Autism Month Awareness is Important Kindness and Words Matter
April 8, 2020
I've been thinking about something lately. When I was a kid, there were words I heard (and used) a lot at the time that didn't mean a damn thing to me. I didn't think about what they meant or if they would hurt anyone around me if I said them. The older I got, the more I became aware of the words and I won't lie, I slipped up and would say them, but started to notice it would leave a bit of sting in me after I would say them. I honestly believe it was God's way of telling me to knock it off.
Fast forward to 4 years ago, my son, David, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with a language deficit, that alone was a life changer and a HUGE eye-opener for Ash and me. It was so hard for me to accept this, not that he is Autistic, but the label he would be given. My amazingly awesome son has a developmental disability. In my mind, I started to wonder is that all people will see? Will he be treated differently? Will he be accepted? Will he succeed in life? Will he be teased and called those words I've come to despise, that sting me, hurt me and quite honestly piss me off when I hear them? Will he have to deal with bullying when he is in school? This hit me pretty hard because I know for other reasons what it was like going through school being teased and called names. I don't want him to go through it. Granted over the years and realizing those who teased me don't mean a thing to me, and they really must have had issues with their self-esteem to do and say the things they did.
I was talking to someone very close to me who was sitting near a couple that they know very well. My friend overheard them calling a group of people "retards" and it bothered my friend enough for them to say something to this couple, because they, like me, know someone very close to them with a disability. My friend asked them if they knew anyone with a disability because their family member has one. The couple's response was a sarcastic "sorry!". This couple is well past the age to know better, and yet they don't care because they don't know. They wear blinders and only see and hear what they want. They believe one thing and one thing only. They don't look at the bigger picture and realize what can hurt those around them.
I know I am going to run into this for the rest of my life, and I will never be able to change their minds or help them see/understand what they say does stay with a person. It can hurt them to a point where they can't recover from what they've been called or what is said to them.
I will, however, stand up for my child and for others with a physical/mental/developmental disability. I will advocate for both my children. I will teach them right from wrong, and I will teach them how to respect those around them. Mama bear will show up. I'm not saying I'm going to rip into people when I hear them say these things, but I may just ask this question: "Do you know someone or have someone in your family with a developmental disability?" I won't say it in an angry or rude way, just simply ask.
What I won't say to them is I'm so sorry. So very sorry that you have to resort to calling someone a retard or saying, "they must be stupid/dork/dumb." You must struggle with your self-esteem that you have to belittle those around you to feel better about yourself.
Guys, I'm not perfect, not even remotely close, I know I've expressed my feelings about things, people and subjects, but I've learned from my mistakes, and honestly, I'm still learning. My heart is soft and empathetic when it comes to those who cannot advocate or stick up for themselves. Call me what you want, go ahead and think that I'm just whiner. This is me, and I'm thankful my parents taught me empathy, kindness, respect for those around me, and manners.
I'm just urging you all to think before you speak. Think about who you know, who you love that may have a developmental disability, or any type of disability, which may be "different" than you. Kindness matters, and so do words.