It’s midnight.  I am lying in bed, talking to Tim.  It’s the only time we can talk alone now that the kids are home and awake way later than they should be.

“I’m worried about Howie,” he says. “It’s sometimes really hard to see him around so- called typical kids.”

He’s referring to a few incidents, but mostly to an afternoon before school ended.  Tim went in to volunteer in Howie’s class to help with a science project.  Howie had a major meltdown over an experiment and left the classroom to calm down.  Tim didn’t see him again until almost the end of the day.

“I know,” I said quietly.

“The older he gets, the more his ‘quirks’ are going to stand out.  I just want him to have friends.”

I nod silently in the dark.

“You saw that video of that bus monitor in New York, right?  Those are the kinds of kids that will target him.  Those are the kids who could hurt him.”

He’s not wrong, of course.  And I know that.

“I know,” I said. “But we’ll do what we can to keep him safe.  We’ll make sure he stays on the mini-bus as long as he can.  And we’ll have to teach him to tell us everything.  And then teach him again. And again.  And just hope it will be okay. But I know.  It scares me too.”

**********

On June 30th, my friend shared the link about the New York bus monitor’s story and posted this on her amazing Facebook page “We Care About Someone With Autism“:

I’m VERY sorry that this happened, and I’m happy to hear that the students who did this are being punished. But this whole thing REALLY bothers me. I mean, we hear about bullying every day….yet this person had $650,000 donated to her in order to take a VACATION?!?!?!? What about the thousands of Autistic children who get bullied in school or on the bus every day? Where’s their $$ to take a trip to Disney World? Understand — I REALLY am sorry that Karen Klein had to go through this — NO ONE should have that experience. But the public response (on that score) is TOTALLY misdirected.

I completely agree.  It is absolutely awful what Ms. Klein endured.  The children involved needed to be punished and I believe their suspension was appropriate and necessary.  No one – NO ONE – should go through the kind of abuse that she did.  But what happens when it’s kid versus kid?  Is there the same outrage? What about my kid who doesn’t understand that someone is verbally abusing him? Or what happens when my kid is the one who fights back and gets in trouble because he’s the one with the behavior plan?

What do I do?  As parents…what do we do?

**********

I’m in Dunkin’ Donuts, having an early morning meeting with a friend.  I take a sip of my coffee and look up at the TV screen.  CNN is on.  They are playing a video.  The sound is off, but the tag line at the bottom says “Video of 13-year-old autistic girl being bullied”.  I look away.  I search for it later and find this:

All the girls in this video are 13.  According to comments on the “Bully” movie Facebook page and a story from thAutcast.com, the video was taken by the girls perpetrating the attack.  The autistic girl’s mom put the video on YouTube to show the world what happened to her daughter, but then took it down when the girls involved received hate mail and death threats.  This copy of the video was left on YouTube.

This video just makes me cry. How do I keep this from happening to my child?

**********

It’s July 4th.  We’re on our way back from Target, getting some supplies for a holiday backyard party.  A CD of some of The Beatles Greatest Hits is playing.

I hear singing from the middle row of the mini-van.

I look in my rear view mirror.  Howie is singing:

Nothing you can make that can’t be made.
No one you can save that can’t be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It’s easy.”

And then he gets louder:

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.”

He catches my eye – just for a second – in the mirror.  He looks away but smiles.  I smile back.

All you need is love (all together, now!)
All you need is love. (everybody!)
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need (love is all you need)

I will tell him to be proud of who he is.

I must teach him to stand up for himself.

I will show him that love is more powerful than hate.

He already believes that love is all you need. 

I have to believe it’s enough.

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