The world is full of ignorant people. I used to be one of those people when I was younger. I think all of us are at some point. Then there are some who never out grow it. I can't say if I would still be ignorant on the subject of handicapped and disabled people if I didn't have a son with a disability. It is hard to say. It is also hard for me to admit that I used to use the word "retarded" as loosely as I did. Being in high school, it was just a phrase that everyone used - not even realizing the impact it had on people. I wish someone had put me in my place. Someone eventually did though, my own son.
When you become a part of the special needs world, your whole world changes. It changes for the better. You notice disabled people more and aren't afraid to approach them and ask questions or even make a comment about the cool wheelchair or walker they have. I remember doing this at the mall last year when I spotted a teenage girl walking in a really cool walker with her parents. I mentioned how awesome I thought her walker was, and although she was non-verbal, her parents weren't. They were very friendly and from what I could tell, happy that I engaged in conversation with them. It was their daughter's 16th birthday that day and I got to wish her a happy birthday. It was a very humbling experience.
Eric and I have always been very open to people about Alex and his disability. I would much rather someone stop to ask the question they have in their head instead of staring at my son as they walk around him or are passing by. I actually wish more people would ask questions, including my own family.
I am not sure if everyone in our families fully understand Alex and his disability. This isn't something that he is going to just snap out of, yes therapy does help him and please don't feel sorry for him. We don't, because he is happy and healthy and we try to do as many "normal" activities with him that we can. I don't ever want to hold him back from having the life he deserves. He may or may not walk or talk. Even at 5 years old it is still too young to tell.
Over Christmas, a member of our family made a very hurtful comment. It wasn't directed toward Alex, but the term "short bus" was used very loosely. I wasn't present when it happened and it is probably a good thing because I wouldn't have been able to keep quiet. When I was told about it, it felt like a dagger going through my heart. I was so angry, but then quickly heartbroken. How a person, one who is part of our own family be so ignorant and disrespectful? I am sorry, but words such as short bus, retard and retarded are no longer a part of our vocabulary in our house. We don't make fun of handicapped or disabled people. We are a special needs family and there is nothing wrong with that. I am a strong advocate for this because my other son Evan, who lives a typical life will NEVER disrespect a person with a disability and ALWAYS defend his brother. He isn't going to grow up being ignorant in this area because we are going to teach him well so he won't know any different.
I was going to keep quiet about this because it does hurt, but I couldn't. People need to know where we stand as a family and that those words are NOT OK. It isn't right for me to keep quiet about something I feel so strongly about. It is my duty as his Mother and Number 1 advocate to fight for him, and that I will do.