Thursday, January 10, 2013

Guest Post: Fasten Her Seatbelt: 'never grow up...' (pre-adolescent/adolescent girls on the spectrum and cyberbullying.)

never grow up...

'Oh darling, don't you ever grow up,
Don't you ever grow up, just stay this little.
Oh darling, don't you ever grow up,
Don't you ever grow up, it could stay this simple.
No one's ever burned you, nothing's ever left you scarred -
And even though you want to, just try to never grow up.'

The other day I was chatting with a friend, and the subject of 'Who influenced you to go into blogging' came up.  After a brief hesitation, I replied:

'In all honesty, I started out blogging because I couldn't find what I was looking for.  Information on pre-adolescent/adolescent girls and autism.'

Let's face it - I'm an artist... I'm not a writer... I agonize over everything I write, often wondering if I am getting my point across.  'Good design' is equally as important to me as 'good content'.  But 'this' (adolescence and autism) was something I felt passionate about...  something that was clawing at my very soul.

You see, I had just 'come off' adolescence with my oldest daughter, Isabella  - and let me tell you... it wasn't pretty.  I was terrified of what adolescence was going to bring for Emma.  I wanted to try and find a group of mamas (and papas) to connect with - to share things with.  And, let's face it - there are no two ways around it:  Adolescent girls can be mean!  The problem was - nobody was talking about pre-teen girls, adolescence and autism....

Now, more and more girls are speaking up... rather their parents are... you are starting to hear some of their voices... however, I still don't feel the voice of the pre-teen girl is well represented yet.

No, I'm not a pre-teen girl... I'm not autistic...  I don't presume to know what my daughter is thinking, not being on the spectrum and all... I can only do what I do best... be her parent.  But I do know girls... and, I do know something about adolescent girls (having just raised one daughter through it AND, having taught a whole boat load of others).  Quite frankly, adolescence scares me - even more so today then it did a few short years ago.

If you haven't raised a girl through adolescence before, I don't think moms and dads realize how truly difficult - and at times - cruel this stage can be.  

You have a wonderful girl.  A super, kind and loving girl... and within a day, hour, minute - she can be completely demolished by her peers or so-called friends.  NT, ASD - it really doesn't matter.  With the addition of social media... it just brings the ball game to a whole new playing level.  Unfortunately, I watched as it evolved - almost in the blink of an eye.

Flashback 10 years ago.  

Isabella would have been in middle school.  Computers weren't as abundant as they were now.  (Smart Phones?  Facebook?  Twitter?)  More or less each household had a computer, but it was 'the family computer'.  As parents, my husband and I monitored Isabella's activity constantly, much to her chagrin.  There was absolutely no 'surfing the net' without us being in the same room.  I remember her being 'furious' that we wouldn't allow her to have a computer in her room.  'MySpace' was the fad, and she like many of her friends, had an account (my husband and I called it SpySpace, as we knew the password, and would look to make sure there were no 'MySpace' shenanigans happening).  

So, one would think - one. would. THINK. - that even with constant monitoring, as parents, we would be able to keep the shit out... the bad things... the bullying.  But you can't.  Because it happens.  In the blink of an eye.  

Hidden behind the safety of a computer screen, never having to hear a voice, or see a face, a child can type something so hideous and so ugly... and press send... close a screen and go to bed.  Never knowing the consequence on the other end.  Why do I know this?  Because I've seen firsthand how a child... how a girl can be devastated by a message sent callously.  By a cruel remark meant only to hurt.  That was ten years ago.  Ten years ago.  One computer.  Monitoring.

Now there is WiFi.  Children have laptops... iPads... smartphones... unsupervised access to the internet.   Students are indignant if you ask them to put a phone away in school... they update their status, they tweet, they snapchat... how is one to contain such a plethora of social media access?  If something happens, it's sent to everyone's phone within seconds... heck - they have a better 'phone chain' than any parent group will ever have. 

At the beginning of the current school year, there was a girl in a neighboring city who committed suicide - she was bullied via social media.  She was a beautiful girl... she had her entire life ahead of her.   Yet, her classmates somehow deemed her unacceptable... they sent her messages via Facebook and Twitter demeaning her... so much so, that took her own life.  

Technology is great - as adolescents, children aren't always.  Decision making and cognitive skills are at the height of growth in their developing young brains.  Adolescents are developing personal identities... they're trying to figure out where they fit within their peer group.  Mistakes are made, awkwardness ensues.  Unfortunately, in this digital age every humiliation is documented and circulated for the 'enjoyment' of others.  There seems to be no sense of accountability anymore.  No personal interaction.  Half the things I have seen written, I would NEVER have the nerve to say to someones face. 

So now, as I have two girls 'up to bat' in the game of adolescence,  I can't imagine how things are going to be for Emma.

Each day, I ask her how her day was...  I ask her who she played with at recess and I want to cry, because she tells me the same thing everyday:  There were children playing everywhere and none of them wanted to play with her.  With the exception of her sister, she spends her day virtually friendless.  

Tell me though - how soon will it be before they aren't talking to her, and they start picking on her?

If only we could tuck them away and protect them forever...




'Your little hand's wrapped around my finger, 
And it's so quiet in the world tonight.
Your little eyelids flutter cause you're dreaming, 
So I tuck you in, turn on your favorite night light.
To you everything's funny, you got nothing to regret.
I'd give all I have, honey - 
If you could stay like that.'

Title Inspiration:
Taylor Swift:  Never Grow Up


Jennifer – Fasten Her Seatbelt
Jennifer lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls: Frannie (10), Emma (11), and Isabella (23). She is an artist, fine jeweler and educator. Emma was diagnosed with an ASD at age 4 and Frannie was diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia at age 6.
With Emma fast approaching adolescence, Jennifer found there was not much information available for ‘girls, autism and adolescence’, thus ‘Fasten Her Seatbelt’ was born. Using ‘Fasten Her Seatbelt as a vehicle to re-account life experiences both past and present, Jennifer hopes to connect with other parents on the same journey. So, hop on in and join her as she travels the world of adolescence on the spectrum.


  1. it's hard for me to comment on posts like this. There aren't any easy answers. And bullying can come in many forms. I've bullied. If a grown ass man can't relied on to play nice...what are the odds their kids will?

    1. You take the blame for what I said... and you are the bully? Bitch, please. go on.

    2. dear jim - i would like to start off by saying this is a post i started writing from a conversation that transpired over the weekend... unfortunately, the timing of it corresponded with 'the incident'. (you know, being from cleveland i work best with these types of associations... 'the shot'... 'the drive'... 'the fumble'...) but this was, and is very important to me - it's why i started fhs. this wasn't some type of 'veiled' attempt to reopen any discussion about what happened, or to accuse either party.

      you forget... i had the opportunity to read what transpired. i know what bullying looks like. i almost lost something very important to me once. once people start to throw around the term 'bullying' and 'bullied' to often, it will lose it's effectiveness. please take this post for what is was originally intended to be. a wake up call - to let parents know how precious their daughters are, and how difficult adolescence can be - especially with the addition of social media that records their every mistake.... and finally, how fragile and how quickly they can slip away.

      misinterpret: To understand incorrectly: misapprehend, misconceive, misconstrue, misread, mistake, misunderstand. See understand/misunderstand.

      misunderstanding: A failure to understand or interpret correctly.

      bully: A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people

      cyberbullying: actions that use information and communication technologies to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behavior by an individual, that is intended to harm another. cyberbullying include communications that seek to intimidate, control, manipulate, put down, falsely discredit, or humiliate the recipient.

    3. I appreciate it, Jennifer, but I've had some time to think about privilege during the course of this whole thing, and it occurred to me (in the shower no less) that I'm a pretty self confident self assured guy. I'm white. I'm a man. I am without disability. I live in America. I have a job. I'm smart. In many ways I'm the poster boy for advantage and privilege and majority rule.

      You and I and others blog in the 'disability' arena. Austism specifically. I am VERY aware that some of the people I interact with are not coming from a position of privilege. The thing I was thinking in the shower was...I need to be more aware of just how easy everything is for me and be more aware of just how difficult everything can be for others. Really, it's not even about disability's just about being a good person or neighbor.

      If I am always coming from a position of strength and seems to me the the strongest and most powerful thing I can humble myself and try to learn. It's easy to bully. It's super simple to joke and make Facebook or twitter or whatever my personal playground, amusing myself with my antics regardless of consequence. It's better. It's stronger. It's more human, to step back and NOT expect someone to meet me in the middle...or to think the way I think...but to meet him/her PAST the middle...on THEIR side.

      I don't know. I really don't want you to worry that I'm beating myself up. This is life. I'm doing really well...but I really try hard to recognize my faults and work to improve them. It doesn't change that I think I'm a good person. I do still think that. But I recognize faults that have to be addressed.

  2. How many teenage girls have walked up to me asking for help? The number is too terribly high! And I don't know what to do exactly. I'm not their parent or aunt, I'm not their friend or counselor. I'm just a mom picking up her son from school and these girls walk up to me with looks of helplessness mixed with hope....

    "I'm a lesbian and my mom keeps telling me I'm going to burn in hell..."
    "I have to go live with my dad but I don't like it there because he abuses me..."
    "My mom and I are fighting because she wants to go back with her boyfriend who raped me and she says she has to pick him over me because he pays the bills..."
    "I want to go out with this boy but my dad will shoot him if I do because he's black..."

    Etc, etc.... I have written about it and worried about it. Of course I offer an open heart and mind, I listen and love, but who am I?

    I tell myself I am a human being and so are these girls. Also, and admittedly more to the point, these girls are friends of my sons. They are their girlfriends and classmates. They are influencing my children and, because we're all connected, so is the bullying. Even when it isn't directly at my boys. Whether it's online or otherwise and indirectly.

    So, what to do? Especially when you throw autism or any other social challenge in the mix? You do your best to keep communication open, to speak clearly about concerns and dangers, to example an open mind and forgiving nature while comfortably saying 'no' to things you don't want in your world. And you trust. Like we have had to learn to believe in our children, even when they struggle in ways we don't understand, we guide them and believe that they will figure this out too.

    I don't always like that answer, but it's all I've got! That or an island for me, my family and best friends, and coffee beans!!! That one's good too!!

    Thanks for this post! Apparently it made me want to share... thanks for offering a safe place to do so!

    1. Can I live on your island Tsara? I have a two year old daughter I want to keep safe forever from the kind of stuff I dealt with as a a teenager...

  3. Kermommy, I would be pleased to have you on my island! Just know that coffee drinking, friendly chat and dancing are mandatory!!