September / October 2012



 "Autistic Insights" by Jon Miller

Conversation with David McWade

 "Bullying" by Len Benzi


Upcoming Webinars






October is Bullying Awareness month and in this newsletter we are going to take a closer look at the issue, including resources on the topic as well as an inside perspective on bullying.  


We thought it would be helpful to provide our field staff with links to a few excellent resources.  Some of these resources available are books for future reading and some are activities/interventions that you can use with the individuals you are working with.  


The bullying essay has been written by one of our self advocates, Len Benzi. 


Also we want to thank Jon Miller, another self advocate, for taking the time to give his thoughts on what our staff should do to assist individuals on the spectrum.  


AutisticInsightsAutistic Insights      


Jon Miller

Call me Jon. Not that guy with autism, autistic Jon, or that Aspie, or Jon, you know, he has Asperger's...  call me Jon!!


I was diagnosed not that long ago.  It was just the summer of last year, 2011.  I was 24. As I reflect on back on earlier years, I can understand now that I was different and the Asperger diagnosis explained a lot!!!


Now, I am a self advocate.  I have a voice that can "SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT, and SHOUT!!"


Here are some tips I'd like to share with those who are friends, family, or work with individuals with autism spectrum disorders:


  • Watch yourself (literally). How do you "neurotypicals" react to different scenarios? What do you say and do? What you do in both actions and words can perhaps be taught to those on the autism spectrum who want to feel a part of the group and to just "fit in."  Please keep an open mind and support us on the spectrum by saying what you truly mean and be a positive role model of how to live in society.
  • Think Outside the Box- Be empathetic and try to put yourself into the shoes of those on the autism spectrum. Think to yourself: what would I do? Tools for you: ASK QUESTIONS!!! This is how you start real relationships and get to know the real being.  We are no different than you or anyone else!!  Please do not judge!  We all have our own uniqueness!!!  It is though our uniqueness that we get to teach you, neurotypicals, how to relate and form a friendship and just connect.  For me, I just want to be understood.  Please be attentive and listen to their answers. All the answers are individualized (unique)...listen to my voice!
  • I would suggest that you take the time to educate yourselves on what ASDs are and are not.  Many people have told me that having autism is the same as being mentally retarded.  That is what motivated me to get to "SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT, and SHOUT!!" Please check out the following websites to get started on your journey with learning about Autism Spectrum Disorders. 


Autism Speaks

The Arc: National

Autism Society

Listen in on a conversation with 
self-advocate David McWade as he discusses his personal experiences as a victim of bullying.


Bullying by Len Benzi


What can be more "all-American" than the 1983 movie "The Christmas Story" starring Peter Billingsley as Ralphie? Every Christmas it plays back-to-back for 24 hours on cable TV. Like many movies, there are several sub-plots. One of the most memorable (besides the leg lamp) is when Ralphie finally stands up to his bully. The bully in this movie, Scott Farkus, fits most of the stereotypes of a schoolyard bully. He's big, has ruddy cheeks, and is not the most popular guy outside his little entourage. Of course Ralphie was an otherwise normal kid with rather thick glasses. The solution seemed rather simple. One day, after Ralphie had enough, he finally stood up to the bully and his mother had to pull him off. Ralphie did not get in trouble and that was the end of the bullying topic for that movie. Ralphie is all grown up now.

It would be nice if every bullying story came to such a perfect storybook ending as is frequently promised. The good guy wins and finishes off his school years happily (and popularly) ever after. I have heard many stories like this from people. I suspect that most people were bullied at some point in their lives and many claimed that they were just too nice and needed to build the adrenaline to defend themselves. After that they went on to live a normal childhood or adolescence. 


Of course people can also embellish stories. In real life things are not always that simple. I know because I have experienced my share of bullying. While I am on the autistic spectrum, nobody knew much about it back when I was in school and many saw me as "normal but eccentric." The conventional advice I tended to get from adults was well-meaning, but overly simplistic. It was usually along the lines of: "If he hits you, just hit him back" or "If they make fun of you, just ignore them or tell them off." Even some of the nuns in school would tell me to stand up for myself, but I knew that if I did I would be in just as much trouble if not more than the perpetrator, especially if my reaction was delayed. "Who started it?" would be a matter of my word against theirs and that of their friends. I wasn't the tallest kid but I was rather sturdy. It's not like I never thought of defending myself before. I detested violence, and while I always had a long fuse, I did get angry (just never at the appropriate moment). Adrenaline always came a few minutes too late for me. 


In my logical/analytical mind, I would always have to think of consequences before I acted. For most people that would be a good trait, but I was too much the other extreme. I always feared that I would get suspended. Also people never seemed to understand that bullies are never alone. Even if the victim is physically bigger there is usually a network of people who assist in retaliation. I was generally an independent type who had little use for group dynamics. Also, many times the bullies were popular, charming, or had well connected families. In real life bullies are rarely dumb, and they seem to intuitively know what they can and can't get away with. I even took karate for a while, which in the 1980's was the fad way of dealing with bullies. I did OK in the sport, but it still didn't help. As with many on the spectrum I had slow processing, which is is an issue in both anticipating trouble in the sometimes brief period of escalation and then reacting at the appropriate time.

"Boys will be boys" is another issue which can be a problem. I can recall times where I was having a problem and adults seemed sympathetic to my side at least on the surface, but then I would overhear them talking about the bully in terms of "isn't he bold, isn't he a character;" in other words, they were not sincere and the bully, even if he may get an occasional detention, can sense that others find it "cute." Among peers there would always be "sympathetic" girls who would say "just ignore him, he's a loser" only to end up on a date with the bully a week later. I understand that many boys and even some girls like to play rough and many adults overlook things until it is too late. People need to know the difference between "normal boy stuff" and bullying. There are many good-intentioned adults who see bullying as a "right of passage" where "a boy becomes a man" after he stands up to his childhood bully. 


(Continue Reading)


Book Resources


Asperger Syndrome and Bullying:  Strategies and Solutions 

by Nick Dublin


Freaks, Geeks, and Aspergers by Luck Jackson


Perfect Targets:  Asperger Syndrome and Bullying 

by Rebekah Heinrichs and Brenda Smith Myles


Bully Blockers Club 

by Albert Whitman



Web Resources


Strategies to Address Bullying 

by Northwest Regional Education Service District



Downloadable Resources


B is For Bullied


Strategies for Bullying


Bullying Worksheet 


Bullying Worksheet


This is a worksheet for kids to review different situations and foster discussion about whether someone is being a friend to them or not.  Below are brief examples.  To download the full worksheet, click here.   

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A kid in your class at school: 
  • Says you can only be in my club if you pick up all these sticks with me, so we can build a fort together. He then joins you picking up the sticks, and builds a fort with you.
  • Says you can't be in the club because your name is Michael.
  • Says you can't be in the club because it's for teenagers and you're only 9.
  • Says he'll be your friend for a dollar. 
Upcoming Webinars
9/19 @ 9:30am:  Communication 101 
9/26 @ 9:30am:  Social Skills
9/26 @ 4pm:  Social Skills
10/3 @ 3pm:  What is Autism?
10/10 @ 3pm:  Sensory Sensitivies and Motor Issues
10/17 @ 3pm:  Communication 101
11/7 @ 9:30am:  What is Autism?
11/14 @ 9:30 am:  Communication 101


To register for webinars, go to: