(This blog got caught up in the massive storm that was too many things scheduled, so I wanted to finally get it up. Because it does matter.)
Before each class, I told them that they were my captive audience, and that they had to listen to me get up on my soapbox.
I went into my spiel about spreading the word, tell them about the term ID, and asking them to check out the website and take the pledge.
In my second class of the night, I had a 14 year old student. When I told delivered my speech to him, he said. “Wow. Uh. I’ve said retarded like a dozen times so far today.”
Did I do that, too, when I was 14?
I don’t remember doing it, but, then again, I also don’t remember the time that I answered every test question with the word “frog.” (I apparently did that. One of my friends reminded me about it. I still don’t remember doing it, but it definitely sounds like something I would have done in high school)
I asked my student to think about it and check out the website. Maybe even share it around.
And I thought – what if this website, and this idea of respect for those with disabilities, had existed 30 years ago?
What if it’d seen something like it?
Would it have affected my word use?
My friends and their word use?
Will it affect him?
When I hear it in movies, I cringe every time. Doesn’t matter if it’s an old movie or a new movie. Doesn’t matter if it’s appropriate to the character’s personality.
I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to get rid of the stigma and the insult based on intellectual disabilities, but we can spread the word to end the word.
And maybe that will reduce the number of times I cringe when I read Facebook posts, watch movies, read books, or talk to strangers and acquaintances.
Once upon a time (about a week ago now), a “pissed off mother” wrote a letter that went Internet-crazy.
Obviously, this letter was just a wee bit upsetting to all of those who have children with autism or other developmental disabilities. It took me a while to form a response, but now that I’ve calmed down, I wanted to respond. It *needs* a response.
First, I can’t blame this mother for sending it anonymously. If I had written something with punctuation that was that bad, I wouldn’t want anyone to know I had written it either. (Joking. Humor helps, right?)
But to get to the serious part, I feel sorry for the mother who wrote this letter. Genuinely sorry. Sorry for her and the life she leads. The life she’s going to lead.
She needs to think about the lesson she’s teaching her children. She needs to remember that her children will be the ones picking her nursing home. And that’s not a joke. I’m not being facetious. The letter she wrote shows a distinct lack of caring for those who aren’t “normal” or behave oddly. According to one Alzheimer’s website, the risk of someone developing a form of dementia is one in 14. If she is that one in 14, her children will fear her and revile her, just the way she has taught them to. She shouldn’t be surprised if she finds herself in an inexpensive nursing home with no visitors and no one coming to her grave after she dies alone.
We reap what we sow. She has made it clear that those who are imperfect are not worthy of love or even simple human dignity. She will have that experience herself one day, and perhaps by then it will be far too late for her to change her mind or teach her children differently.
That’s why I feel sorry for her and the life she leads. I also feel sorry for her children. Perhaps none of them will ever learn to appreciate the simple things in life or even life itself. She won’t read this. And she wouldn’t care or understand even if she did. And for that, there is no cure. She will suffer forever.
My son may scare her, but he has empathy. He would feel bad about scaring her. She, on the other hand, scares me. She doesn’t feel bad about scaring people. And she doesn’t know why that’s wrong.
Autism can be coped with. What’s wrong with her, however, can’t be. She may be able to pretend she’s normal sometimes, but her letter makes it clear that she does not possess human emotions. And for that, I feel sorry for her. I have to hope that other parents of autistic children can find it in their hearts to feel sorry for her, too. Because while her letter might shock us and hurt us, we have the strength to move past it. And she never will.