The following blog is by Blake Ayers, a youth leader with NCWD/Youth’s Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) Shining Lights Team. YouthACT is a national project for youth ages 12-25 geared toward getting more youth with disabilities involved as leaders in their communities.
Hi! My name is Blake Ayers and I am from Brownsburg, Indiana. I am a current volunteer for the Autism Society of Indiana and have been since December, 2013. I also have a chosen path and passion, which came from an experience that I’ll never forget. It will stay in my mind and in my heart.
I was diagnosed with autism during my sophomore year of high school, but before that I had always struggled with my reading comprehension. It was tough not being able to comprehend books at the same level as other in my own grade. I was laughed at, called names, and given a nickname in middle school. The nickname was “Special Freak” which meant that I was a freak for being a slow reader. See, I was almost 200 lbs. By the 7th grade I had excessive weight gain from feeling like I was worthless because of the nickname. I was hurting everyday on the inside, but I knew if I had smiled at least once a day then I would be good.
When I got to high school, everything that I thought would be okay, wasn’t. I was picked on and pushed around by others, because at only being 5’5”, I was seen as an easy target for bullying. There would be days when I go home and just start crying my eyes out, because I thought that I wasn’t good enough for the world. My grades were falling to the point where I was averaging a 1.6 GPA during my freshman year. Then, later into my freshman year, I became depressed because when I reported the bullying, nothing happened for months. I would come in almost every day, getting picked on about my height, weight, how I speak, or even about how I walk.
Shortly after spring break was over, on Friday April 16, 2010, I told my parents that I was having suicidal thoughts for three months and that I was ready to give up everything so I would be free of this pain and misery that I was going through. So, I ended up going to St. Vincent’s Stress Center for one week. After that, I knew from that day forward that I needed to stand up and speak out for not only myself, but for others as well who needed that voice to help them.
I then decided during my senior year to do a Senior Project on bullying prevention. So I went over and met a local police officer by the name of Sargent Peter Fleck. He and I teamed up and went to four schools in one week to talk to everyone in those buildings on how they or anyone else could help stop bullying. There were a total of 1,500 fliers made and passed out. The project was done over a span of three months. There was at least 150 people coming to me thanking the officer and me for what we did.
See, nobody should EVER be bullied in any way, if we come together, then we can stop this. There are so some ways you can get involved by talking to friends, family, and community leaders about making fliers and posters over the fact that this monster NEEDS to be destroyed and it can be, so let’s do this and win this battle.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month. See what our partners at PACER Center are doing to help stop bullying in communities around the country. Also check out our InfoBrief Bullying and Disability Harassment in the Workplace: What Youth Should Know to inform youth including youth with disabilities about bullying that does not end at school and what they can do about it.
Our YouthACT leaders are all active in their communities! Check out the latest publication co-written by these youth to learn more!