More on Brooks Gibbs & the Kalman Bullying Prevention Hogwash

I wrote a bunch yesterday.

I’m not going to go through that again, but I do notice that the Brooks Gibbs’ program page is now returning a page not found (as it appears the rest of the site is also doing).

So I’ll give a new link, so long as it remains up.

And I’m going to do something I pretty much never do: I’m going to warn you that these videos are decidedly unplesant and you probably don’t want to watch them if you’re not somewhere that you can yell at your computer. You also don’t want to watch them if you can’t, right now, deal with teaching and role playing that reflects what too many victims are told when they are told that they, not the bully, is the problem.

Here’s the link to the videos.  Remember, Brooks Gibbs is paid by schools worldwide to “teach”. Also remember his qualifications – Brooks Gibbs went to a right-wing Christian unaccredited (edit: nationally, but not regionally, accredited, which isn’t a great thing – regional is generally what you want) college that doesn’t have degrees in education, childhood development, or psychology.

In “Lesson 5”, you’ll even see a guest appearance of Izzy Kalman, the person who designed this “Buddies to Bullies” thing.  I confess I didn’t watch all of them.  Lesson 5 was awful enough.

An Anti-Bullying Curriculum that Makes my Blood Boil

Seriously.

I never thought anti-bullying curriculum in schools did much.  But I thought they were benign, powerless, useless.  And pretty much all equal.  I didn’t think they created bullies and victims.

Boy, I was wrong.

Look at what a Nebraska School sent home with 5th graders.  Seriously, don’t “tattle” on your abuser. That’s what it said. It was part of a handout that talks about turning “bullies2buddies.”  You can learn more at the bullies2buddies website, but I warn you that the advice there is among the worst possible advice.

Here’s his “rules” to not be bullied (you can see longer descriptions in the picture in the article):

  1. Refuse to get mad
  2. Treat the person being mean as if they are trying to help you
  3. Do not be afraid
  4. Do not verbally defend yourself
  5. Do not attack
  6. If someone physically hurts you, just show you are hurt
  7. Do not tell on bullies
  8. Don’t be a sore loser
  9. Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs

These rules are remarkably similar to Izzy Kalman’s rules. In fact, I’d say they are identical.  You can learn how these rules apply to racism from Izzy himself at his website.  For instance, Rule 7, “Do not tell on bullies,” is included in his “Chapter 8” of The Golden Rule Solution to Racism.

He starts this chapter by talking about how, if you call child protective services when neighbors are “only yelling” at their children, not real abuse, you’ll make your neighbors hate you. Of course “only yelling” is a huge part of him – in rule 6, “If someone physically hurts you, just show you are hurt” (don’t tattle unless they send you to the hospital because you don’t really hurt – seriously, that’s what this guy is advocating) you see his differentiation between physical and all other types of pain. Frankly, that’s bullshit. Pain is pain, and all pain is real.

I know why I wanted to kill myself as a kid. It wasn’t physical pain. I had kids burn me, cut me, punch me, etc, but it was the humiliation that most hurt me. Constant, unending humiliation. I felt that I was at fault. That if I could defend myself, not do stupid stuff, not laugh wrong (seriously, this was a suggestion by a shrink to a suicidal kid – learn laugh “properly” rather than how I was doing it), then I could free myself from the humiliation. When I realized that nothing I could do would stop the abuse, hopelessness and despair – and extreme depression followed. It wasn’t the physical pain. It was the attempt at destroying my soul.

The chapter then launches into an anti-government diatribe (the phrase “Evil Empire” is included, a phrase that probably doesn’t resonate with all that many teachers or parents these days, who didn’t really live through the cold war), followed by some real gems. Keep in mind, this is about ending racism.

When people are doing or saying things against Jews – as long as there is no immediate threat to our bodies or property – about the worst thing to do is rush to report them to the authorities. Instead, we should talk to them directly, not with anger, but as to friends. Ask them sincerely why they are doing or saying it. If there is something wrong about their motivation or understanding, let them know what their mistake is. If they insist on continuing to do what you believe is wrong, talk to them again, but without anger. Pain, yes; anger, no.

First, he again distinguishes “real” racism (your body or property is in danger) from the rest of racism. Note that verbal abuse or illegal acts – such as a boss refusing to promote a Jew – don’t seem to be real to this man. I don’t think that was an oversight in his writing.

When there is antisemitism, particularly in a place with rules against it (like a school or business), it is not necessary for you to be a “friend” to convince them of the error of their ways. While lots of people disagree on how to address hate, it is not appropriate to expect the targets of the hate (Jewish people in his example) to befriend the person spewing hate. And, remember, this is in context to someone calling child protective services when there is not actual abuse. Basically, if you don’t befriend, and you seek protection at work, school, or from your government, you’re crying wolf.

He has all sorts of hogwash like this – I could spend days yelling at my computer about it. One thing is for sure: I would have a hard time being a friend of this man.

Lest  you think it is just one isolated person, I believe the Lincoln (Nebraska) School District got this crap as a result of their anti-bullying program. Their program included participation of Brooks Gibbs.

Meet Brooks Gibbs:

That’s his marketing video.

It’s sickening.  His basic philosophy is “If you’re nice to the bullies, they’ll be nice to you.” He teaches that God wants us to passively accept abuse. He teaches a form of victim blaming. That’s dangerous. It’s deadly.

How is this connected to Izzy, who made these awful rules about how to avoid being be a victim?  Well, they believe pretty much the same awful hogwash. He teaches the Kalman – as in Izzy Kalman – bullying prevention program.

Check out his Lesson 5 – Physical bullying, from the above link.

Let me transcribe some of the horrible advice:

If someone causes you physical pain, they push you, first don’t make a big deal out of it.

Because most people don’t want to hurt you unless you are hurting them.

See, most students don’t want to actually send you to the hospital.

When someone pushes you, they are just trying to get you upset.

Very rarely does someone just come up and punch you in the face as hard as they can for no reason. That’s called a sociopath who doesn’t have a feelings and they don’t care about your pain. In fact they get pleasure from it.

Most kids aren’t sociopaths, in fact sociopaths are less than 2% of the population and most of them are in prison or in hospital. You see the students you hang out with every day who might physically bully you are just really trying to get you upset.

He goes on, and claims that the physical bullying only occurs because of an exchange of verbal insults back and forth, which escalate into a confrontation. That may be how bar fights start, but it isn’t bullying.  I’m not going to comment on the sociopath statements about them being in hospitals or prison, but I will say he should learn before he teaches.

He goes on to talk about how you need to understand why a kid wants to physically bully you (which, if it was adults, would be called battery).

Can you imagine asking an abused wife to “understand your husband, so that you can break the cycle of bullying?” No, you hopefully help her find a safe place.

It’s all like this. And, again, it’s not just Mark Gibbs, hired with our tax dollars by some random Nebraska school district (actually the second largest district in the state). First, Mr. Gibbs’ client list is scary. It truly scares me that professional educators would hire people spewing this crap. But, second, this is part of a wider movement – the idea that “kids will be kids” and it’s really the victims that need to be taught “social skills” to deal with bullying.

I went through that, probably before Mr. Gibbs was born. And what he is preaching (yes, literally, although it’s stealth in his public school stuff) is no different than my experience. It doesn’t work, it can’t work. I literally have years of experience with this crap. You don’t “bully-proof” your kid anymore than you “abuse-proof” a woman to avoid being a battered wife. You deal with the problem. The problem is not the autistic kid who is different and doesn’t know when the adult does or doesn’t want to be bothered with his problems (these programs seem to be sold on the premise that it will reduce staff workload on bullying – look at the first expected outcome for schools of Izzy’s program). It’s not that the kid tells an adult when he’s punched. It’s the behavior of the bullies.

So, now I know something I didn’t know yesterday. You have to make sure anti-bullying programs see the bully as the problem rather than the victim as the problem. I would never have thought that was a concern until today.

My advice for schools and parents? Don’t just avoid, but RUN from any program that claims to show that the majority of experts are wrong. If it is an explicit claim, you better show them the door. In the best case, you’ll look unprofessional and incompetent – like Lincoln Public Schools. In the worst case, your student who has already contemplated suicide will be taught that the problem is himself. No student should be taught that.

Driver’s Licenses, Autism, Privilege, and Outing

There’s still a lot of discussion, from people I respect, about driver’s licenses, particularly in the State of Virginia, USA.  I’ve already written a bit about this, but I want to talk about why I’m uneasy about most of the opposition.

Most of the discussion around the VA license has to deal with, essentially, branding a person with a permanent label of autistic, which will impact employment, police officer interaction, and other daily life in negative ways.  When pointed out that the law would require 16 year olds to apply for an ID or license, not their parents (unless they are incompetent legally, which most people aren’t, even severely disabled people, at age 16) or others), and it requires the kid’s signature, a lot of the risk seems to be gone.  It’s a voluntary thing – if you feel the risk is severe, don’t apply for a designation of autistic on your license!  Simple!  If you can serve your needs better with “autism information cards,” that’s awesome.  You should do that instead.  But I’m not pleased when people oppose choice because some people may be hurt by making their own choice.

But the inaccuracies aren’t my only concern with the opposition.  I’m equally concerned that people seem to be speaking about – basically – concerns of those who have privilege, ignoring those who don’t.

Many autistic people, like many LGBT people, would never be “pegged” as part of a stereotyped group, if they chose to live their lives acting as a neurotypical (or a straight person).  Of course acting is hard, but some people find it necessary, because of the prejudice against them.  It’s for this reason we have lots of closeted autistics (and LGBT) people.

But not everyone wants to live in the closet. Nor does everyone have the choice of living in the closet. For some people, being their authentic selves, publicly, is either life-saving or simply unavoidable. For these people, a designation on their license is not going to cause prejudice (and may mitigate it by making the person’s public declaration of self and/or unavoidable expression something that can be validated and not attributed to other things).

There’s a lot about employment, and concerns that my employer will see my license. I’ve never shown a driver’s license to any employer. I’ve used passports, birth certificates, social security cards, and the like, but there are plenty of ways to get jobs without an employer seeing a license – and I’ve never been asked to show identification prior to getting a job. That goes for any job I’ve had, from dish washer, to delivery driver, to IT director (I’ve had about 15 jobs in my life).  So, likely, even this is a non-issue, but if people are concerned about it, simply don’t put it on your license!

That said, again, there are plenty of people who will already be seen as autistic by an employer, with or without it being on their license. Preventing them from using this license to show they are autistic won’t do anything to avoid people seeing them as autistic.

But, there’s an even bigger issue: what right do I have to say, “It’s bad for me to put ‘autism’ on my license, so you shouldn’t be able to do it?”  People should live honest, authentic lives. That includes our autism status being known. Now, like LGBT people, we need to consider disclosure carefully. But as advocates we also need to work not only to make sure people who want privacy can continue to enjoy privacy, but we need to make sure that people who want to live authentic, public, autistic lives can do so.

Should a child be allowed to wear a shirt that says he is autistic? Of course. Just as he should be able to wear a shirt that says he is gay. Should he be able to tell people on Facebook or the local newspaper? Of course. And, equally, of course parents also have the responsibility to make some choices for their kids (such as deciding, “No, this isn’t a good forum to speak your diagnosis” for a very young kid, or, equally, this is a good forum). Parents do this every day with autism diagnosis – they decide who to tell and who not to tell.  They also can and should discuss autism disclosure with their children, both the pros and cons of disclosure.

Those are my concerns with the opposition. You may think it’s a bad idea to publicly disclose autistic status. That’s fine. You may even have the choice for you or your children. That’s also fine. But we shouldn’t assume that our own personal risk analysis is the same as someone else’s risk analysis.

We also shouldn’t assume that others have a choice. No, I’m not talking about being forced to put the word “autistic” on your license. I’m talking about being assumed to be autistic, drunk, drugged, crazy, or whatever other label, no matter what a piece of plastic does or doesn’t say.

I do think there are valid reasons why someone might not want the word autistic (or similar) on their government ID. And I support education efforts that don’t take away choice, but empower people to understand and make their own decisions. Would I put it on my license? Probably not. I have the privilege of passing and would probably seek to keep that privilege as often as I can. But I’m not going to assume everyone else has this privilege.

Why I’m Proud of my Community (including our allies!)

This week has been good and bad.

A major autism organization started this off by posting a really horrible essay (the comments are actually good on this one, though – another thing that makes me proud of my community) about their policy summit. Besides for other horrible stuff in the essay (we’ll get to that), the actual summit will apparently consist of a bunch of people chosen by Autism Speaks to tell government “what autism says.” One group is absent though: autistic people. Our voice isn’t important to the group that claims to tell people what autism says.

Immediately, several autistic-run organizations sprang into action. I was thrilled to see an organization I’m part of, Association for Autistic Community, quickly decide, YES, this is something we need to speak out about. We joined with ASAN, an autistic-run group that is extremely effective in advocating for the well-being of autistic people, in issuing a joint statement about what Autism Speaks has done.  But we weren’t the only ones to make a statement: Autism Women’s Network made a statement of their own.

Then, we saw a powerful advocate organize a protest of the Summit. From all accounts, it was a successful protest.

See that? In the span of about 48 hours, we’ve (autistic people, that is) issued formal statements and organized a successful protest against an event. But, uh, sure, we’re not qualified to sit at the table for discussions about what to do about the problem of our existence put on by an organization claiming to understand something intrinsic to our being.

I’m proud that our community did this.

But that’s not all we did. Many, many autistic bloggers wrote about the event. Here’s just a few:

Of course some of us did a bit more digging. Lydia discovered that Judge Rotenberg Center was one of the featured exhibitors at the Washington DC Autism Speaks Autism Walk (edit: I thought it was an upcoming walk, but it was a past walk). Lest you don’t know about JRC, you can watch the below horrific video used in a trial against them:

Again, this video is very disturbing, only click if you can handle that. In the video, a kid is shocked for refusing to remove his coat.

Ironically, Autism Speaks previously issued a statement against the use of shock by JRC. Now, they featured them as a resource to parents at their most well-known event, their autism walk. Disturbing indeed. For what it’s worth, the trial ended in a settlement. I’m proud our community stands up to this and continues to fight – and publicized the support given by Autism Speaks to the only school in the USA to use electric shock to discipline students (and, yes, other students get students that had problems in other programs, a common refrain used by people to justify awful behavior).

This morning, another surprise event – John Elder Robison, one of the only (if not the only) autistic voices on an Autism Speaks advisory panel, resigned. He wasn’t the only one. A mom, invited by Autism Speaks, who personally knew Suzanne Wright (one of the founders), spoke out about the hate as well in one of the most powerful pieces written this week.

But this wasn’t all – our other allies have been here too. Parents are fed up with being told that their kid is a horrible, diseased, terrible, a drain on society, and destroying their families. And they’ve shown themselves to be the allies we (and their children need) – and very much in disagreement that they aren’t “living” but merely existing (as, apparently, a family with an autistic family member exists, and doesn’t live, according to Autism Speaks). They’ve all written brilliant texts that show their main worry about Autism Speaks isn’t political gain, but rather the well-being of their child. Autism Speaks hurts their children.

 

(edit: I also came across this after I made the initial post) And then there’s people like Spaz Girl who aren’t parents of autistic or autistics but might be classified as “just an ally” (there is no such thing as “just an ally” – you all are very important). She wrote This is the Week that Autism Speaks Meets its Downfall.

(edit: added to the original post) Special education professionals also are speaking up! Tim wrote, “The Best Argument Against Autism Speaks: A Special Educator’s Perspective.”

(edit: also after I made the initial post) Even the Autism Society of America (historically hostile to autistic people, but this organization has seen tremendous change in the last few years) has made a statement.

I am proud of my community. I’m proud of these allies. I’m proud that there are people in my community who get it. Who understand that slick advertising isn’t enough, that there actually has to be some substance behind saying you care about autistic people.

I’m so damn proud. We don’t need Autism Speaks to speak for us. Thank God.

What is the Problem with the Autism Speaks Summit – A Parent’s Words

Sometimes we autistic people get a lot of criticism when we comment about Autism Speaks. We’re told, “But you’re not a parent, you don’t understand.” And sometimes that criticism is valid – although not nearly as often as the criticism is made (for one, it ignores the people who are both autistic and parents of an autistic). But regardless, most of us do value parent allies who advocate for their children strongly while listening to our point of view.

So, it’s always refreshing when someone speaks clearly from the parent perspective about what is wrong with Autism Speaks’ summit – this time, criticizing the press release and rhetoric (not the only problem with the organization or event by any means, but a very valid criticism).

At “A Diary of a Mom,” the writer writes:

Because demonizing autism dehumanizes my child. Period. Because while shock and awe might raise money, they compromise my child’s safety, they tear away at her dignity, they separate her from the rest of us. “And what of older children and adults?” I asked Mark at the time. At six, I knew that my daughter wouldn’t see that video, but what about those who were old enough to watch it? What about Autistic teens who were so damned vulnerable — to bullying, to depression, to suicide. What about them? Did anyone think of what it would feel like to hear that if you haven’t already, you will destroy your parents’ marriage, bankrupt your family, make it impossible for your parents and siblings to do anything at all without pain and embarrassment? How would it feel to an already-struggling kid to hear that THEY are the cause of desperation, loneliness and fear?

Powerful. It’s even more powerful coming from someone who was part of Autism Speaks.

So go read it yourself.