My son Jax is 4 and attends an Autism Special Needs Pre-K program at a local elementary school in Gwinnett County. He started when he was three. It’s been a great experience. Jaxon went from completely nonverbal to speaking, reading, and writing.
Today my kids and I were playing at a local park when two teenagers saw a daycare bus. They made jokes about being on the “short bus.” They also called each other retards.
Well, I stood stunned with my mouth opened in shock. Apparently, these teenagers have never met a child who rides busses that are short and yellow. My son rides a bus like this to his school every day. They left before I could help them know how inappropriate their words were. I did, however, speak to their bosses while not mentioning or describing them to her. It’s their first job and all they need is training.
But is it really my responsibility? Yes and no.
As a Special Needs Mom, I have to be ready to educate and help dismantle the stigma surrounding special needs children and adults. I felt sad for the teenagers. Kids learn to be racist, exclusive, and prejudice at home. Kids who use hate speech learn it at home. Kids learn to say “retard” at home.
When Jaxon was 2, he was diagnosed by a child psychiatrist with autism. I was never afraid of the diagnosis but of the discrimination and ignorance, he would face. That’s what really broke my heart.
Those who really get to know him, know him to be the sweetest, funniest, smartest, and most loving child. Those who just see his hands flailing, different speech, or the way he lays on the ground rolling his car back and forth make assumptions about him because his behavior because it’s strange.
Please, parents, stop talking negatively about the “short bus!” Kids ride that bus and some may be your neighbors or even your own relatives. As a momma who loves her son know it is hurtful to refer to someone as retarded too. Kids who are Special Needs already feel left out. So when we refer to the “short bus” or people as retarded we are not showing respect to people who are different than us. It sends the wrong message to our kids too. Then they learn kids riding that bus are less than.
Special Needs Parents deal with so much on a daily basis. I can say for myself I’ve never known such heartbreak until I saw my son being excluded at churches and other public places because he’s different. I don’t want that to continue for him but I know it will as some people can’t have open hearts to people of different abilities. Everyone deserves a chance. So please teach your kids kindness and acceptance instead of ignorance and hate.