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by Abigail Van Buren

Girl Is Eager to Defend Kids Ridiculed for Being Different

DEAR ABBY: I am a 12-year-old girl and have a 10-year-old brother with autism. At school there are many kids who have special needs, and I try my best to befriend them.

A large number of students are unbelievably cruel to these people. They call them names and make fun of them right to their faces. Sometimes they don't do it in front of the person, but I also think it is very rude to talk about people behind their backs.

When I see or hear it happen, I would like to be able to say something to help them understand that what they are doing is not acceptable. What should I do when I am caught in these situations? -- TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN OHIO

DEAR TRYING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: People who ridicule others because they are physically or developmentally disabled sometimes do it for attention because it makes them feel superior or because they don't realize the damage they are doing.

One way to correct the perpetrators would be to speak up and say you don't think what they are doing is funny because you have a brother who struggles every day with the challenges of autism. You should also talk to a counselor or the principal of your school, describe what has been happening and suggest that the student body could benefit from sensitivity training regarding discrimination, which is offered at many schools.