Community Psychiatric Centers
Monroeville, Greensburg, Monessen, and Wilkinsburg Pittsburgh

September 5, 2013

The Hate-Filled Letter: What now? | Sept. 5, 2013

Grandmother receives a nasty letter

You undoubtedly heard by now of the over-the-top, vicious and shameful letter a family in Canada received about their child who has autism. Apparently the neighbor was put-off by the child’s behavior and wrote a hate-filled letter of complaint that was full of insults and vitriol.

Our Reaction

Of course, all reasonable people react with shock, anger, and disdain that a person could be so hostile, thoughtless, and compassionless. We feel for this child and his family, and pray for the child’s future and happiness.

Parent’s Reaction

The child’s mother provided a moving response, indicating that she fully recognizes her child’s behavior can be challenging, and that she does her best to educate neighborhood children and others about his condition. She emphasizes that, despite his condition, of course he deserves respect and to live without ridicule.

Deeper Implications

This situation is clearly extreme and, one would imagine and hope, out of the ordinary. However, it reflects the all-too-common experience of parents of children with autism, and their child with autism. In that respect, how many parents have stories to share of glaring looks and rude remarks, while their child faces teasing, bullying, ridicule, and alienation.

Where do we go from here with this troubling event?

Well, we take a terrible situation and, to the extent possible, we learn from it. Learn what? Well, a few things:

1. We highlight this mother’s point that educating others is vital. If your child with autism is going to come in contact with others in the neighborhood, at a club or sport, in the classroom, or wherever, it’s imperative, to the extent possible, to help those children and adults to know, ahead of time, what to expect from your child and how to react. There needs to be an understanding that, despite some potentially odd behaviors, your child is delightful, friendly, playful, and pleasant.

2. To the extent possible, a child with autism tends to need direct adult supervision during such encounters. If not you, then an adult who knows and understands your child needs to be present to intervene as needed and facilitate a more successful social experience. In that regard, leaving the child to his or her own devices is less than advisable; it can result in all sorts of problems and leaves your child vulnerable to being ridiculed and ostracized.

3. We continue our unending quest to educate the public at large about autism; its characteristics and challenges. We spread the word that the stereotypes are largely unfounded and only serve to foster prejudice. Clearly and unquestionably, the more the general public knows and understands, the better for children with autism and their families.

Moving on

We wish this child and his family nothing but the best, and to live in peace and harmony in their community. We want the same for all those struggling with disabilities. So keep fighting the good fight, and while it sometimes may not feel like it, know that you have a multitude in your corner.

God bless.

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