Working with special needs kids was never an easy task, but it was one of the most memorable and cherished experiences of my life.
I remember first walking into a room of children with all kinds of disabilities thinking: "What am I getting myself into." Those words I thought to myself on my first day still bother me today.
Every day I worked with those children, they never ceased to bring a smile to my face. They all have unique characteristics that should never be judged based on the way they were born.
That being said, I understand why they were picked on.
You'd think it would be frustrating to work with special needs kids, when in fact the most frustrating part was going on field trips with them.
I'm sure many children who are enrolled in regular classes have never spent more than a day with someone suffering from some kind of genetic or developmental disorder.
Unfortunately, special needs kids are different, which is why they can get so easily picked on. And this taunting from their peers has such a negative effect on their self-esteem.
It felt like my heart was going to shatter into a million pieces every time I heard a group of boys snicker while walking past two of my students who suffer from ADHD and autism. Or the time one teenager girl asked a student of mine who has Down Syndrome "why he talked that way."
It's hard to just stand there and watch. How are you supposed to give a lesson to kids who just don't get it?
One mother shared her heartbreaking story about the day girls mocked her son at the mall, and perhaps the lesson she taught them is one they will never forget...
Lisa Smith posted her story on Scary Mommy, where she candidly talked about the evening her son was bullied right infront of her.
She was at a nearly empty mall with her two youngest children, walking to meet up with four of her oldest kids, when five girls started walking behind them.
Lisa wrote her story in a way that addressed those teenage girls.
"We stopped to take a photo, at one of those cutout scenes where you stick your faces through the holes. I caught sight of you as we took our photo, walking and giggling and having a good time. You were walking faster than we were and the gap between us was closing. I turned from snapping our photo and we continued down the hall. My son fell behind a few steps as he was adjusting his earbuds. He was listening to his music like a typically developing 13-year-old boy might do in a mall. Though if you could have seen his playlist you would have realized he is not a typically developing 13-year-old boy. He was probably listening to Disney tunes, the muppets, or a preschool sensation called The Fresh Beat Band. You probably did not notice he was "different" until you saw him run a few steps to catch up to me. He always runs on his toes with a very awkward gait; and I'm sure that a 6'3" young man running on his toes looked pretty ridiculous to you."
The laughter of the girl's was quite obvious, and it clearly irritated Lisa. When she turned around, she saw one of the girls "running on her toes and flailing [her] arms," trying to imitate her son.
When the girls noticed the look of anger on her face, they stopped laughing and turned red with embarrassment.
"You were caught. You thought you'd have your laugh at my son's expense and we would not notice. Or perhaps you did not care if we noticed, but you certainly did not expect me to turn and call you out. I cannot remember my exact words but I believe they were, "My son has autism. I sure hope you are not making fun of him." Your stuttering and stammering out, "We're not. We're not making fun of anyone." caused me to doubt myself for a split second; but then I remembered I had seen one of you, the girl on the far left, copying my son's movements while all five of you laughed."
Lisa turned around, glad that both her kids, who have special needs, didn't notice what happened.
While she continued down the hall, she reflected on her encounter with those teenage girls...
"I had to remind myself that all five of you are just kids, probably very nice girls most of the time. One of you were impulsive enough to make fun of the differences you saw in my son and the other four were weak enough to go along with the joke. I had to remind myself that you all five had families that love you as much as I love my children and you all five may have issues of your own to deal with. And perhaps you really did believe that making fun of someone else is just innocent fun and we would have no idea it had even happened. Perhaps you go to a school where the kids with special needs are kept separate from you or perhaps it is acceptable amongst your peers to laugh at their differences. We are from a small town and my son Tate goes to a small school. He has peers who accept him and do not make fun of the way he moves or talks. They know he is different and help him to fit in. They do not laugh at him or belittle him. As a matter of fact, had some of them been with him last night, they would have probably said more to you about your behavior than I did."
Lisa isn't sure whether calling out the girls was a good idea, but she wasn't sure how else she should have reacted in that time. It was the first time she saw her son being made fun of, and as a parent it was very hard to stand idle.
"If statistics prove true and all five of you grow up to become mothers, chances are that one of you will have a child or a grandchild with a disability. I do not wish that on your child or grandchild, but if it happens, I actually hope that you get a thirteen-year streak without bullying. As a matter of fact, I hope you have an even longer one. And even more importantly I hope that if your son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, are ever bullied that you will not be able to think back and remember the time that you yourself laughed at a child with a disability and caused a mother pain. The burden might be too heavy for you to bear."
Lisa isn't the only parent whose been heartbroken after the way people treated her son.
Chad Blyth was "stunned" when his son, who has Down Syndrome and autism, was demoted from the Boy Scouts because of his genetic and developmental disorder.
A Heartbreaking Rejection
Logan was so close in receiving the highest rank in the Boy Scouts: an Eagle Scout.
Ever since becoming a member of the youth organization, the 15-year-old boy has become much more confident.
When Logan was ready to become an Eagle Scout, they got their local scout group and the state parks department to sign off on their project to make kits for parents of newborns with disabilities.
"We went through, got that approved, even got some pictures with the council members that approved it," Chad told Metro. "24 hours later we got an email from those very same council members indicating that they have to suspend Logan's Eagle project, and were very sorry they approved it."
The whole ordeal broke Logan's heart so much that "now he doesn't even want to touch his scout uniform or go near it."
How heartbreaking is that? Logan worked hard like any other Boy Scout, and he deserved to receive the highest rank.
While we can forgive young kids for their ignorance, what about adults?
Whether or not we have children with genetic or developmental disorders, it's our job to make a difference in easing their lives. Share this story to break the stigma!