At the beginning of April, there was a lot of news about Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society has been celebrating Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s and the U.S. recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. Many public buildings were lit up blue to raise awareness.
There are, unfortunately, too many instances when those with autism and other disabilities are discriminated against and people are not sensitive to their needs. On Thursday night, there was a hearing for a group home for four young adults with autism. One of those children was my daughter Christine (pictured below with her sister Jennifer). Some of the neighbors came out to complain. They shouted, threatened and showed their intolerance to those with autism and special needs.
In our own Bedford Central School District, there is insensitivity. One Fox Lane High School English teacher last year said to his class, “you would have to be a retard to get this question wrong.” Some kids laughed, but my daughter Jennifer did not. When Jennifer was in seventh grade, she wrote a paper (quoted below) about how it is wrong to use the word retard as a label. Interesting how the students have more sense and sensitivity than those that are teaching them.
This is how the learning and understanding and acceptance begin.
It takes small steps and education to tear down labels. People give
more love when they understand. In many ways I am so lucky to
have Christine in my family. She has taught so much about tolerance
and compassion. Without her I’d be just another kid in the hallway
saying “retard” under my breath.