Below is a post by 12-year-old Laque Youngblood, a boy with autism who decided to combat bullying in his school by sharing information about autism with his classmates so they understood the disorder. In late May, he was featured in his local news as MVP of the Week. This post is part of an initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives.
If you were viewed as ‘different’ from others due to a medical issue, would it be helpful if people around you understood you? Or would you continue to let them make snap judgements on you because they are not educated on your medical issue?
That is how I felt in school. My classmates basically felt I was “not equal” to them, weird, or basically an outsider, whatever that means.
Kids wondered why I did not play sports, although I did try baseball for several years and football one seasonal – sports never appealed to me. Being a boy and not into sports was a big issue to others – but not me. But I DID find A sport eventually…. swimming. My Mom got me into the local YMCA swimming and I truly enjoy it. Not every sport has to be a team effort.
During the very beginning of April, my art teacher and I were discussing autism awareness day. I love art and wanted to create something special. My art teacher let me create a 2 foot autism puzzle ribbon for the school bulletin board calendar.
But I wanted to do more….I knew my peers did not know about nor understand autism/Asperger’s. I was hoping they would understand something from MY perspective. I approached my principal and asked if I could do a PowerPoint presentation on the subject. He said the PowerPoint was not a good idea due to time, but I could research and present autism/Asperger’s facts on the intercom daily with our morning announcements.
I was very excited to do so! My classmates understood more about me, and some even asked questions…my classmates opened up to me. I even gained a few friends after this. Some classmates were now able to see me as a kid – just like them.
So do I do this just for me? No way!
I have other friends in my school that have autism. I belong to my towns YMCA Autism Support Group – I have several friend there. Now the whole school would have better understanding of anyone labeled with autism.
My mom was doing a project to help maximize the advertising for our local YMCA Autism Support Group. I think I learned a lot from my Mom. We almost never miss support group meetings, and she got posters put in all of the schools to advertise the support group for teachers and parents, plus mom and I held a YMCA Autism fundraiser. It feels good to help others – I feel like it’s a gene in me – like it’s just meant to be.
In our Support Group I am one of the oldest kids, and I do my best to be a role model. I observe other kids and how different the autism spectrum is. But somehow when all of us kids are together – we find ways to communicate, talking about Pokémon, playing video games, or thru music. The YMCA says that possibly I can be a Jr Y Counselor next year.
Mom and I just graduated from a United Way Parent Training Leader Institute, well I, graduated from the “Children’s” Training Leader Institute. It was great!! It empowered and encouraged me. I learned so much. (Thank you!!)
So what is next? I would love to expand my knowledge so I CAN give a speech on autism/Asperger’s to others. There are so many kids out there that do not understand – almost like a prejudice, treating others unfairly. If we educate them, they will understand and be more accepting to others.
Maybe I can help kids with autism gain a friend without autism, and help kids without autism gain a friend with autism.
For anti-bullying resources from Autism Speaks, visit our Combating Bullying web portal and check out the post 7 Steps to Take a Stand Against Bullying. You can also download the Autism Speaks School Community Tool Kit which contains sections on how to increase acceptance and support of students with autism, including with peers.