• Kristina Mulligan

The Power of Words

“I’m so tired of hearing about special needs kids. They’ll be fine. They were retarded before Covid they’ll still be retarded after. So let’s just keeps those kids at home and when this passes they can come back to school. Do you really think they’ll be any different after a year of staying home with their parents? Sounds like someone doesn’t want to deal with their special needs kid. Sorry you fucked got pregnant and had a retarded kid. Your problem not mine...” [sic]

These words were written on Facebook earlier this week by a Kindergarten teacher employed by a district in Colorado. There is currently an open investigation and the school board, as of this posting, is moving towards dismissal.

I didn’t want to write them again. I didn’t want to be the source of more tears. I didn’t want to post them on my blog. They’re beyond appalling and I was afraid of having them attached to my name. I had a very difficult time typing them word for word, but I knew that I had to write this. I considered censoring the quote because it is not a reflection of my beliefs or values. I decided, obviously, to type it verbatim. Our family, and families like ours, has been on the receiving end of statements like this. They weren’t censored when they were directed at us, and I wanted anyone reading this to see them as they were meant to be seen.

Though parents of children with special needs from across the country have commented and are sharing it, this story will likely not make the national news, but it is newsworthy. Instances like this happen all the time, but you’d never know. The media usually doesn’t cover headlines from the “disabled community.” It’s part of the invisibility.

It goes much deeper that this one case, and involves so much more than these particular words. Though most people aren’t as openly derogatory, it’s the subtly of the everyday hatred that can be just as hurtful.

This hatred looks like the “friend” you went to high school with that is quick to point out that your child doesn’t belong in a class with theirs because it’s not fair to “slow the group down.”

It looks like the side-eyes and stares from passerbys because your child looks “different,” and sounds like the scoffs and remarks other shoppers make under their breaths (but are usually loud enough for you to hear), because you should have just kept your child home if they couldn’t behave “properly.”

Maybe it’s the person that questions or blames you for using “their tax dollars” to get your child healthcare or the services they require.

It’s also the person lurking in the comment section online voicing that you should have aborted instead.

Sometimes, it’s even the remarks made that you don’t realize until later were actually sugar-coated insults.

The emotions that special needs parents are feeling because of this incident are so much bigger than one person’s statements. These derogatory remarks made by this sad individual hiding behind a computer screen somewhere in Colorado are simply a culmination of countless comments made by so many people around us, from those within our circles and from strangers, for years.

These vulgar words are a symptom of humanity's illness. It’s a reminder, written for the whole world to see, that there are so many people out there that think our children are lesser than. That they are not worthy and are a burden, one that should be shouldered only by the parents and caregivers who see their true worth. We, along with our allies, know that different never means less.

This is just another instance that shows us that even though we’ve made progress, as a society, we have so much work to do.

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