Karla Begley, the mother whose son with autism was the subject of a shockingly disturbing hate letter is taking a stand against intolerance and hate. The missive -- which suggested her 13-year-old son, Max, should be euthanized -- shook Begley’s community and went viral last week.
Taking to Love That Max, a personal site where HuffPost blogger Ellen Seidman writes about her own experience raising a boy (also named Max) with cerebral palsy, Begley does not hurl insults or express anger. Rather, she seeks to wipe out ignorance about special needs families.
“The first step is having the courage to talk openly about the subject,” Begley begins, and goes on to say:
If Max's sounds bother someone, I'd hope that person would let us know in a respectful way. Give us a chance to handle it instead of being cowardly about it. I'd rather people bring things out in the open. Sometimes, kids come up to me and ask "Why does he talk funny?" The parents are embarrassed. But if the mom isn't going to talk properly to a child, or teach him that kids with autism are not contagious, I will! ... I'd rather kids ask than grow up to be the sort of people who write nasty letters about autism!
Begley also highlights how important it is to recognize that her son -- and anyone else with special needs – has all of the same rights others do.
"People with special needs are people first," she writes, continuing, "Instead of glares, I wish people would give smiles. Instead of anger toward parents, I wish people would be more understanding. Trust me, if there's behavior ruining someone else's day, it's ruining mine and I want to deal with it!"
Far from considering her son a burden, as the anonymous letter suggests in the most extreme terms, Begley says she is constantly reminded of what a blessing he really is.
Everyone has a place in the world. Some people are meant to hold big jobs. Some people make you happy and smile. Max brings pure joy and love. He has taught me to slow down and appreciate life, as seen through his eyes. He's taught us what's important. …
... I think I'm lucky: How many mothers still have their 13-year-old son wanting to sit on the couch, have mommy time and cuddles, and not be afraid to show love and affection?
Even in the face of incredible negativity, Begley's response ends with a positive note about the support her community has given her family. As The Toronto Star reports, strangers continue to call and write with their own personal messages of love. Max was even offered a special vest from a local biker club, according to the news outlet.
“I love that Karla's taken the high road in her response to that letter writer,” Seidman told HuffPost over email. “Now, a vile incident has morphed into an opportunity to further people's understanding about kids with special needs -- and encourage respect. Take THAT, hater!"
Also on HuffPost:
1 In 68 Children Has Been Identified With Autism Spectrum Disorder
According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, 1 in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, based on health and education records. That figure represents a significant increase from previous prevalence estimates, released in 2012, which estimated that 1 in 88 have an ASD. A separate CDC report issued in 2013 found that 1 in 50 school-age children have an ASD, but that study relied on parental report, rather than official records.
Boys Are More Likely To Have Autism Than Girls
Autism is roughly five times more common in boys than girls, according to CDC estimates. One in 42 boys have been identified with autism, compared to 1 in 189 girls.
The Symptoms Of An ASD Can Present Themselves In Infancy
<a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm#233533082" target="_blank">According to the NIH</a>, early indicators include: No babbling by age 1, no single words by 16 months, poor eye contact and more. (<a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm#233533082" target="_blank">Click here for more information from NIH</a>.)
Scientists Are Not Certain What Causes Autism
<a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm#233543082" target="_blank">According to the NIMH</a>, both <a href="http://www.childmind.org/en/health/disorder-guide/autism-spectrum-disorder" target="_blank">genetic and environmental factors</a> could contribute.
There Is No Cure For Autism, But There Are Ways To Treat It
Autism is treated with <a href="http://www.childmind.org/en/health/disorder-guide/autism-spectrum-disorder" target="_blank">therapy, education plans and medication</a>. Doctors and scientists say that <a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm#233563082" target="_blank">early identification and intervention</a> for children with an ASD can help them thrive in academically and socially in the future.
Research Shows That There Is No Link Between The Onset Of Autism And Vaccinations
Even when <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/03/29/175626824/the-number-of-early-childhood-vaccines-not-linked-to-autism" target="_blank">multiple vaccines</a> are given to a child on the same day, they are still <a href="http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/29/17516929-new-study-finds-no-link-between-too-many-vaccines-and-autism?lite" target="_blank">not at risk</a> of developing <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/geraldine-dawson-/autism-awareness-day_b_2979117.html" target="_blank">autism</a>.
If A Child Has An ASD, Their Sibling Has A 2–18 Percent Chance Of Also Being Affected
Studies have also shown that if a child with an ASD has an identical twin, the other will be affected anywhere from <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html" target="_blank">36-95 percent of the time</a>.
20 To 30 Percent Of Children With An ASD Develop Epilepsy
Children whose <a href="http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm#233563082" target="_blank">language skills regress before they turn 3</a> have been found to have a higher risk of developing epilepsy.
About 10 Percent Of Children Who Have An ASD Also Have Another Genetic, Metabolic Or Neurologic Disorder
These <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-anxiety-autism-idUSTRE80M0EO20120123" target="_blank">disorders</a> include Bipolar Disorder, Fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome according to the <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/research.html" target="_blank">CDC</a>.
Infants And Young Children Should Be Screened For Developmental Delays At Periodic Intervals
The CDC recommends <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html" target="_blank">children be screened</a> when the are 9, 18 and 24-30 months.
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/15/this-is-autism_n_3064385.html" target="_blank">LOOK: This Is What Autism Looks Like</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/autism-prevalence_n_2909533.html" target="_blank">Study Shows Big Leap In Autism Prevalence</a> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brenda-rothman/autism_b_2733094.html?utm_hp_ref=parents-autism" target="_blank">Autism Is Not a Parenting Fail </a>