There was a very sobering video posted today on the facebook blog page, courtesy of Stop Teenage Suicide and Wipeout Homophobia on Facebook. Sobering because it was a mother telling how her 5-year-old son had been bullied to the point where he wanted to die. Five years old!!! There can’t be a more resounding wake-up call than that.
The story of 5-year-old Aden is both heartbreaking and familiar. Heartbreaking, for obvious reasons. When you have anyone feeling so much emotional pain because of the actions of a few people who carelessly abuse them because they are “different”, that’s a problem. When you have a 5-year-old saying he wants to die because of the treatment he’s getting, that’s a 5-alarm blaze.
I could connect with this because Marty, my 23-year-old surrogate son, deals with the same issue. Like Aden, Marty is not your average Joe. He’s uniquely Marty. And, that’s okay. He’s highly intelligent, as I’m sure Aden is as well. He yearns to be accepted by his peers, like Aden; yet, because he’s perceived as different, it’s a constant challenge for him to gain acceptance . As a result, he struggles with social anxiety. Like Aden, all he yearns for is to be accepted, by his peers, by anybody…simply for being Marty. That’s not asking too much. Isn’t that what we all want? Sure it is. And, sadly, like Aden, Marty has voiced on occasions that “I don’t belong in this world”. I’ve worked hard for 3 1/2 years to show him that he’s wrong.
Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that there IS a place in this world for him. He’s got an incredible mother who, right now while he’s still very young, is Aden’s “voice”. On that, alone, he’s got a leg up on Marty. But, that’s a whole different story. Like Marty, Aden will grow into the understanding that Asperger’s is simply something he has to deal with in his life, but it’s not who he is. In the 3 1/2 years he’s been with me, Marty has done nothing but grow. It’s amazing what positive reinforcements can do for a person. It’s sad, though, that he had to wait until he was an adult before he had someone who would take the time to give him that daily positive reinforcement. And, that gives Aden a major leg up!!! His mother, in speaking out with this video, should win “Mother of the Year” accolades!! Asperger’s isn’t a death sentence. It’s just extra luggage to carry as you embark on your journey through life.
Here’s the real problem. How is it that five-year-old kids can be so intolerant and mean as to make one of their peers want to end his life!? That’s a REAL problem!! And, there’s no way you can blame a 5-year-old for that behavior. I’ve said it a thousand times but, obviously, it needs to be said tens of thousands more times: the issue of bullying isn’t just about the young people, IT’S THE ADULTS WE HAVE TO FOCUS ON!! The young people are learning this level of meanness and intolerance from people much older than themselves. Take that to the bank. And, perhaps, it isn’t the parents, directly. Maybe it’s the older siblings. However, the link still goes back to the parents. Adults are the root to this whole bullying problem, like it or not. The issue with Aden makes that woefully clear.
I challenge every single adult and, especially, parent to monitor themselves. Do it for a week. How are the young people in your life seeing you deal with other people, people you perceive as different? How are they hearing you talk about a different ethnic group than your own, about members of the LGBT community, about someone with a disability? How they see and hear YOU deal with people you perceive as “different” is how they are taught to deal with them. Plain and simple. And, as is made obvious by this video and 5-year-old Aden, they learn young.
It’s the only way we’re going to change this culture of hatred and intolerance. As Aden’s mother stated poetically in the video: “Love…cures. Hate…kills. Be nice to others. It starts with you.” It’s really just that simple.