Marcia Hinds says…
Middle school can be the hardest time for many kids. But for kids with autism or the ones who don’t quite fit, it can be horrendous. One of the mistakes I made was to keep Ryan in an awful situation. I should have homeschooled him during those difficult years. I could have spared him the bullying he had to endure every day, multiple times a day. He could have gone back when it was time for high school. But that idea never occurred to me. I falsely believed my son had to be with other kids, because his social skills were so lacking.
I knew the bullying was a problem, but I never realized how bad it had become. Ryan didn’t always fit in or have many friends in elementary school. He was just left out and no one had been openly, actively cruel. In middle school, Ryan was the “go-to” guy for bullying. I had no knowledge of the daily torment he endured. As strange as it seems, this hover mother didn’t have a clue to how awful things became for Ryan. As the costume lady for the theater group, I had the perfect excuse to hang out to keep an eye on things. Even though I was there several times a week, I still was oblivious to what was happening.
I attributed his odd behavior to being autistic. He was difficult because he had autism. He was being obstinate because he had autism. He had trouble making the transition from home to school because he had autism. When I drove him to school everyday as we got closer and closer, he got weirder and weirder. Sometimes he refused to get out of the car. But, we were usually late again and I was annoyed. I’d yell at him to get out of the car. I just wanted him anywhere away from me. I should have realized this apprehension was not part of his autism or his fear of new situations. Something was terribly wrong!
I now realize he was afraid to tell me about the harassment. In his mind, he thought I would get mad and blame him for being the cause of the bullying. I’m ashamed to admit, he might have been right. I was often critical of him. I told him the reason kids didn’t accept him was because he didn’t act like other kids. Then, I’d ask him to watch how other kids acted and demand that he act more like they do. Unfortunately, they were the bullies. I put even more pressure on him, when he was already struggling with a horrific situation. He still sometimes reminds me how wrong I was to make these kinds of comments.
One of the best things we ever did for my son was to give him a fresh start by moving from Minnesota to California. We just didn’t do it soon enough. The following was written by Ryan some time ago about how hard middle school was for him, and he knows.
Here are Ryan thoughts on those difficult middle school years…
Middle school was probably the worst time of my life and it is still hard for me to talk about. I went to Valley View Middle School in Edina, Minnesota. Like most kids in middle school, I felt like I was the only one who did not fit. What I did not know then was that I would live through it and became stronger as a result of all the negative experiences.
In Edina, there was a group of kids who were the “Power Brokers.” Unfortunately every school has them, but in Edina it was worse. The “popular kids” were the worst kind of bullies. They tormented other kids to make themselves feel stronger and better. They preserved their popularity by saying who was “in” or “out” of “the group.” They decided who and what was cool to talk about. And anybody who was not athletic or did not play hockey could just forget about being “in the group.”
The teachers did not help much with the problem. Either they did not see when kids were being cruel or they misinterpreted it as harmless fun. In eighth grade, a group of boys decided I was their next victim. In my science class, they would surround me in “the circle of pain” once or twice a week. They would encircle me and push me back and forth while taunting me. They made horrible comments about my sexuality and called me “gay.” Nobody tried to stop it. I don’t think other kids approved of what was happening, but they were afraid to say anything because they might be the next victim.
The teacher was outside the classroom door monitoring the hallways during passing time. Recently some six-grade boys had been cornered and ridiculed in the hallways by the same group of eighth graders. This teacher hoped to prevent that from happening again. In my school like most schools, the harassment happened below the teacher radar. The bullies knew if they were caught, they would be in big trouble. Therefore, they were careful when and where they attacked.
I could not even tell my parents because I was so embarrassed. Somehow back then I did not realize this bullying was not my fault. At home and there were a lot of crank phone calls, my mom eventually figured out what was wrong. She tried to fix the problem. She called the principal and the parents of the kids, but it did not help. Later, she wrote an article in the school newspaper about bullying.
We found out I was not the only victim. After they were done with me, they moved on to another kid. But this kid was not as strong as I was and eventually hung himself. That is when my mom said, “We’re out of here.”
Homeschooling is now a viable option to avoid middle school. Now there are online schools taught by certified teachers to give our children what they need academically. Homeschool groups have formed,so children can interact with other kids. The burden of teaching every subject can be lessened when parents join together to teach kids in small groups. It is also a great time to hire a teacher (who is not currently teaching) or a tutoring facility to catch our children up on any academics they have not yet mastered. Homeschooled kids can also participate in various activities (theater,gymnastics, swimming etc.) not available in school.
NOTE FROM MARCIA HINDS – Megan and Ryan’s mom:
Ryan became an aerospace engineer, because he received proper medical treatment combined with behavioral, and educational interventions. To preview my book, “I Know You’re In There – winning our war against autism”go to Amazon or my website www.autism-and-treatment.com
Contact info for Marcia: