Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Hateful Letter to Family With Autism - My Thoughts

When I first heard about this, I hoped people were exaggerating.  But they're not.

The letter sent to the family about their child with autism was hateful.  If you want to see the text, you can look here.  Reading it, I am struck by the fear and disgust of the author, which can be a very dangerous combination.

The community is rallying around the child, which is good but this still needs to be taken very seriously as a threat, which I hope the police are doing.

I've written about this before.  It's an unfortunate fact that children and adults with autism tend to be targeted more by disgruntled individuals simply because they stand out from the crowd.  A brief snap of temper can result in a violent outburst and while people are often contrite once their temper has mended, it doesn't change the fact that the person with autism has had to deal with that outburst and many like it.

One thing I urge parents to do is to think about how they want to handle such confrontations.  Often they will be face to face rather than through a letter and so some handy retorts can be useful.  My default position is that I will apologize for misbehaviour and inconvenience, I will explain odd but not harmful behaviour and I will crack down on any aggressive behaviour.  But if I will not allow my child to be subject to emotional or physical abuse.

I don't care if it costs me a teaching moment.  Whether it's someone making a snide comment because my child touches his car or someone attempting to physically manhandle my child, it's not going to happen on my watch.  I expect proper behaviour out of adults, not reacting like a bully.  I will not accept abuse as an acceptable reaction to unconventional behaviour.

We've had to struggle a lot with our kids' behaviour.  Alex can be aggressive when frustrated and I take steps to protect the public from him.  But I am his mother and I will protect him to the ground from anyone looking to hurt him.

The letter saddens me as an example of a reality I wish was not true.  Like Delenn from Babylon 5, I would like to believe we can all aspire to be better, be more than we are.  And to be fair, the vast majority of people are compassionate and understanding if given the chance.  It is a rare individual who is not and one bad apple shouldn't spoil the barrel.

But it does make me think twice before reaching in.

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