The Prayer a Special Needs Mom Says After Her Child Is Bullied


It’s bedtime in our house. Teeth have been brushed, books have been read and it’s time to turn off the lights and tuck my son, Ben, into bed. Ben prepares to say his nightly prayers. For the past few weeks, his prayers have taken on a new fervor. Tonight is no exception. “God, please help tomorrow be a good day. Please help me be good. And please keep the bucket dippers away,” he pleads.

“Bucket dippers” is his term for the kids at school who dip into his metaphorical bucket. His class read a story called “How Full Is Your Bucket” by Tom Rath. The story talks about filling people’s buckets by doing nice words and deeds, and how doing mean things and saying unkind words dips into someone’s bucket.

Ben encountered a group of older kids, aka the “bucket dippers,” at school during the after-care program. It’s the time in the day when kids from different grade levels mingle in the gymnasium. Due to the loudness of the gym, Ben wears noise-cancelling headsets to help him deal with the sound. On this particular day, they pushed him down and tried to take the headsets. And when he started to cry, they called him a baby.

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When Ben told me what happened, I immediately talked to the teacher and the principal. The adults intervened right away. The boys had consequences. We created safe spaces and new options for Ben in the gym. And, to the best of my knowledge, these “bucket dippers” haven’t physically or verbally bothered Ben in weeks. And yet, every night Ben still prays to God to keep the bucket dippers away.

As a classroom teacher I’ve certainly dealt with situations like this in the past with my own students. I’ve mediated in cases of bullying and have dealt out consequences to the bullies while counseling the victims. And yet, it wasn’t until my own child was on the receiving end that I have realized just how deep the psychological wounds can scar.

I never considered until recently just how much a child, such as mine, who tends to perseverate and focus on something over and over, will relive the hurt and pain again and again to the point where even if the actual bullying has stopped, it is still alive and real in the person’s mind. This is the part of bullying I never considered. I’ve spent lots of time talking to kids about how to handle the actual event, but not nearly enough time thinking about the after-effects. The part where trust is rebuilt. And this was a one-time incident (I think and hope). I can only imagine how bullying impacts the child who deals with this every single day.

The situation with the bucket dippers has opened up many conversations about how Ben can stand up for himself in a strong but respectful way. We read the book “A Bug and a Wish” by Karen Scheuer. The book was recommended by my friend who happens to be a school psychologist. The book talks about telling the bullies what “bugs” you and what you “wish” they’d do instead. We practice saying those words so that if the situation arises again, Ben will be ready. We’ve talked about going to the grown-ups for help when necessary. We’ve talked about walking away. We’ve talked about all of those things, and yet he still worries and he prays.

As I snuggle next to my little boy, I wish I could shield him from this world, a world that isn’t always a friendly and welcoming place and getting scarier and more uncertain by the day. Unfortunately, the road for him is even more challenging because his differences are magnified, both in the way he speaks, the way he reacts to difficult situations and the tools he uses to cope with his world. Even though as a society we preach embracing differences, the hard fact is that many people are scared by differences. People don’t know how to handle different, and so they keep it at an arm’s length or poke fun of it.

I naively hoped my son would be spared from the harshness of bullying. I hoped his differences wouldn’t set him apart and his sweet nature and amazing personality would be enough. 

And so, as I plant a goodnight kiss on his forehead, I say a prayer of my own. I pray for strength to guide him through the days ahead. I pray for the wisdom to know the right words to say to him on those days when his heart feels broken. But, most of all, I pray for a world filled with way too many bucket dippers and not nearly enough kindness.

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Follow this journey on Changed for Good Autism.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Twins With Autism Start Business That Will Make Your Christmas Extra Jolly


Mike and Eddie Tuckerman are 18-year-old twin brothers who have autism, and their way of spreading holiday cheer is selling wrapping paper featuring their own original artwork.

After learning about the unemployment rate among adults with autism, Sue Tuckerman, Mike and Eddie’s mother, was determined to find a way to keep the boys busy after they graduate from high school in three years. The twins have always loved drawing so when the family put their heads together and started brainstorming ways for the boys to learn work skills and support themselves, selling their artwork was an easy choice.

“We’ve always felt strongly that we need to focus on their strengths for the future,” she told The Mighty. “For a while we had been trying to come up with something unique, yet something that would have a demand, so wrapping paper seemed ideal. They also love to unwrap gifts — it doesn’t really matter what’s in them! It seemed only fitting that wrapping paper is our first product.”

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The family’s company is called Tuckerboys Noveltees, and it’s been up and running for about two months.

“We’re still teaching them the concept of the business and we’re truly learning as we go along,” Tuckerman added. This year they hope to expand and sell other seasonal items like t-shirts. Their other son Timmy and other relatives help with sales.

Tuckerman told The Mighty that every order is exciting for the family, and so far they have sold over 300 rolls of wrapping paper. The boys told CBS Philly that designing and selling the paper makes them “happy,” and they even gave television cameras a peek at their design process.

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“Someone told Eddie that he was an entrepreneur, and he responded with ‘I’m an artrepreneur?’ Tuckerman told The Mighty. “So that is our new saying.”

For $10, Tuckerboys Noveltees will ship a roll of wrapping paper directly from their home, and 50 cents of every sale goes to local charities, Tuckerman said. The wrapping paper is available on their Facebook business page and on their Etsy page.

All images courtesy of Sue Tuckerman / Tuckerboys Noveltees

8 Things Autism Parents Want for Christmas


Dear Santa,

Here is our list in order of importance:

1. Autism awareness and acceptance throughout the world.

2. Sleep.

3. Piles of money. (Literally, piles of it.)

4. The reflexes of a ninja when little teeth come at us.

5. The strength of a small child in a full-on meltdown when our child is in a full-on meltdown.

6. The restraint of a monk when parenting advice is offered at the grocery store.

7. The patience of a saint to watch “Toy Story,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Thomas & Friends” again and again.

8. The liver of a champ and the metabolism of a teenager to make it through this holiday.

That should do it, Santa.

Cheers,

Autism Parents Everywhere

Follow this journey on Go Team Kate.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story about the holiday season related to disability, disease or mental illness. It can be lighthearted or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include an intro for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected]. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

10 Things I Wish People Knew About My Autism


There are so many different myths and misconceptions about autism, so here are 10 things I wish people knew about my autism:

1. I am first and foremost a person.

I am not a diagnosis. I am not autism and then Lottie. I am Lottie, and I have autism. Ask me what kind of language I want you to use. Some of us like person-first language, so person with autism. Others like autistic person, and it is very upsetting to us when you don’t use our preferred language. But also respect our choice of language even if you don’t agree with it.

2. I do not achieve things despite having autism.

I achieve things with my autism. Who could say I would have done all that I have without it? My autism has never held me back and therefore my achievements have never been despite my autism. However, they are not because of my autism. They are because I worked just as hard as the next person, and my autism was just, well, it was just there.

3. Please avoid asking me what it’s like to have autism.

I can explain exact things like what it feels like having a meltdown, but when you ask me to explain what it’s like to have autism, my answer will be “it just is.” It’s like me asking you what’s it like to live without autism. You’ve never experienced life any other way and therefore it just is. To help us and be our friends, you don’t need to understand what it’s like to live in our shoes and why we do what we do. You just need to accept that this is the way we live and that it makes sense to us.

4. When I am having a meltdown or shutdown, I have no control.

When I become overwhelmed, I have no control over my actions. It’s like a little man has taken over your brain and is now controlling you. You know what’s going on, but you can’t stop it. Please understand how frightening this is for us. We can’t process any more information at this time, so please avoid giving us extra instructions.

5. I can hold down jobs.

I am perfectly able to get and hold down a job just like you. I may struggle more with the social part of having a job due to communication difficulties, but that doesn’t stop me being a productive member of the workforce in whatever job I choose to do.

6. If I try to explain something about my autism, listen to me.

My autism is my autism. It is completely different than anyone else’s autism. Therefore, if I’m explaining something to you, please take me seriously and listen to what I have to say. Don’t just assume you know autism because your friend’s brother has it or you watched “Rain Man” or “Adam.” If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

7. I am just as capable as you of being in a relationship.

My relationships may be different than most, since I’ll need to talk to my partner about things neurotypicals just “get.” But that doesn’t stop me from being in a relationship. I can be in a relationship, I can get married and I can have kids just like you. People with autism just need to be given a chance, and they may need you to completely rethink what being in a relationship is like.

8. I have the same feelings as you.

My autism makes it harder for me to express and understand my feelings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. I still feel happy, sad, angry and frustrated. I am still capable of love and hate. I just struggle to express this to you, and I sometimes struggle to recognize it in myself. I still have the same sexual desires as you.

9. I do not need to be cured.

Autism is just a different way of thinking. I do not need to be cured; I need to be accepted for who I am and I will flourish.

10. If you want to talk to me, speak to me, not to whomever I may be with.

I am able to talk to you about anything. If you want to know me better or just want a conversation with me, then talk to me. I know about myself better than anyone else, and I can talk for myself if you want a conversation. My friends and family are not with me to be my voice; they are there to be my friends and family.

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The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

A Letter From My Wife on the Anniversary of My Autism Diagnosis


One of the greatest myths about autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is that people on the spectrum lack emotion and empathy. Growing up, I always knew I was different. I wasn’t the best at making friends, but I somehow seemed to manage to develop meaningful relationships along the way. When I was 18 years old, I met someone who would change my life forever. Ours is a story that defies the myths that autism and love cannot coexist.

One year ago this month, I was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. December is my “autism anniversary,” and Isabella, my wife of nearly 15 years, shares our new journey together in this beautifully written letter that shows autistic people can love and are worth being loved.

Dear Lamar,

I am writing you this letter almost a year from the time that you were first diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I just wanted to let you know how extremely proud I am of you as your wife.

First, because you were brave enough to recognize you needed to get evaluated and seek a professional diagnosis when you knew certain things weren’t quite adding up. So many are yet to take that step, so I really applaud you!

Secondly, I am inspired by how much work you’re doing to learn about yourself. I heard you say in the interview with on Autism Live that you have to learn who you are again at the age of 37. I can’t even imagine what that must be like. I applaud you for just having the courage to take that big step and embrace who you are — “fearfully and wonderfully made” — and being OK with who God created you to be and using all your God-given gifts and talents to learn more about the world you have became a part of.

Your response is going to help fill some big gaps, and you’re already becoming such a huge voice for a platform that is often times forgotten about and never ever talked about. I see all the work you’re doing and how committed you are to autism spectrum disorder issues. Your work in the autism world is going to make huge footprints and lead the way for so many who are already a part of it or will become a part of it.

One thing I realized once we started this journey is that I am having to learn who you are all over again. I have known you for 18 plus years, and we will have been married for 15 years in January next year. While your diagnosis does mean having to learn a new you, I am still googly-eyed over you!

Some would question me and say, “Wow, aren’t you concerned this isn’t the same man who you married?” And I would say, “No, this is exactly the man I married. We have just arrived at a point in our life where layers are being peeled off and growth is taking place. Our package comes with ASD as part of that growth, and I’m OK with that.”

As a matter of fact, this has helped to answer some questions I used to have and would put it in the “Lamar is so weird” category. Now, with the help of therapy, books and you teaching me more about who you are, I’m able to understand the “weird.” And believe it or not, it’s teaching me so many things about myself as well. Is it a challenge? Yes, but it’s also helping me to grow.

I especially liked how in one of your articles you talked about just seeing or recognizing that a coin has two sides and having the ability to see the other perspective. That was really an eye-opener for me, because I think we say this all the time about so many things. But in reality, living it can be hard because we’re always thinking that only our perspective is the “right” one. I have to confess that I am not always right, and you aren’t “weird.” We’re just wired differently, and I know we compliment each other well as we continue on the journey. And it can only get better.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think to myself, “Wow, when I was doing this or when I responding like that to Lamar, I had no idea how much I was stretching you beyond your comfort zone.” I want you to know I am really sorry from the bottom of my heart. I read and re-read your articles you’ve written for The Mighty, and I sometimes think about encounters we had. And it makes realize how small I really was in some of those situations. I want you to know my ignorance to you being on the spectrum isn’t an excuse, but your confirmed diagnosis has permanently removed all my ignorance. And it’s teaching me so many ways that I can find the right balance in making your journey and our journey together everything I believe God intended for it to be.

I love you so much, and my life would not be the same if you weren’t a part of it!

#youarestrong #youareawesome #youaregreat

Isabella M. Hardwick

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The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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