|FORMER PARKDALE STUDENT OVERCAME BULLYING IN THE FACE OF AUTISM|
MONTREAL, JANUARY 16, 2015- Steve Atme wishes there was an initiative like KINDERgarten when he was younger.
At the English Montreal School Board KINDERgarten launch, Steve shared the experience of what it was like for someone with Autism being bullied and how he persevered. Now a member of the I Can Dream Theatre Group, he performed the song The Prayer, which addresses finding a safe place for every child.
Steven attended Parkdale Elementary School from 1998 to 2001. He says he was bullied due to his lack of social skills and behavioural issues. “Students threw rocks at me, scratched me, made fun of me and called me names,” he shared. “I felt like I didn’t fit in because of my autism diagnosis and because of my behavioural issues.”
Autism was not as well understood at that time. In fact, this was the early years of the EMSB before a team of specialists were hired to deal with the growing number of students on the Spectrum. These days other students are far more sensitized. “Parkdale in particular is doing an outstanding job with its ASD population and the KINDERgarten initiative will only serve to help,” says Tania Piperni, the first ASD consultant hired by the EMSB in 2005.
Steven transferred to Summit School in 2001 where he thrived with therapy that helped him improve his social skills and form lasting friendships. He attended the Summit School satellite class at Westmount High School for two years. When he was bullied there the school put a stop to it.
Now in his fourth year of studies at the McGill Conservatory of Music, Steven is a pianist, composer, piano teacher, and public speaker. His speech titled Special People Have Dreams recounts his life with Autism, the challenges he faced as a non-verbal child, and how he has succeeded in embracing his talents and passions. He teaches private piano lessons at Summit School to people with and without special needs, including the music teacher. He also helps people with behavioural issues.
An inspiration to all, Steven is an integral member of the I Can Dream Theatre Group which provides people with special needs the opportunity to perform, Steven delivered a touching monologue and brilliant performance of The Prayer in this year’s show titled Hannibal the musical.
Michael J. Cohen