Dealing With Those Who Don’t Understand

Photo by Adam Willoughby-Knox on Unsplash

This past week I came across a post that had been making rounds on Facebook. A woman in New York, named Mary, had said some pretty awful things about special needs children.

Lovely person isn’t she?

I won’t lie, I have been shielding myself from people like this. I know that Mary isn’t likely the only person in this world that thinks like this. Probably not by a long shot. I hate that that is the truth but let’s face it, not everyone in the world is open-minded, kind, and good to others. Just go ahead and look up grocery store fights during the start of quarantine. Looking out for your fellow man is not on everyone’s agenda.   

I know there are people in this world I could try to sit down with and have a logical and well-formulated conversion with—only for them to still adamantly refuse to change their opinion. As Ron White said, “You can’t fix stupid.” These are some of the truest words ever spoken. It’s extremely difficult, damn near futile to even attempt, to change someone’s opinion. Not impossible, but also not likely to happen unless they see or do it themselves. Just like you can’t make an addict quit—they are the ones that have to decide to quit. I could try to talk to Mary, and I’d probably be preaching until I was blue in the face about how wrong she is, but I highly doubt it would make any difference.

This got me thinking about how I should react when meeting someone with the same opinions of Mary out in the wild. Then I had a bit of fun thinking about the “wild” and how different types of mothers would react to those that may be threatening or mean to their babies.

For instance:

  • Bear – Stand up and tower over them and then maul the crap out of them, if they run, chase them!  
  • Giraffe – Lick them with that creepy tongue until they are tremendously uncomfortable…then trample them.
  • T-Rex – Eat them. Just eat them. Follow it up with an epic roar to a John Williams track.
  • Cat – The claws. Get all of them murder mittens out, as well as teeth, and hiss at them.
  • Sloth – Is likely not paying attention to anything going on.
  • Moose – Charge them, run them down. Go crazy. RAMPAGE!
  • Bunny – Has likely already fled the scene when danger arrived.
  • Skunk – Be as unappealing as possible and in a panic, spray filth, ruin their day!
  • Monkey – Throw poo at them.
  • Dog – Valiantly defend them…there will likely be a movie made of the event.
  • Shark – Doesn’t stick around to raise their young (Baby Shark is a lie, spread the word.)
  • Deadpool – Stab them.

See, there are many reasonable ways to react to criticism involving your child.

All kidding aside, it’s hard to see or hear things like what Mary said about those with special needs. It hurts me. It hurts deeply. If someone said something like that to my face about my son, it would be a sucker punch for me. It hurts because I know damn well that if her child had autism she would never feel or say the things she did. I know if she truly had someone close to her that she loved with special needs, she would understand how important their education and services are. My son deserves his education just as much as a neurotypical child. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have to luxury of being able to sit and study online—he needs more than that.

I wish I could say that I would remain completely calm and try to explain to someone about my son. I wish I could say I don’t immediately become defensive when it comes to Phoenix. I wish I could say that my Momma Bear isn’t ready to come out and fiercely defend him should anyone ever say anything negative about him. But it is there. Momma Bear is there bubbling at the surface. (Note: I would like to say that I have not now nor ever chased down and mauled anyone, nor do I want to.) I’ve gotten to be this way because I know I need to be ready for people like Mary. I have practiced responses to those in the supermarket who try to talk to Phoenix and he doesn’t respond. It’s usually along the lines of, “Sorry, he can’t talk, bye,” and then I buzz away from the random stranger. Or I just start speaking for him. I really don’t make a point of making myself approachable, so Phoenix and I don’t have to worry about being bothered very much. (The upsides of having deeply set RBF.)

But those small encounters are one thing. They don’t bother me, they are not what has Momma Bear on standby. It’s people like Mary. It’s people who say my son needs to be “normal” or that he won’t amount to anything. They are who my Momma Bear waits for. The ignorance. The arrogance. The ugliness of society. I’m ready to try and educate. I’m ready for my son to know that I got his back and I’m not going to let people like that bring him down. Because, even with all the unknown in our future, I believe there is so much more to him than autism. I still believe he will have, and deserves, as happy a life as possible.

As far as I know, I’m in the majority that share my opinion. The backlash to Mary’s comments has been swift and intense. It has led to her shutting down her online business and you can no longer find her page if you look her up. So, yes, karma is out there. After all that though, if I could say anything to Mary, it’s that I hope her heart changes. I hope that maybe, just maybe, she learns something from all of this. I hope she knows that her daughter is looking up to her the same way my son is looking up to me. That means we both always need to be better because of that.          

The Mother of Phoenix

One thought on “Dealing With Those Who Don’t Understand

  1. “It hurts because I know damn well that if her child had autism she would never feel or say the things she did.” – That’s the very first thing I thought when I read her words. And you know, I think when we experience something difficult, or even just different, than most, that we are fortunate because we can really see the world in a more open way. I had three children naturally and then my fourth had to be a c-section – TOTALLY changed how I felt about childbirth and interventions. It gave me compassion and empathy that was not there before. Hardship and dealing with things out of control have the potential for making us better people.


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