But, Hey, What do I Know? (response to hate letter given to autistic child's grandmother)

I thought of a million ways of how to start writing this, but none of them seemed completely on point, none of them seemed accurate.

I’m sure by now most, if not all of us, have heard about the hate letter delivered to an autistic boy’s grandmother by a neighbour. Being an individual with special needs myself, I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I felt like I needed to get some things off of my chest.

In a world where tolerance of "abnormalcy" is growing, most people were probably surprised that the thoughts in a letter like this would even be brought to mind, let alone be typed out on a computer.

Well, I’m here to tell you that discrimination against individuals with special needs still exists, and hurts more than ever.

The reason it hurts more than ever? Because we have come so far, and yet eternity is still yet to go. If this were forty, thirty, or possibly even twenty years ago, this individual with Autism wouldn’t have even been able to see the light of day, therefore his "noise polluting whaling" would never have been an issue. He would have been locked away in some institution, most likely drugged up to control him. This is why I’m thankful that I was born in today’s day-and-age. I am fortunate enough to have parents that are able and willing to take care of me at home, giving me a chance to be productive in life. Now, I’m not saying that group homes and other facilities are terrible and completely evil, and that parents who send their children there are monsters. I’m just saying that I’m glad we have a choice, and aren’t told that these places are the only options. Advancements in technology have also been a tremendous asset to those with special needs, assisting with communication, transportation, and overall quality of life, making it easier to be taken care of at home rather than a facility.

As I start my twentieth year of life, this discrimination and disregard of individuals similar to me becomes more and more present in my eyes, in return making me even more determined to do absolutely everything I can to influence change on the views of society. How do I plan on doing this? Through music, the universal language. Last year I released a song called "Pray For A Better Day" (can be found on
www.bflix.ca), which was my plea for society to forget about the outer shell of a person, and cherish the inner depths of the soul. Really what I’m trying to do, is educate. That’s what I feel leads to discrimination, lack of exposure and lack of education. By looking at me you would never expect me to be a recording artist, so if I can show the world it’s possible, maybe society will see the possibilities and potential in others with special needs. If I were the mother or grandmother of the autistic child, at first I would have been outraged, furious, and hurt beyond belief. But, after calming down, I would have reached out and invited the woman who wrote the letter to meet my child with Autism, to show her that he IS a valued member of society, to teach her that without fully understanding a situation, you can’t be judgmental and ignorant. Obviously this would not be an easy  decision to be made, but in the long run, changing even just one person’s view is a success.

What we need is to start a movement. A movement like what was started by Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat on the bus, a movement like what was started when the gay community rioted at Stonewall, a movement like what was started when Nellie McClung, Henrietta Edwards, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy, and Irene Parlby decided to dispute the claim that women weren’t consider "persons". What we need is a movement. And I’m prepared to start one.

The hardest part was watching the autistic child’s mother in tears reading the hateful letter on camera for the news. It was heartbreaking. You could hear the devastation in her voice, "How could somebody say these things about my baby, about a person I love".

We were all created equal, so we all should be treated as equals. The special needs community has made great strides, and is still running, but not everything is as fantastic as it seems. Next time you encounter an individual with special needs, take a minute to think of the potential they are holding behind that exterior. Take time to ask a question. Take time to put love first.

Comments

  1. You're an inspiration to us all, Brent. I'm right there with you to be a part of this movement.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Stephanie! I've got plans! ;)

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