Update: The Crown Attorney's Office claims the letter fails to constitute a hate crime under the current Criminal Code, which doesn't include people with disabilities. Please help change that now by signing and sharing this petition.
I literally feel sick to my stomach after reading about an anonymous letter received by a family which describes their severely autistic boy as a “nuisance” and a “wild animal” who should be “euthanized.”
“I was shaking when I was reading it,” said grandmother Brenda Millson. “It’s awful words. You don’t know why somebody would ever do such a thing.”
The typed letter, written by "a pissed off mother," was delivered to Millson's home in Newcastle, Ont., where 13-year-old Max Begley stays in the mornings during the summer. Though the community has united to support the family, the police have been contacted. I pray the author of the letter, whoever she is, is found and prosecuted for her hate crime.
As I sit here reeling, I can't imagine how this compassionless woman can call herself a mother. Of course we will hear this story and shake our heads, disgusted at the typed words. Words that countless people have probably thought but never said out loud. While this missive may seem extreme, I don't think the ignorance behind it is all that rare.
Every day, parents of children with special needs fend off judgmental stares and rude comments when they are out with their families. You blurt out a diagnosis by way of apology. Oh, but he doesn't look it. That's the all-too-common response.
Max's mom Karla said her son loves nothing more than bouncing a ball. It breaks my heart that she feels the need to justify his right to play outside, in the safety of his grandma's backyard.
We need to do better. All of us. Don't be a coward like this woman. If you catch yourself staring, be friendly. Show support, not judgment. After all, it could be you. It could be your child.
A Pissed Off Mother
Whether or not you believe that ADHD is overdiagnosed and overprescribed, millions of kids in the U.S. and Canada suffer from attention deficit disorder. And with the school year ahead, many will struggle to succeed.
Having any child with special needs can be isolating and challenging. Luckily there are some bloggers out there sharing their awesome tips and personal stories to make you and your child feel less alone.
The health and wellness site Sharecare has just published a list of the Top 10 ADHD Bloggers, collated as the most "influential people in ADHD conversations on the web."
We are not islands. I firmly believe that having a community is really helpful in dealing with everyday parenting struggles. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I say it takes a village to support a parent, especially one whose child has extra needs.
Check out these authorities on ADHD and find some that really speak to you:
Anyone you would add to this list?
Back to school. Three words that evoke dread in many kids, and even doubly so in parents who have kids with special needs. Most of last year—my son's first—was spent floundering and getting to know a tricky public system. While there were some ups, my son's introduction into school life was a fairly rocky one.
In an attempt to make this year's transition smoother, I am doing what I can to ensure an easier start. Whether it's your child's first or fifth year, I'm a firm believer that a little preparation goes a long way. In that spirit I wanted to share some back-to-school tips for transitioning your special needs (or even a nervous or shy) child:
1. Since most teachers and staff are back on the job in the week before school starts, it's a great idea to visit the classroom. It needn't take long, but even a 10-minute visit will greatly reduce your child's anxiety when the first day rolls around. Depending where your child is at, a photo of both the classroom and the new teacher will serve as a reference point beforehand.
Not only will the teacher have a chance to meet your child without the distractions of other students and curriculum, you the parent land a rare opportunity to (briefly) highlight your child's strengths and some specific goals for the year ahead.
2. You will also want to prepare a profile of your child. Keep it simple, limited to bullet points (teachers have enough paperwork to sift through) about your child's learning style and any special interests. Once teaching gets underway, the teacher may be glad to have a 'cheat sheet' to refer to. Also worth making photocopies for other teachers who will work with your child, i.e. gym, music, etc.
3. But even before the meeting takes place, there are things you can do to help transition your child. By mid August I take my son along to the school playground for some casual fun without swarms of children. Again, the idea being that advance exposure helps reduce anxiety and boosts confidence, particularly if your child has any motor challenges. Imagine walking into a party or conference where you've never met anyone. Just setting foot in the building and knowing where the washrooms are, can ease some jitters.
4. If possible, obtain a timetable from the teacher, post it at home, and review it together before school starts. Organize materials for school in advance and let your child 'practice' packing/carrying/unloading.
5. Lastly, gradually turn back your child's body clock by pushing bedtime forward by 10-15 minutes a night in the weeks before school starts until it fits with their school hours. A tired child is more likely to be frazzled and overwhelmed.