An Open Letter To The Newspaper That Excluded Our Special Kids

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“I’m not looking for special treatment, I’m just asking for our kids to be treated equally”

 

Last week my son participated in the Opening Day Parade and ceremony for the Cumberland Youth Baseball League here in Rhode Island. My son is a player on the Challenger team for children with disabilities. During the ceremony my son was selected along with 2 other children to throw out the opening day pitch. This was a very exciting moment for him and our local newspaper was there to document this moment as well as the entire parade and festivities. At the end of the day, the photographer asked for our son’s name, age, and had me sign a release form to use the photo.

I was SO excited to get the publication 2 days ago and quickly turned to the page where the opening day photos were featured. I kept turning from page to page only to find that my son was not there. The other 2 kids were there, so where was my son? In fact, there were no pictures of the kids from the challenger team. NOT. ONE. Maybe they were on another page? Let me look again I thought to myself, yet, those photos I was desperately hoping to find were not there. The only pictures featured were of the non challenger team kids.

In an effort to contact the editor of this newspaper asking why and HOW this could happen, this was the response I got:

“we treated those photos just as we treat all others. Some make it, some don’t”

I’m sorry, but how did ALL of the pictures of the challenger team NOT make it?

The editor went on to say that I was “looking for special treatment”.

No. I was not looking for special treatment. I was asking for my son and the other children on the challenger team to be treated EQUALLY”!!

Furthermore, the editor continued to be rude and condescending saying “it seems to us in the newsroom it’s not discrimination. To us and our photo editor it was just pictures of kids who turned out on opening day baseball day”

Well, to our special needs community here in Rhode Island it was discrimination. Would you call it acceptance? Your newspaper completely left out our amazing kids from your feature on opening day. How do you not see the wrong in this? Every single picture you included in your story was of players who were “typical” and not on the challenger team.

Shame on you. You are journalists. You should do better than this. Our kids deserve better than this. Instead of being an example for your readers and sending a message about equality, you sent a message that the special needs kids don’t matter as much as the typical kids. Big mistake and you missed out on such a great opportunity to educate our community about the importance of inclusion.

The banner that the challenger kids walk with has this quote ” Never Let the Fear of Striking out Keep You from Playing the Game”.

These kids amaze me. They teach us. They work hard. They love the game. They are special and I want them to know that we are all cheering for them.

Sincerely,

A mom on a mission to make a change

 

 

 

 

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Hard to Take the High Road

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It has been just about 2 months since I wrote my last blog. I’m not sure why that is? I have so much I want to share about my journey as a Special Needs Mom: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A few weeks ago I came face to face with UGLY. In fact, it was one of the ugliest encounters I have ever had with a human being. Period.  I took my son with me to the bank one afternoon like we have on so many other occasions. It was right around St. Patrick’s Day and my son was playing at a display table with little shamrocks and green garland. Of course I asked the bank teller if it was ok for him to play there, and she said “absolutely”!  He was right behind me playing and keeping to himself while I made a few transactions. He was happy as a clam and making noises while he played. My son has Apraxia which is a very complex speech disorder and my son’s Apraxia is profound. Part of his way of communicating is to make noises/sounds. I call it singing because it is usually when he is happy and content, so I like to think that if he were able to sing in those moments, he would. After a few minutes I heard a voice behind me telling my son to “shut up” and “stop it” in a very mean tone. I turned and very politely asked this older woman not to speak to my child that way and to let him be. “He isn’t hurting anyone” I said!!! She immediately stopped but continued to stare and make me feel uncomfortable.

As we turned to leave the bank (my son still making his beautiful sounds) we walked right past this woman and she gave my son the dirtiest look and said these words: “shut up you RETARD”!! Yes, you are reading that correctly. R-E-T-A-R-D!

I could try to explain to you how furious I was but there really are no words to even come close to describing how I felt. I literally envisioned myself tackling her to the ground and punching her repeatedly but instead I calmly looked at her and said “kindness always trumps evil and I will pray for you” and walked out the door.

Of course as soon as I got to my car and sat down, I began to cry. I was so angry, heartbroken and just felt completely disgusted. WHY would anyone say something like that? HOW could someone say something like that? Doesn’t she see how beautiful my son is? How perfect he is? I wondered who this woman was. Was she a mom? Does she have children of her own? What happened in her life that would place such ugliness in her heart? Then I started to worry about the fact that there are other people out there just like her! People who are cruel. People who think it is completely ok to use the “R’ word and have no remorse about it.

I sat there in the bank parking lot for a good 40 minutes sobbing quietly so my son wouldn’t hear or see me when I happened to look up in my rear view mirror to find him sitting in the back seat smiling and playing with his toy. He had not a care in the world and had no clue what had happened. How amazing is that? Maybe it is because he is a child and he doesn’t understand the ugliness out there in this world. Maybe it is because he is so special that he only see’s the good in the world. Everything in his eyes are beautiful and innocent. I always tell my son that there are mean people out there but for every mean person, there are double the nice people. I always tell him when bad things happen or if someone is mean, to pay attention to the people who are good and helping others.

Taking the high road is not always easy to do especially when we want to protect our children in these types of circumstances. However, we as parents have to be the example. I could have very easily hit that woman in the bank or gave her a piece of my mind and caused a big scene but what would that have done? It probably would have scared my son and I could have gotten myself into a heap of trouble. How would I explain myself to my 7 year-old-son who can’t communicate verbally?

Instead, we left the bank that day holding hands while my son sang in his own way. We sat in the parking lot while he played quietly and happily with that big beautiful smile of his. WHY? Because on that day, I  chose to protect him and chose the high road. Because I didn’t want him to remember this mean person, but remember the nice bank teller who let him play with the shamrocks and the green garland.