Ask any parent and they will tell you that while the experience of raising a child is rewarding, it is by no means easy. After all, the saying goes "It takes a village to raise a child."
However, not every family is lucky enough to have a solid support system. Just ask blogger Christine Stephenson and her husband, Shane.
The Stephensons are parents to 6-year-old Reilly, who has been diagnosed with autism. Reilly is "pretty much nonverbal," which presents a challenge when it comes to socializing with other kids. Christine and Shane have gotten used to their son being treated like an outcast, but never did they imagine that their own friends would treat him the same way.
After several instances where Reilly was left out of invites to birthday parties and other social events, a heartbroken and angry Shane decided to send a text to his "so called friends" to call them out on their actions.
The strongly-worded message was shared on Twitter by Christine, and it wasn't long before it went viral, garnering responses from users all over the world.
Christine explained that the way their friends recently ostracized Reilly was "just the straw that broke on the camel's back." After years of bottling up his feelings, Shane decided it was time he spoke up for his son.
In the expletive-filled post, Shane criticized his friends for not including his son in their party invitations.
"Right this has been brewing for some time so here it goes and you can like it or f***ing well lump it," Shane wrote. "My son Reilly has autism not f***ing leprosy; he is 6 years old and my so called friends who have kids also have kids parties. Not ONE invite not f***ing one."
He also called them out for being hurtful and informed them not to bother sending invites in the future out of pity.
"Just for the record in future don't bother he's not an after thought he's my every f***ing thought," he ended the note.
Christine, who blogs about her experience raising a child with autism on The Life of Reilly, said that ever since Shane sent the message, they have heard back from friends who said they are "mortified" by their actions.
In an interview with Cafe Mom, Christine explains that this won't be the last time that Reilly will be excluded from activities. She says that "inclusion is a huge problem for autistic people" because people make false assumptions about their situation.
A better day at Whitley Bay. Slot machines, chips and ice cream ❤️ pic.twitter.com/jPx8aRR1c1— Life of Reilly (@life_of_reillys) November 5, 2017
In six years, Reilley has only been invited to three parties. The last one took place at the start of the year in January. His parents aren't just concerned about him not having any friends, they're worried about the toll it will take on his mental health as he gets older.
"Reilly may not speak, but he listens and he understands. As he grows I genuinely fear for the effects this may have on his mental health."
Christine insists that even if parents repeatedly turn down invitations because they know their child might not fare well in certain settings, the gesture is still appreciated.
"Parents know how their children will be in certain surroundings and there is no one better placed to call it," Christine says. "They may decline your invitation but I can guarantee it will be declined with grateful thanks that they were thought of."
Kudos to Shane and Christine for speaking out about their experience. Hopefully this will give those on the outside looking in a better perspective of what it is like to raise a child with autism.