After taking my children to the park I decided to take them for a meal, so we went to a local café. They’d had a day of splashing in the paddling pool and playing on the slides and swings and were all played out, tired and ready to eat.
We are sitting there enjoying our meal and at a nearby table a young woman appears to be enjoying hers. The toilet door opens and a child of about four years old comes skipping out giggling, her face softens. Then his older brother comes out giggling and also skipping and the young woman who I discover is his mother bellows across the café, “ Your like some kind of spastic child, come and sit down!”. The child responds with a string of expletives and is told he’s rude.
I sit there feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach and meeting my older daughters eyes can see it’s completely crushed her. She looks numb and shortly after leaves her meal half eaten to go outside for a cigarette to calm down. The younger two don’t notice and continue eating and relaxing.
I look over at the mother who’s now been joined by her own mother and the language coming from the children and herself is much the same. They don’t have a hope in hell of growing up any differently to her and as long as there are people with her attitude we will have an ongoing battle with acceptance.
The word spastic is derived from a form of Celebral Palsy and is now being used by the ignorant as an insult to others. Theres also ‘spazzing out’ and then the more often used ‘retarded’ in relation to Mental Retardation more commonly termed now as Intellectual Difficulties. Then of course there’s the word ‘downie’ and ‘mong’ derived from Down Syndrome and Mongol an outdated term to describe people with the syndrome.
How dreadful that what were once medical terms are now used to put another down.
Strangely enough as the family who have turned the air blue are leaving a little boy in a wheelchair is wheeled in by his family. He has breathing apparatus and what appears to be a feeding tube, his head is supported into position and he has a lovely little face.
I turned to the older of the women with him and describe what had just happened and how I felt about it, that I am autistic with autistic children. She wisely says its ignorance and orders her meal.
I came home thinking and pondered how one word can change the mood of a day so completely. I have likened it in my head as akin to racism. It’s definitely discrimination.
The shouting of a racist word in a packed room of different races would have had the same effect.
As most of the people in the café seemed to have no special needs the word went unchallenged and they were largely ignored.
The shock and hurt I and indeed my daughter felt was almost physical in its entirety.
We as autistics in a room packed with neurotypicals who oddly did not bat an eyelid to the words being exchanged by a mother to her child. A child that should be able to look to her for guidance but is instead subjected to verbal abuse and thanks to her will grow up believing that to have a disability is wrong, that it makes you at fault somehow is devastating to me.
My children would be termed as mentally disabled or disordered.
I term my children as neurologically different ie neurodiverse, incredible little people in their own right, to be respected and loved. To be educated and guided yet definitely allowed to form their own opinions. Sadly that mother doesn’t think that of her son, she thinks of him as someone to control and insult with strings of foul words that seek to devastate him and in turn satisfy and empower her.
I’m thankful my children were given to me and pray she never has grandchildren with special needs, for their sakes.