like him, is being used as a fundraising driver. So not only is our peak body placing the responsibility of bullying on the victim of bullying they are shamelessly targeting it on Facebook feeds to garner sympathy and feel good donations in an attempt to tug at the hearts of people feeling sorry for these little children.

I have a few questions.

  1. Why is a peak autism body allowing autistic kids to feel it is their responsibility to not be bullied.
  2. If fund raising is required to address bullying issues why is it targeted at social skills and the victim.
  3. What action, if any is being taken to address the issue with the educational providers and the bullies themselves to address this.

I guess they are open questions. I wait with baited breath for insight on this.

So Where were we? Oh that’s right. Remember the days of the old school yard…. we used to …

 

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One thought on “The Old School Yard

  1. really disliked school, and when i say school i mean the other kids and the teachers. The work i loved, i wish I had been able to just get on with doing the school work side of school. One primary school i went to was sports mad ( well the head teacher was of a school of 60 kids) So almost most of the day and weeks were filled with sports with some maths and english thrown in. I am very uncoordinated and was always picked for the teams last if picked out at all. High school was a nightmare. I went to three different ones all with a similar experience of me hiding in the toilets or the library at recess and Lunchtime. It was not until I was diagnosed at age 36 that I realized why I was picked on by the other kids and also teachers. Thanks for your article.

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