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Why Pink Shirt Day is Important to me as an Autistic Person

February 28th, 2024

Guest Author

For Everyone

Trigger warnings for this guest blog include: Bullying, Suicide, Abuse, and Racism

On Pink Shirt Day, whenever I hear about ostracism, teasing, and bullying, the group that I still think about is my disability community. Disabled kids, I know, often face bullying due to their appearance or speech. It breaks my heart to see kids like me being picked on. Sadly, the majority overlooks the constant occurrence of bullying towards people with disabilities. If you have a diagnosis of either an intellectual disability, physical disability, or a developmental disability, there’s a huge chance you get bullied. Disabled individuals often face higher rates of bullying compared to abled or neurotypical children.

Pink Shirt Day’s the day when not only at schools, workforces, or post-secondary schools, but the public wear a pink shirt to raise awareness about bullying. Pink Shirt Day happens every year on February 28th. This special event is very dear to me because I want to support others who were bullied or struggled to go to work or school. I was one of those kids who were ostracized.

Why is Pink Shirt Day important to me as an autistic person? It helps bring more awareness into the conversation about being friends and allies to the disability community. People in the public often disregard and cannot understand disabled individuals, especially those who belong to minority and black communities. Pink Shirt Day plays an important role in the disability community because it encourages the public to be more inclusive to them and respectful.

Stories from the disability community

Disability community stories deserve the spotlight. Many stories from them need the public’s attention. People with disabilities have a lot to contribute, possess many talents, and, especially, they’re great friends! Their presence in the spotlight is crucial to understanding. There are several stories from the disability community that bring the conversation more vivid.

We all remember Amanda Todd, the late Port Coquitlam teenager from British Columbia who was exploited and bullied by a random stranger. Amanda had social skills issues coming from a diagnosis of ADHD.

In addition, you may never hear of the tragic true story of Fiona Pilkington and Francecca Hardwick from the UK. After ten years of torment from a group of taunting teenagers, Fiona took her own and her daughter’s life. Their story turned into a feature short film called This Is Vanity for YouTube.

Bullying is hard in the disability community and it’s terrible on what kids have to go through…

Learning about Pink Shirt Day

Back in grade 8 and grade 9 in highschool, I used to take all life skills classes and hung out a lot with the life skills class. But, when I got to grade 10 and beyond, I started taking regular classes because most of the work there at life skills were too easy. My exposure to Pink Shirt Day came about when I was in grade ten and joined an event with my class. I loved hanging out with my special education class in room 302 and visited other life skills classes. I couldn’t imagine how lonely it must’ve felt for them when they want to hang out with the other kids, but they don’t know how to. It must’ve been hard for them.

That’s when my bond with the disability class got much stronger.

When you go to regular classes, it’s different from special education. Their work is more difficult, you need to be more alert and take lots of responsibility. The sad thing is, if you’re the only disabled person in the regular class, they ostracize you and don’t talk to you that much. I was lucky I wasn’t bullied, but once in awhile I faced ostracism in social studies, gym, and music class.

I bonded with most disabled kids in special education on Pink Shirt Day—It was inspiring to me how much these kids with disabilities went through so much but all they showed was their infectious smiles. I met a lot of incredible disabled kids at my homeroom and other special education classes I’ve been to who inspired me to learn how to be myself. Whenever I’m alone, I look back at them and they’re always my champions to me. I remember most of the students there and their talents they shared with me.

One student had autism, but he remembered the words to some of his favorite songs. Most of them were Disney songs. There’s something magical about Disney that helped kids with autism flourish and bloom.

Another student had the biggest and the most sensitive heart I encountered. He cared a lot about his students and is one of the nicest guys too. He’s like a gentle giant!

A new Grade 8 student came to my homeroom and was shy. Until, we discovered he had a grand passion for recycling and is very good at organizing the bins full of cans and bottles. He has an amazing sense of humor too!

Why this day is personal

The reason pink shirt day’s one of the most personal events to me is I want to be that person to help others and know it’s okay for them to be themselves. I understand what it’s like to be isolated and alone. Disabled people are more isolated and scared of going out.

Most of you may not notice, but there has been a kind of implicit discrimination that is happening in North American school systems. According to statistics in research, researchers discovered in school districts: People with disabilities receive harsher punishments but only towards black and minority children. Minority and black disabled children receive harsher punishments because of many things. One of those things had to do with generalized stereotypes. One of the worst stereotypes is that minority and black disabled children are they’re uneducated, loud, aggressive, and demanding. Generalizing stereotypes is one reason minority and black disabled children are getting harsher punishments. Here are some examples on how minority and black disabled children are becoming a recurring issue that some people had struggled to see.

A boy from the United States was arrested for illegal driving but he was found innocent. This kid allegedly has been arrested. When this broke off from the news, many people found him innocent that he was not the one who started the accident. Some had called out to the public that it’s an example of implicit racism.

Another story came by from a Swedish disabled person who has his own Instagram page. It’s a true story about a raising awareness of Autism while you’re in the minority category. A teenage, black, disabled boy was illegally put to jail without reasoning. He had a meltdown at the mall when it was closing time. The police had him arrested and the facility he was being taken to had tortured him. He wasn’t allowed to see his family because they had been documenting his stay there and wanted to show proof how awful the facility was taking care of minority children. His story’s been spread around the globe. Not only is this about him, it’s also about representing other children stories who are like his. Minority children and autistic black children have the right to tell their stories and know their needs. I hope for him and the other kids like him have their voices heard…

The importance of Pink Shirt Day

So, what’s the reason why Pink Shirt Day is so important to me? Because the disability community is one of my favorite communities and the most dearest to me. I felt like I wanted to be their friend and I know lots of them as they’ve been a part of me. They are my absolute #1 inspiration. The kids in special education showed me a whole new world of what it’s like to accept your disability. I want them to feel empowered and to stand up for themselves against bullying. It can be scary to be alone, to have no friends, especially when you have a disability. But miracles and hopes full of dreams can always come right back at you. In matter of fact, I know six young boys who came to the rescue to help an autistic boy feel more welcome and even gifted him a PS4 system with games. I know a teenage boy who’s neurotypical who’s childhood friend is autistic and still to this day, they’re the closest friends. I know a kid who makes buddy benches to make kids feel more welcome and to make sure they’re not alone. There are others who can help.

Remember everyone, always be kind to one another…

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