A friend of mine recently brought a letter to my attention- the letter written to Karla Begley, the mother of a teen with autism living in Ontario. My friend asked what my response would be and says she is waiting with baited breath. She has had to wait a few days. (I'm sorry, Friend.)
This letter has been widely distributed. You can read the article I read at the Huffington Post here.
I needed a few days to really process this letter and discern what it meant to me and how I would feel if I had received the letter. While this entire letter is atrocious, the line that resonates with me is this:
"That noise he makes outside is dreadful...It scares the hell out of my normal children."
What exactly are normal children?
Ask any mom with a decent sense of humor and they'll tell you that children are not normal. Seriously though, we all have our issues, folks. We do. Every one of us. We must stop defining our children as normal. Life is not a game of normal kids vs. abnormal kids. We all have to get along and work and play together. Everybody has to play nicely in the sandbox.
The CDC says 1 of every 54 boys is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Think about that- 1 in 54. Karla Begley's boy is like 1 of every 54 boys. That sounds pretty normal to me. The CDC also says that about 1 of every 6 children in the United States has a developmental disability. That means Kara Begley's boy is like 1 of every 6 children. That sounds VERY normal to me. If we take a close look at those other 5 children, I bet we could find something abnormal about them. It seems like maybe the normal child is kind of the odd kid out, so to speak.
Fortunately, it sounds like the neighborhood has rallied in support of the family of the targeted teen in Ontario. I personally believe that hateful folks are few and far between and most people are supportive and kind. We could all go a step further though.
We could all stop using the word normal to describe those without differences or challenges. Think for a moment about how you teach your children and how you interact with the world around you. I have a son with autism. Would you speak to me and refer to my child as abnormal? Probably not. But would you refer your own child as normal? What defines abnormality? Children with allergies? Children who are gifted? Children who were premature? Children with freckles? Children without freckles? Blond children? Brunette children? Happy children? It's a very slippery slope, folks.
The reality is, there are no normal children- just children- and they all deserve our compassion and respect.
I won't address the rest of the letter because I just don't have it in me. That kind of hate doesn't deserve attention and dwelling on it would just drain any positive energy I have left. I need all the energy I can muster to raise my 5 children to be the kind of supportive, compassionate, and accepting folks this world so desperately needs.