Surprise new twist in Quaden’s story
Quaden Bayles' family have given new details on the fallout from the video that went viral earlier this year in the latest episode of ABC's Australian Story.
In a surprising turn of events, one public critic of his mother's decision to post the video has since connected with the family, offering Quaden advice on how to deal with those who seek to diminish him.
Ten-year-old Quaden, who lives with a common form of dwarfism, left people around the world heartbroken when mother Yarraka filmed him in February sobbing in the car as he told her: "Give me a knife - I want to kill myself."
The youngster had just suffered yet another bullying incident at his school over his size.
The confronting video went viral, with Quaden getting messages of love and support from across the globe, but soon, the mood turned "sour" as wild conspiracy theories circulated.
"Apparently, Quaden is an 18-year-old man. He's already rich and famous. He's an actor. I coached him to do and say everything in that video. And it was all fake. So, yeah, I just think, 'Wow. Really?' That's when I knew we needed a lot more help and support," said Yarraka on Australian Story.
Quaden's older sister, Guyala, detailed the effect of the sudden scrutiny.
"Sometimes I did wish Mum didn't post that video, you know, because it did affect all of us in a very big way. But I understand why she did it. You know, we all do."
Channel 9 Entertainment Reporter Brooke Boney introduced the episode, explaining that as she watched the story unfold in February, "I was struck by this young boy - he had so much spirit, and such a strong, protective mum by his side. And I couldn't believe something so innocent could take such a sinister turn."
US comedian Brad Williams, who also has dwarfism, started a GoFundMe page as the video circulated, so the family could go to Disneyland which got more than $700,000 in donations.
The Bayles family later declined the trip so that the money would go to charity instead.
"As much as Quaden has always dreamt of going to America, it just wasn't sitting right, and I just really had to think carefully. And we came up with that decision, that it's probably best that we don't take the trip," said Yarraka.
A "very small percentage" of the money is held in a trust for Quaden.
Despite the bizarre backlash, Yarraka said there had been so many more positive effects from the video she posted in that moment of desperation for her son.
One surprising positive effect: Yarraka connected with Florida schools psychologist Brooks Gibbs, who had posted a video of his own analysing the viral video, and offering a critique suggesting how Yarraka could've handled the situation differently.
"When I first saw Quaden's video, I just was heartbroken the moment I saw his face in total despair and his mother feeling completely helpless on how to help her child," said Gibbs.
"She desperately wanted to change the world around her son so that he wouldn't have to suffer. As a school psychologist, my message to Yarraka was, 'No, no, empower your child to be emotionally resilient, where he's not living for the approval of other kids.'"
Yarraka took that feedback on board - although it took some time. "While at first I felt like my parenting was under attack, I felt my defensive mechanisms were kicking in. I sat back and I processed that and I was like, 'He's right,'" she said.
Yarraka and Gibbs got in touch with each other - and during the Australian Story episode, Gibbs was shown having an online counselling session with both Yarraka and Quaden, in which he and the young boy workshopped strategies to improve his emotional resilience.
"I wanted to get rid of the word 'bullying' from their vocabulary. It just complicates and escalates hostilities," Gibbs explained.
"The second thing I wanted to do was teach Quaden emotional regulation. He can actually control how he feels by changing his thinking. It's basic cognitive behavioural therapy. So, if he doesn't believe what people are saying is a big deal, he won't have an emotional consequence."
Quaden said the advice from Gibbs had really helped: "It was really good: 'Don't get upset, treat 'em like a friend.' And that's what I say to people now and now they, like, understand."
From the depths of despair captured in that heartbreaking video, Quaden now has a bright outlook on life - and plans for a big future: "I just want to be in Grade 6 already and graduate," he told Australian Story.
"And just not go to high school, straight to college, so I can just be smart straightaway 'cause you learn more when you're in college. And I want to be a basketballer, AFL, footy, work for Energex... be a millionaire."
Originally published as Surprise new twist in Quaden's story