Can you imagine, for one moment, if you received a letter telling you that the “non-retarded” parts of your child’s body should be gathered up to be used for others, and the rest thrown away? One family in Ontario did. By now you may already know the story of the Begley Family and Max, a 13 year old with autism as this heinous letter has circulated all over the internet and newsfeeds for the majority of this week.
This letter from “one pissed off mother” reeks of the discrimination, bullying and lack of education from the community that people with I/DD face daily. How do we fix this? Is it fixable? Even if there are laws and repercussions for expressing such anger and wish for someone else’s life to end as this did, will that stop the inner dialogue and bring about understanding, or just silence the hate? If it is the latter, is that still better than nothing?
Some have debated its authenticity, and even wondered if it was not written by another mother in the neighborhood but instead a young adult or teen. Regardless, it brings to light many questions about how far we have come, and how far we still have to go. Those of us in the field of I/DD have spent decades bringing this population out from the closed doors of the institutions and enforcing the idea of independent thought, and “yes you can” attitudes. We focus on their abilities vs. the disability and we engage them in LIFE to ensure they are living it to the fullest.
But what have we done to educate the community and prepare it for the next generation which is NOT living in institutions, most likely will NOT move into segregated group homes and will have the desire to be out in their neighborhood, participating in everyday life as the rest of the world does? The answer varies and will still not explain the thoughts radiating from this letter, which seem not only outdated but beyond cruel and lacking compassion. This letter comes from someone who is potentially intolerant of ANYONE who is different, not strictly I/DD people. However, someone with a disability was in his or her life and therefore their designated target – this time.
Is there a positive spin to this story? Of course! The outpouring from the neighbors (who “one pissed off mom” implied was in agreement with her) shows that Max is in fact welcomed in the neighborhood and with open arms! Read any online report of this story and scroll to the comments section and you will see thousands of responses from around the globe expressing their lack of understanding on how anyone could write such a thing and treat a person that way. And that is most encouraging. The sentiments and understanding that Max is a person, a life. And that’s exactly what he and his family are doing – living their lives.
Join us at our annual event – Run Walk D.R.E.A.M. to celebrate inclusive communities and success with citizens of Cleveland, individuals Koinonia supports and anybody who wants to be a part of something BIG! September 14th at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo – register today at http://www.koinoniahomes.org