Friday, June 29, 2012

A Movie That Made Me Think About Bullies

I'm watching a movie I've never seen before. It's called Artificial Intelligence. It's about a futuristic civilization that has robots as part of the community. Mostly, I think they're workers. But they decided to make child robots that could love. The first experimental model went to a couple whose son, Martin, was in a coma and unlikely to recover. When they get their child robot, Mom is unsure, but the kid grows on her. They decide to keep him, which involves completing his programming so that he will bond with them, love them only, forever. I'm not sure what he's supposed to do someday when they die. They are quite delighted with him and begin settling in.
Just then, their own son wakes up from his coma. I'm at that part of the movie right now, and I have no idea which way they're going to go. Right at the moment, I don't like what I'm seeing, and I'll tell you why. David, the robot child, is so much like William that it's difficult for me to watch this movie. He's very curious about everything, but understands little. He mimicks their movements-he doesn't eat, but watches them while they eat and pretends he is eating and drinking too. He is extremely gullible and believes everything he is told. Haley Joel Osmont played David, and is in the top picture here. My William is the other picture. They even look alike, which didn't help.
Everything changes for David when Demon Child Martin comes home. Martin, having the true nature of a bully, immediately begins zeroing in on David's weaknesses. His curiosity becomes a weakness. His programmed love for his parents becomes a weakness when Martin tricks him into doing things that are wrong, telling him his parents will love him if he does these things. Martin makes David eat, knowing it will harm him. Martin tells David to sneak up on Mommy in the middle of the night and cut off a lock of her hair, then she will love him. Mommy and Daddy wake up and mistakenly believe that David was going to hurt Mommy with the scissors. Martin's equally bullying friends come over and test out the possibilities of David's natural defense systems, by purposely cutting him. As his gullibility does not allow him to see Martin for what he really is, he turns to his brother for protection from the other boys. David and Martin fall into the pool and Martin almost drowns. David gets the blame.
Parents or educators of autistic children won't need to wonder for very long why these things are bothering me. Autistic children are often victimized in the same ways. I mean, the exact same ways. I have heard more than one story of "normal" kids doing things to harm special needs children who were unable to feel pain. Many autistic kids have problems processing pain. They can get hysterical over a hang nail but something that should usually cause severe pain, like a bad cut or a burn might go unnoticed. I heard a story of an autistic boy who was found with hundreds of cigarette burns all over his body because his "friends" were fascinated with his inability to feel pain. Thinking that they were his friends, he let them do it. We're all taught that our real friends will never hurt us, right? He thought they were his friends and so he let them do it.
Bullies often coerce innocent special needs children, even adults, into doing their bidding, doing ridiculous things in public, things that make fools of them, things that will get them into trouble-and of course, afterward, these bullies will know nothing about any of it. I know we aren't really talking about robots here. I'll never know how the movie ended. I decided to quit when, after the pool incident, Mommy takes David out into the woods and leaves him there. The parents couldn't see their "real" son for what he was. The boys had a toy robotic teddy bear that saw what Martin was doing and he tried to help David. Pretty bad when Teddy Ruxpin is smarter and more compassionate than Mom and Dad.
Do parents really not teach their kids how they should treat special needs people? My perspective is unique. My oldest child is special needs. I was teaching the world how to treat him. I wasn't wondering how to raise my normal child. I was wondering how to protect my special one. Then we have a second child, and he is raised from birth, realizing that his brother is different and learning how to deal with him just like we do. So tell me, someone tell me. Why do they do it? Is there some natural urge to seek out and prey upon weakness? To press vulnerability? Does it really make their day to send the weird kid into the girl's bathroom when it's full of girls? Do they go home proud of themselves, patting each other on the back over how cool they are? Someone please, tell me what it is. Do they and their parents really think that my son is any less a person than they are, that he is less loved, less important, less able to contribute to society, that he is less anything that is positive and good? The only thing that he is really less is less cruel, less dispassionate, less hateful and less harmful.
Please teach your kids how to be compassionate with those that are different. After all, are we not all different? We all have vulnerabilities and quirks. If a society makes it acceptable to victimize the citizens that are most vulnerable, then I cannot be a part of society. Since William's diagnosis almost 9 years ago, I have slowly backed away from society. Some of it is because his behavior in public can make him difficult to handle. But I have come to realize that a lot of the reason for my withdrawal is because the behavior of society is difficult to handle. If you see a special needs child behaving strangely in public, please try to remember that you are not at the zoo. Many special needs children look normal but act strangely. If you see a child acting strangely, even behaving abominably, please don't start whispering behind your hands about how you would handle that kid if he were yours. If he were yours, you would understand. It may or may not be a special needs child that you are looking at, but the point is that you don't know.
End of rant.

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