Parents of children with autism are painfully aware of bullying, but often feel helpless when it comes to protecting their child in a school environment. Some wise children have taken it upon themselves to address the issue head-on.
Last month in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a group of teenagers testified on bullying in their schools. They described it as a pervasive and urgent problem and not a "right of passage." Demonstrating a high degree of enlightenment, they argued that bullies needs help as well, as they are often contending with violence and chaos in their home environment. In summary, they urged state officials to approve a statewide bill addressing the epidemic of bullying which passed the house, but stalled in the senate. Opposition to it focuses on the fact it includes protection against harassment based on sexual orientation. What a dangerous and depressing statement that makes.
Another example of youthful activism is Dylan Beckham. Dylan was only nine-years-old and in the fourth grade when he saw his classmate and friend with autism being bullied on the playground. Anguished at the incident, he walked over to the tormentors and told them to cease and that they should be nice to his friend and play with him.
But Dylan didn’t stop there. He met with school district administrators and produced an incredibly poignant anti-bullying video showing children’s physical scars and likened them to the scars of bullying. At the end of the video, he challenges the schools in his city to raise money for autism awareness.
In the three years since then, Dylan has raised over $25,000 for autism causes, appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 as a "Hometown Hero" and now has received a national Jefferson Award, the "Nobel Prize" of public service.
It’s amazing what one young man from Kentucky has accomplished. His is very proud that a former bully from his school now helps and protects a classmate with autism. I have nothing but admiration for these young people and others like them.