Monday, November 8, 2010

The Hate Stops Now: A story of Intolerance

I have given you an introduction to my son, Taylor, and our struggles with his Asperger's Syndrome. Now I will give you the story of his struggles within himself.

Since Taylor was a toddler, he always loved long hair. The only thing he wanted was barbie dolls, much to certain friends and family members dismay. He even had an imaginary friend, whose long, silky locks he would stroke for hours as he talked to himself. For Halloween many years, he wanted the girl costumes, and when we would go to friend's houses to play, the princess costumes were his favorite.

We live in a military community, where real men wear blue and green and they wrestle and play sports. We signed Taylor up for soccer, which was short-lived when he kissed a girl on the cheek in the middle of a game and the girls' parents screamed across the field at my 6 year old child so disgustingly that he ran crying, and refusing to ever go back.

My husband was unsure of how he felt about all this. But I reasoned with him that either Taylor would see that the other children would pick on him and he would stop to fit in, OR he would say "screw what you like, because THIS is what I like." Either way, he would be the one to make the choice.

Over time, Taylor has adjusted by cutting his hair short and wearing men's clothing. He is almost 12. But I still catch him wearing my accessories and dancing in my heels. He is comfortable in his skin.

But others are not comfortable with him.

This year, things have escalated. As a 6th grader, he rides the school bus with the high school children. He has undertaken abuse and bullying on a daily basis. He has come home with fist-sized bruises on his arms and thighs, and has been slammed in to lockers and called "fag" and "gay". My baby comes home crying daily, and I don't know what I can do to protect him. The school's stance is that anything that occurs at the bus stop is not the school's responsibility, and the bus driver says he does not witness any of this behavior. Last year, they DID catch one of the children abusing him inside the school on camera, but the bully was not suspended or expelled. If it weren't too late to notify the state of my intent to homeschool, I would have pulled him out. Now we count down to May as if it were Christmas, so that we can move, and hopefully, find a school district that has better control over the situation.

With so many children his age committing suicide over these same issues, it's time to take a stand and insist that schools take these issues gravely. I make my son stay downstairs when he is home, because I don't want there to be an opportunity for him to be alone too long if he is emotionally distraught. When I was his age, I too, was bullied. Teachers saw, and they did nothing. I know not much has changed. Most believe that kids should just "toughen up" to prepare for life in the real world. I want my son to learn to stand up for himself and I give him that opportunity. But it only goes so far, because I am still the parent.

It's time that parents buck up and take responsibility by teaching tolerence. I don't care what your religious beliefs are, or if you live in a conservative household. It's a matter of right and wrong. I don't know if my son is, or will be gay, but to me it doesn't matter. This is my child, as there are many out there like him. You don't have to approve of him, and you sure as hell don't have to approve of my parenting style because I "let" him do these things. He is a human being and he makes his own choices as to who he is. My only job is to love him unabashedly, and fiercely. And that is what I will do.

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  1. WoW! I am so sorry for what your son has experienced! I would have hunted those people down and been at that school demanding for justice! I have a now 22 year old son with Aspergers and ADD. I probably did it all wrong but I was at his (public)school 3 times a day until he graduated! I made myself visible to the staff and they worked for me.

    I also wonder why your son is riding the bus? In Elementary School we walked across the street but in 6th grade I let him ride the bus to the Middle School like everyone else. It wasn't until the next year, when his sister rode, that I (by mistake) found out that children with ASpergers should NEVER ride the bus! My daughter had asthma and didn't like waiting outside in the wind during pollen season so I drove them. By the end of the third day of me driving I realized that the bus ride was overstimulating my son! Before, he would come home from school and go straight to his room and lay on his bed for an hour and then watch TV. Once I drove him he was fine. He would come home and talk. He was a different person! My daughter even said that nothing bad happened on the bus but it was way too noisy and chaotic and hot! Wow! That was an eye opener for me! Never again and I warm all my friends with sensitive children. These kids have enough to deal with (well all kids do).

    My son was never physically bullied but I know that he was taken advantage of (used for his generosity) sometimes. He would be disappointed when people asked him to do something and then never came through. These Aspergers kids count on things like no other kids do. Thank heaven he still has these good friends today that include him in their lives and that, along with me getting him involved in weightlifting and marathon running and family inclusion, gives him purpose. College ended up too hard and jobs got too confusing. Then Finally a great job and the economy caused them to go bankrupt. My sons unemployment has just ran out after 2 years. He could be depressed going on so many job interviews and competing with experience older men but he isn't because I find things for him to do. I even have to run marathons with him (I have asthma and never ran a day in my life before our first one last March!). You do what you have to do to make it work!

    I am not trying to make you feel bad or tell you what to do. I am only offering you my story in the hopes that it might help someone else.

  2. Sorry that was so long. You can read it and delete if you need to.

  3. Wendy,
    Thank you for all your input..I don't often get to meet other mothers of Aspies. I have never been told about the bus situation. I would definitely drive him, but it's a 30 minute drive to his school in good weather. After school, he chooses to go to a Youth Program, and he normally does well there. If he is tired, he will call and get picked up early or he will just go straight home. I have been at his school many times, and I even "fired" his guidance counselor bc he is a tool. lol. I am really debating on homeschool for him next year, since my father could teach him. It's going to depend on what is out there wherever it is that we are moving to. Thank you so much for sharing your does help.

  4. If it's any consolation, there are schools out there that are very aware of and will do what they can to prevent bullying. I hope you find a good one for your boy. You are doing such a great job standing by him. Hugs to you both.

  5. Dee, thanks for your comments. We have had one good school out of about 6, but part of that is we are never stationed anywhere with good resources! I have high hopes for the next move.

  6. Dear Keri,

    This is my first comment on your great blog and far from the last. This post brought tears to my eyes and anger to my veins. To think that the adults at the school refuse to take action in this day and age curls my unshaven leg hairs and makes me want to punch a pillow. Your son is unlucky to have such heels around him during the day but so lucky to have you as a mom. Good luck and give them hell!

    And thanks for your sweet comments on my blog. I am thrilled you are reading my bag of batshit!


  7. The best thing about Taylor is that every day is new and fresh. Had I been in his shoes, I would've had a "bellyache" every day! Thanks for taking a peek at my life Dotty!

  8. Keri,

    I feel for your situation. I was lucky to have a wonderful citywide support group that still meets monthly for all of the Las Vegas area. Hundreds have been helped. I could get you the email of the lady that sends info out if you want some long distant support. I also was fortunate to work with a woman doing citywide fundraising for our area and started a group called Nevada PIE (partners for inclusive education). It has done wonders over the years for teaching schools what they need to do to include all children.

    For the past 3 years my daughter did an online public homeschool because she needed to be free to travel for her extra curricular activities. I researched for a year and chose the K12 program because it was free in my state. Go to for more info. I met many mothers around the country with children who have Aspergers that are now doing this school and it has been a lifesaver for them. Don't be afraid to try something new.

    Good luck again and contact me by email if I can be any further help.

    I enjoyed checking your blog out too! More when I have the time.


  9. Hi Keri,

    I found your blog through DoCo, and I just read this post. I think you're an amazing mom. My eldest has a mild form of Asperger's syndrome, so I can relate a bit to what you write about your son. Fortunately, my son is not being bullied. But I'm appalled at the way the school dismisses the bullying. I don't live in the US (I'm Dutch), but where I live, the school also disciplines kids that bully other kids on their way home or to school. It happened a few times to my middle son (I have three boys) and the bullying stopped then and there. Kids usually go to school by bike here.

    I, too, am convinced that loving your son endlessly is the most important thing you can do for your son. And you're so right by saying that we should teach our kids tolerance. I always tell them not to call their friends 'gay' or anything, even in jest, because you never know if you're hurting anyone.

  10. Hi Noni...First, thanks for saying I am an amazing mom, but honestly I wouldn't be half the woman I am if it weren't for wine. hahaha. (No, I am serious.)
    At the end of the day, all I can do is to love him and have him know that his family accepts him for who he is. We are all different, and we teach them to embrace others differences.
    Thanks for reading! Keep it up!

  11. Dear Keri, this is also my first time participating in a blog, discussion- whatever. I had to say something because my heart is pounding. My brother is gay and also very sensitive and one of the sweetest, most generous people I've ever known. Whether or not your son is gay is, to me, beside the point because this is about teaching our children love, acceptance, and not being narrow-minded. It was when I read your description of the bullying that I got choked up. Those are exactly the same things that happened to my brother. Coming home with bruises all over his body, slammed into lockers, and called "fag" and "gay". When he was 14, my mother happened to walk into his bedroom without knocking just as he had the gun to his head. They decided together that he could wait out the school year and look forward to transferring the next year. I remember that he graduated with straight "A"s, (he got "D" and "F" grades in the other school) got involved in extra-curricular activities, and had lots of friends. The school he transferred to was not so backward "redneck," and just a more responsible school.
    I've emailed the link to your blog to my brother. BTW, he is 38 now, happy with who he is, and lives a rich and successful life.

  12. AnnaLove,
    Thanks for sharing the story about your brother. I know that we live in another redneck community right now, and I am hoping to go to a more liberal area where there are resources available to us. I just have to get Taylor through this time that is the hardest, and he will eventually meet people who share things in common with him. The last thing I want, if he is gay, is to worry about coming out to his family, because we love him for who he is.

  13. Taylor is such an amazing kid. I know eventually things will get better for him and he'll really be able to shine. We both know from experience how horrible bullying can be and teachers who don't do a damn thing, but look how great we turned out :) Hopefully you'll soon be in a better place that has better resources and much more tolerant.

  14. Keri, it breaks my heart to hear about your son being bullied. I hope, hope, hope that you can find a school in your new town that not only punishes bullying but is proactive about preventing it. You may have seen my blog post on working with your school to tackle bullying:

    You can also call some of these organizations in the resource list, like Welcoming Schools or Teaching Tolerance, and ask them which schools they have worked with in your new town so that you have a better chance of finding a tolerant, supportive school. Both Asperger's and gender-nonconformity are two things for which kids get teased mercilessly, and it would be amazing to find a school that has already begun the hard work of creating a more compassionate, accepting community.

  15. Sarah, Your blog is a great source of info for me and it's great that there are resources out there for us "bad" Thank you so much for your support through this and your ideas.

  16. Hi Keri,
    Thought I would stop by and read Taylor's story. This is heartbreaking. My daughter is only 6 but I live in fear of the middle school years. I too will homeschool if there is even a whiff of bullying. I don't suppose things have gotten any better in the 2 weeks since you posted this...? I hope so...

  17. Keri
    I am so sorry that this is happening to Taylor. Thankfully, he has a mother like you to reassure him and he has a home and family that accept him for who he is, some kids get treated worse at home. Love your blog girl! Amy Dudley