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Guess Writer: Autistic in Southwest Virginia "There is no upside to bullying"

Source: autisticinswva (Author has gently sent this amazing article for publication to the Feather Of Hope team)

Last night I read a truly horrifying article called “10 Perks Kids with Autism Get from Bullying“. It wasn’t on The Onion either. (Article linked via Do Not Link so as to not boost the post.)

From dictionary.com: 

Perk: to become lively, cheerful, or vigorous, as after depression or sickness; jaunty 

Bully, Bullying: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people. To act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer; to be loudly arrogant and overbearing. 

These two things do not go together. You do not become lively and cheerful after bullying. You do not cheer situations up by bullying. Perhaps the only person who gets a high (good feeling) out of bullying is the bully. And that is exactly the role Karen Sisto has taken in her article.

She actually states that there are “benefits for peers, staff members, parents, and most importantly — your child with autism if everyone seizes the opportunity to act!”. This is followed by the header, ‘10 Good Opportunities from Bad Bullying’. In my experience, all bullying is bad. Is Karen Kabaki-Sisto, M.S. CCC-SLP, actually trying to tell us that good bullying exists? 

Kabaki-Sisto is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) instructor. I was recently advised that I should have sessions with a Speech Pathologist and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Even before I read this article, I was not at all interested in either. Reading Kabaki-Sisto’s words makes me all the more determined not to be forced into either type of therapy.

I won’t deny that some types of education can be helpful; after all, where would most people be if no one taught them to read, to communicate (orally, typing, sign language, et cetera), but by and large, any type of ABA meant for autistic people, from my observations, is to make it easier for non-autistic people to ‘deal’ with us, rather than learning to get along with us. It’s not education. It’s therapy to make us conform and to be someone other than ourselves (which is exhausting). Instead of taking into account what is easier and more beneficial for autistic people, we are forced to change to make it easier for everyone else. That’s bullying.

With 1 article, this woman has proven to me that ‘autism therapists’ have no clue what they are doing, and no clue how to safely interact with us.

What’s worse, is that this article, posted on October 13, 2015, was posted just short of two weeks into National Bullying Prevention Month. It happens every year, so it’s not like she didn’t know.

These are the 10 opportunities that Kabaki-Sisto claims comes out of bullying: 

  1. Promoting Autism-Friendly Programs 
  2. Team Work 
  3. Autism Awareness Every Month 
  4. Kids Learn Skills 
  5. Builds Strength 
  6. More Friendships 
  7. Overall Well-Being 
  8. Healthy Relationships 
  9. Increased Life Skills 
  10. Self-Esteem 
Let’s see, shall we?

  1.  You know what would really promote friendliness to autistics? If people stopped bullying us! 
  2. Bullying often has to get pretty bad before kids will go to a teacher about it, and even then, it’s often dismissed. And sometimes the bully is the one who is believed. In my K-12 years, I only ever had 1 teacher I felt safe enough going to about bullying, and he did what he could about it, but didn’t make the environment safer or more enjoyable for me. 
  3. Who isn’t aware of autism? Let’s have some autism acceptance instead. (This would include not bullying us in the first place.) 
  4. Autistic or not, kids do not learn skills from bullying, unless hiding and not trusting people are considered skills. Do you know what I see most on forums, social media sites, and in books? Parents telling their kids to stand up for themselves. This usually results in a fight. Guess who usually gets the brunt (or all) of the punishment? 
  5. If Kabaki-Sisto honestly thinks bullying builds strength, she’s never been bullied. And even if kids learn defensive skills, it’s not a way to develop positive, stronger connections. 
  6. I’ve never seen friendships come out of bullying. I’m nearly 20 years out of high school, and I’m still unwilling to even consider friendships with the kids who bullied me for years. I had some friends when I was little, but when they matured (emotionally) faster than I did, they moved on to new friends and I was left behind with none. The older you get, the harder it is to fit into the long-standing cliques. Do you know who I spent more time with? Myself. Lonely. 
  7. You can’t count on the teaching staff to supervise and create (new) interventions to ensure the well-being of the bullied child. They have many other students to supervise. 
  8. I was mostly told to ignore bullies, and they’ll get bored and stop. This is not good advice. Guess who also falls into the bully category? Rapists. And they don’t get bored and stop if you try to ignore them. Healthy relationships do not come out of bullying. 
  9. “With your child’s increased communication, survival skills, and independence, she will become more aware of the people around her.” – Yes, so aware that I’m incredibly jumpy. I’ve slapped people who touched me unexpectedly. I am not good at defending myself in oral or written communication against bullies. Being constantly on edge, and looking up at the slightest sound are not good life skills. And they make getting work done and sleeping really hard. 
  10. “Ironically, and in spite of the bully’s goal to do the opposite, your child will grow self-confidence and self-preservation esteem.” – Gee, ironically, I didn’t get self-esteem or self-confidence from being bullied. I got the opposite! (And what exactly is ‘self-preservation esteem’?) 
I’d love to know if this woman thinks bullying is beneficial to everyone, or just autistic people.

Schools and situations which need bullying to help promote acceptance is not a good place to be. And it’s not acceptance they’re actually promoting in that case.

This ‘article’ is dangerous and damning. It’s wholly anti-autistic under the guise of being helpful. I sincerely hope that no one will take this woman seriously. Kabaki-Sisto is promoting an extremely unsafe environment for autistics. Can’t you just see it now? “We chose not to do anything about your child being bullied because Kabaki-Sisto says it will help them develop life skills!”

This woman should not be around kids and should not instruct people who will be around kids, especially autistic people (of any age).

I originally saw it on the Autism Daily Newscast’s Facebook page. I reported it to Facebook for promoting harm to people with disabilities. They said it doesn’t violate community standards. Not one post expressing harm towards autistic people has ever violated Facebook’s community standards.

That needs to change, and they can start with Kabaki-Sisto’s horrendous piece of trash posing as educational material. She should be ashamed of herself.


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