The Real World

The Boy has had a helluva week. That means I have too, by proxy.

After a day and a half at a private driving school class, he was kicked out. Despite assurances to the contrary, the staff was not willing to work with him and for him to make sure he learned the material. They acted like I hadn’t been explicit about what his learning needs were. I asked if he could stay in the class just to get the instruction without taking any assessments. Not only did they refuse, they would not refund my money.

Then I found out that this entire summer, when my son went to the local pool three times a week with his autism camp, one of the lifeguards belittled the kids from camp, even commenting that she didn’t get “paid enough to deal with these retards.”

fist-blow-power-wrestling-163431

I’m not naive enough to have ever believed the “real world” is or ever was prepared for our kiddos. But it’s extremely difficult to watch your child get pummeled by the ugly out there. (And I use “ugly” as southerners often do, to describe someone whose soul is full of hatred, venom, and bile.) It’s even more difficult to watch the “real world” get uglier to “the others” in our society by leaps and bounds, every damned day.

It’s very hard to hold on to hope.

This kid has been rejected, abandoned, and discriminated against far too often in his 16 years on this planet. And he doesn’t deserve it.

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A Bigot and a Bully

slowLast year, the landlord and owner of the mobile home park where my parents live approached The Man and told him that we needed to “keep (our) retarded kid inside.”  He used the r-word several times in reference to The Boy, even after The Man asked him not to use the word.  He then went on to make wild accusations about The Man, and at the time, I was very proud of my husband for not hauling off and beating the pathetic excuse for a man, because I’m not sure I wouldn’t have gone ape$#!! on him.

Fast forward a year, almost to the day, and this pathetic excuse for a man writes a letter, knocks on my parents’ door and hands it to my mother, saying, “Read this.” He then took a few steps off the porch and said, “I’m sorry but that’s just how I feel,” and walked away.

The letter explained that he had several complaints about The Boy playing in the park roadway, jumping out in front of cars, and lying down on the roadway, as well as using his scooter in the roadway.  He requested that The Boy be supervised at all times while outside.

Let me start by saying that the “speed limit” in the park is 5 miles per hour, with a sign saying “Slow, Children Playing” above every speed limit sign posted in the park, and that new signs were erected within the last two months.  Let me also add that there is no sidewalk in the park, nor is there a “recreation area.”  In addition, other residents and guests of all ages ride their bikes and walk their dogs in the roadway.

My son is thirteen years old, and knows to get out of the way of an oncoming car, even if it is only going 5 miles per hour.  He does not jump out in front of cars, nor does he lie down in the road. But my son is “different” than all the other residents and guests. And that is the basis for this discrimination and harassment.  That is the basis for how this pathetic excuse for a man “feels,” and not any fabricated “complaints.” You kind of give away your “tell” when you call a kid “retarded.”

I have spoken with an attorney, drafted and sent a letter, and copied it to the sheriff’s department as well as the state Attorney General.  This pathetic excuse for a man has not only violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, but also a state act that was passed to protect the rights of those with disabilities. We also plan to make an appointment with the sheriff’s department to take The Boy there and meet with some deputies, alert them to the situation, and educate them a bit about The Boy and his autism, just in case.

There really are people out there like this pathetic excuse for a man, folks.  They exist and they think they have the right to say and do what they’d like, as well as dictate what those who are different can and can’t do.  They are so wrong, and this good ol’ boy, pathetic excuse for a man is gonna learn how wrong he is.

Like a Smack in the Face

It happened at about 8:15 this morning, and as I write this almost 12 hours later, I am still in disbelief.

The Man called me at work and asked if I had a minute to talk.  “Uh oh,” I thought.  He proceeded to tell me about his encounter with the mobile home park owner where my parents live.

First, some background.  The Boy goes to Grammy’s during the day while we work in the summer, and gets dropped off there after school during the school year.  He likes to walk along the drive that runs by in front of the trailer, always barefoot.  When cars come, always extremely slowly because a) they are mostly old people who live there, and b) there are 101 speed bumps on the half-mile of drive around the small park, he gets off the road to let them pass.

Today, the owner told The Man that we need to keep our “retarded kid inside.”

Yup, you read that right, word for word.

He then backtracked and told The Man that he couldn’t “play” on the road.  He could play on the empty lot at the bend in the road a few doors down, but he couldn’t play in the road because he had gotten complaints, and he had almost been hit by several cars.

Ironically, a sign like this is posted at the entrance to the park...

Ironically, a sign like this is posted at the entrance to the park…

Seemingly unaware of how many laws he had already broken, he went on to provoke The Man even further, and continued to use the r-word even after The Man had corrected him.  I’m amazed this guy didn’t end up in the hospital.  The Man handled it like a rockstar, and ended the conversation before he could get into trouble.  He, too, is still livid 12 hours later.

I got off the phone with The Man and realized I felt like I had been punched or smacked in the face.  I read a recent post by Autism Daddy where he wondered where all the hatred was.  Apparently it lives down here.

The Man, Grammy and Poppy and I are all seething with anger and injustice, but like smart people, we are devising just how best to deal with this worthless human being.  Grammy has a speech prepared for the next time she encounters this poor excuse for a man, and we will have to see how he responds and go from there.  His intent is to piss us off enough that my parents will move out, and his “problem” will be solved.  But you know what?  They aren’t going anywhere.  And The Boy will continue to walk where he pleases.  We won’t engage with this jackhole, and we won’t be threatened or intimidated.  He went so far over the line that he has absolutely no recourse now but to shut up and go away.  Anything else will be met with quick and swift response from us, and it will not end well for him.

I’m interested to see what will happen next.  You?

It’s Just A Word

Still using the "r-word"?  Find yourself a dictionary...

Still using the “r-word”? Find yourself a dictionary…

Recently, the r-word has reared its ugly head again in my purview.  Several weeks ago, I was on Pinterest, and saw a pin with this “joke”: “Sometimes your knight in shining armor is just a retard in tin foil”.  Hilarious, right?  No.  Not funny in the least.  And I usually don’t jump on people on that site, because I don’t know them from Adam, and don’t want to get into it with strangers.  In my experience, that can get a little scary.

But I noticed that several others were posting comments to the pin that took exception to it, so I chimed in.  And a couple of people responded to me, jumping all over me to “get a grip”, “life isn’t always nice”, “people are too damn touchy today”, “get over it”, “cool your beans” and plenty of expletives.  Now let me explain that my comment was in no way heated — it was: “Just because it doesn’t hurt you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt someone else.”  But I was told to “cool (my) beans” and “get a grip”!

One person responded specifically to me, and in her response, said this: “If the word hurts you, it is because you allowed it to. I am overweight, if I cried every time I heard the word fat, I would be a constant mess.”

So, it’s OK for people to use derogatory language, because I’m supposed to be stronger, and those on this planet with Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Cognitive Impairments, and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are just supposed to be stronger, and “get over it”, if the word “retard” hurts them?

Another commenter said this: “Oh goodness it’s a word for crying out loud! I have a cousin with Down syndrome and a cousin with autism and not a single person in my family over reacts over the word ‘retard’ you know why, because we don’t use that word to describe them so why the hell should it be offensive, do you actually sit there and call your mentally disabled children retarded? No? Then get over it!!!”

So, because I don’t use that word to describe my son, it shouldn’t be offensive to me??

Um… What???

I think the people on the wrong side of this, those who accuse us of being the “word police”, need some stronger arguments, because theirs just make no sense.  I am not the word police.  But I will point out to you when a word you use is hurtful, because I believe people should be nice to each other – didn’t we all learn that in Kindergarten?  Because I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, that you just didn’t realize you were being mean.  If you dig your feet in, because you should be allowed to say whatever you want, you are correct.

You can say anything you want.  But that doesn’t mean you should.

If you agree, check out this awesome info-graphic about the word “gay”.  We should totally get one of these made for the r-word!

The R-Word, Again

Why am I writing about this again?  Because I’m still encountering the word, almost daily.  Granted I work with middle schoolers, but really?  Most of them know better than to say it, at least around me.  It’s the rest of the world that hasn’t gotten the clue, yet…

Here are the most common arguments I see on the internet, about why we special needs moms need to chill out about this:

  1. It’s just a word.  Yep, like the n-word, or any other label for any other minority in the country.  If it’s just a word, go into any urban area and start using these words, and then let’s see if it’s still “just a word”.
  2. Retarded is a medical term.  It is actually being replaced in the DMS-5, and is really still only used in insurance paperwork and research.  In fact the term “mental retardation” began to be used because the previous term used for the condition was deemed offensive.  This argument didn’t work for long back then, either.
  3. You are trying to be the word police, and I have First Amendment rights.  Go ahead and use the word, as long as you use it in job interviews, when you meet your girlfriend’s parents, when trying to get a bank loan, and any other time you want to put your best foot forward.  Huh, you say you don’t want to do that?  Then maybe that’s a clue that it’s a word that makes you look like you have a stunted vocabulary.
  4. It’s not really aimed at people with intellectual disabilities.  I would never say that term to someone’s face.  Well, that’s even better!  You would use it behind someone’s back.  Continue using it and wearing T-shirts with the word on it, so that I can steer clear of you.  If you censor yourself around certain people, who knows what you are saying about your friends behind their backs!
  5. It doesn’t really hurt anyone.  I can still remember being at a family Christmas right around the time when we finally got a diagnosis of autism for The Boy, and his uncle called him a “spaz”.  I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.  I was thankful that The Boy didn’t hear it, but words really do hurt.

Do you think the people who tweeted these disgusting, nasty things about Gabby Giffords were just using it as a slang term?

Gabby Giffords tweets

Do you want to be lumped in with them?  Because you will be.  Arguing that you aren’t using it “like that” won’t get you anywhere.  It’s time to drop the word from your vocabulary.  It’s a losing battle.

That Woman that Said that Word, and Why It’s Wrong

Words

Words (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

I wasn’t going to write about it, but I need to.  I’m not even going to put her name in this post, because she doesn’t deserve the attention, nor the notoriety.  She went there, she has used the r-word plenty of times, and refuses to apologize, because it’s a “colloquialism” that means “loser”.

Well. Of course, any rational being with an ounce of humanity would not call a person with an intellectual or developmental disability that word.

THAT IS NOT THE POINT.  THE POINT IS that that woman continues to give that word that meaning, by continuing to use it the way she does.  It would be like someone deciding that your name now means “jackhole”, and using it that way all the time.  Not to your face, of course, but as much as possible, and with everyone they know.  So now, your name is synonymous with the word “jackhole”.  But those people using your name like that?  They don’t mean to offend you, and they have a right to say it, because they have a right to free speech in this country.  How would that feel, woman?

THE POINT IS that if you do something, and it hurts someone, and they say to you, nicely, “Hey, could you stop doing that?  It hurts me,”  any rational being with an ounce of humanity will say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

But she didn’t say that.  She said somethig along the lines of “Nah nah nah boo-boo, stick your face in doo doo,” because that’s the classy kind of gal she is.

Ergo, that woman that said that word is not a rational being, and is without an ounce of humanity.  Do I hear a new slang term coming on?…

Sunday Shout-Out: Love That Max

Ellen Seidman’s blog, Love That Max combines wonderful stories about life with her son, Max, who has cerebral palsy, and large doses of advocacy.  She tells stories that special needs moms can relate to, not being able to have a normal out-to-dinner experience, rejoicing when Max has an opportunity to work at a car wash, and she writes about the r-word.  She has become such a cogent voice for us on that issue that she has been interviewed by major news outlets about it, and she never fails to articulate our feelings clearly.  She’s one of my heroes on that score alone.

Right now on her blog, and on twitter she’s telling the world about groups that are helping families with special needs children in the wake of Sandy, and how we can help.

If you haven’t already, go read Love That Max (and follow her on twitter @LoveThatMax).  You’ll see how amazing Ellen and Max both are.