My personal blog tends to be a pretty friendly place. I rarely get mean comments there even on the rare occasion I write something controversial. (And, yes, it's really rare that I post about anything controversial on that site, unless that is what you consider pet mice to be.) I also write a column in the Washington Times Communities, which has many supportive commenters, but is far more likely to get dissenters—and nasty dissenters at that.
A post I wrote in early June recently got a spate of comments that I found very distressing. The post was about a Los Angeles school superintendent who said, "When you fund some of the special ed things, you're taking from regular kids."
That post sat for several weeks with only a few comments, but recently a couple of readers showed up with words that set my blood boiling. The quote above is shocking enough, but almost worse were some of the comments suggesting that the extra costs associated with special education are an unfair burden to those who aren't parents of special needs kids themselves and other, even more outrageous comments.
I am usually pretty thick-skinned, but the comments on this post upset me a lot. It is easy to forget that those people exist—or easy to try to pretend they don't exist. These comments were a harsh reminder that there are many people out there who see our kids as less. Who don't think they are worth money or effort. Who think they don't have a future. Who assume that if they can't go to college or read or talk that they are a drain on society.
Those are ugly thoughts, but they're out there. Those comments made me angry, then they made me sad. Then they made me determined.
There are many reasons why I blog. I write for several sites and, honestly, there is a different reason why I write on each one. The reason I write in the Washington Times Communities is to try to help create a world where my special needs son can grow up as a proud, successful, happy, autistic person. I want to put words and thoughts into the world that will make that possibility probable.
My entire goal with that column is to reach as many people as I can and to let them know that our children, and the adults they grow into, are important and worthwhile. I want people to understand that just because a person has autism or another so-called special need, that they are still deserving of respect and care.
I have hope. I know that there is a lot more understanding and acceptance in the world today than ten, twenty, fifty years ago. I see the kids in my son's class and hope that their innocence and willingness to embrace difference bodes well for the future. All I know is that I am going to keep on writing and talking and advocating until I'm satisfied.
All those horrifying comments can do is let me know that our job isn't yet done.
Among the places Jean writes are her personal blog, Stimeyland; her Washington Times Communities column, Autism Unexpected; and her autism events and information site for Montgomery County, Maryland, AutMont. You can also find her on Twitter as @Stimey.