- Posted September 1, 2013 by
Mammoth Lakes, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Travel photo of the day
Fined for Frivolity
Fined for Frivolity…What?
The most important phase of living with a person: the respect for that person as an individual.
-Millicent Carey McIntosh
Individuals with special needs often communicate or express their needs and emotions in unique ways if they have few or no words. Our son flaps his hands and hops, one foot to the other, laughing, squealing delight. In public he is a spectacle, a beautiful authentic being who stands apart. He is silly, frivolous, and odd. We adore these characteristics.
Not everyone does.
Recently a mother of a teenager with autism in Canada received a letter, slipped under her door, imploring her to ‘euthanize’ her boy.
To the lady living at this address:
I also live in this neighborhood and have a problem!!! You have a kid that is mentally handicapped and you consciously decided that it would be a good idea to live in a close proximity neighborhood like this???? You selfishly put your kid outside everyday and let him be a nothing but a nuisance and a problem to everyone else with that noise polluting whaling he constantly makes!!! That noise he makes when he is outside is DREADFUL!!!!!!!!!! It scares the hell out of my normal children!!!!!! When you feel your idiot kids needs fresh air, take him to our park you dope!!! We have a nature trail!! Let him run around those places and make noise!!!!! Crying babies, music and even barking dogs are normal sounds in a residential neighborhood!!!! He is NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
He is a nuisance and will always be that way!!!! Who the hell is going to care for him?????? No employer will hire him, no normal girl is going to marry/love him and you are not going to live forever!! Personally, they should take whatever non retarded body parts he possesses and donate it to science. What the hell else good is he to anyone!!! You had a retarded kid, deal with it…properly!!!! What right do you have to do this to hard working people!!!! I HATE people like you who believe, just because you have a special needs kid, you are entitled to special treatment!!! GOD!!!!!!
Do everyone in our community huge a favor and MOVE!!!!! VAMOSE!!!!! SCRAM!!!! Move away and get out of this type of neighborhood setting!!! Go live in a trailer in the woods or something with your wild animal kid!!! Nobody wants you living here and they don’t have the guts to tell you !!!!
Do the right thing and move or euthanize him!!! Either way, we are ALL better off!!!
One pissed off mother!!!!
How did the recipient of the letter respond? With grace. She did not address the letter, but instead offered this, “What I have to say is about tolerance, acceptance and respect for kids with special needs.”
My sister-in-law is a professor who travels the world speaking on various topics regarding education and the special needs community. It was she who told me to place the condition of a person last when we speak: Davis is not a special needs man, but a man with special needs. The anonymous writer who wrote ‘retarded kid’, special needs kid’, and ‘wild animal kid’ held an obvious intolerance for these members of our society. We respect first the individual, and then may go on to add the title or description that is appropriate without being destructive.
Our community recently lost a son with autism. We mourn with the parents, we feel the loss of the gift - - John. There are many volunteers and staff from Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), with heavy hearts who will miss his eccentricities, his beautiful bounce. DSES, and other programs like IMACA, Kern Regional Center and the local school districts, have made great strides in exposing us all to those who may be different. Local businesses participated by bringing employees with special needs into their stores and restaurants. Mammoth Mountain hired my son and others who are part of a local workability program. He also works a few hours a week for IMACA in Bishop. We framed Davis’s first paycheck. Our family has been fortunate because we raise Davis in a community where those who may be of limited capacity are not fined for their frivolity, for clownishness, silliness, for not blending in. We embrace our neighbors’ kids who happen to be different, we engage and include our kids and adults who might make odd noises or move awkwardly. We teach others who may not have been around these unique individuals simply by blending the groups as we can.
What builds acceptance of others who are different starts with exposure and inclusion.
When my kids were small I used to read them a children’s story called The Napping House by Audrey Wood (no relation). In the tale ‘There is a house, a napping house, where everyone is sleeping.’ We, as a society, are a napping house when it comes to full inclusion, full access to our world for individuals who have special needs. The term is not a cliché, ‘special needs’ but rather an invitation to assist those who cannot assist themselves. If we can wake just one person, or one group, or one culture, then we can wake another. Eventually we might reach the writer of the sad hate letter to the ‘lady living at this address’. Wake one, wake another, and soon, in the story, the whole house is out in the backyard playing, together.
These people, these men, women and children who arrive or who become ‘different’ help us to learn not to take everything too seriously, to keep our own childlike innocence and our play-fullness present. We can grow our hearts to a fuller capacity by accepting the gift of their individuality. We can even learn patience.
Recently, I was challenged to define myself in a bio and I stumbled. Words from Les Miserables came to mind…”Who am I?” Real Estate Broker? Fiber and Oil Artist? Wanna-be-Author? Wife to a runner, lawyer, Mayor--Rick? One fortunate enough to have parented Lynnell and Ryan? A lucky mother-in-law to Sarah? A Service Dog Trainer for Lucy? A daughter, a sister, a friend? Yep, I am all of these. But mostly I am One-Who Walked-Beside-a-Boy-so-Different and became One-Who-Walks-Beside-a-Man-Unique who just turned eighteen. We all live in The Eastern Sierra where we can watch hearts grow big. We don’t use a lot of exclamation marks because we are a tolerant tribe.
There is a world, a napping world, where some are sleeping. Let’s wake them up and teach them not to fine anyone, anymore, for frivolity. Let’s start with exposure and inclusion, add a bit of tolerance and get us all out to play respectfully with everyone…to accept the gift of our differences.
One Blessed Up Mom!