“Differences challenge assumptions.” ~Anne Wilson Schaef. Do you ever start to go on a tangent to someone about something and you suddenly get really heated and passionate about what you are saying? Perhaps, suddenly in the midst of your heated conversation, you realized that you were extremely passionate about what you were talking about that you never realized until now how much the topic meant to you? When this happens it’s almost like having an out-of-body experience where you are looking at yourself talking so passionately and think, “Wow, I had no idea I felt this strongly!” It’s interesting to discover what drives our brains to talk and talk with great strength in our voice.
Recently, I found myself talking to someone about an article I read that made me so angry I wanted to throw something at the wall. The article was about a special needs teacher who chose to put an Autistic child face down in a trashcan. Think about that. Not just another child bully but a teacher. A special needs teacher. This enraged me. I was astounded and could not believe what I was reading. I felt like I had been stabbed in the gut reading this article. I felt helpless for the poor child and wished I could have magically entered through the written words and stopped this disgusting thing from happening. The poor child. The last part I read before I was too angry to continue, was how the teacher was irritated at the child screaming and crying. It was at that moment I could not carry on reading, as it seemed there would be no happy ending. All I could think about was this child. This little child who already has moments of feeling helpless. This poor child who doesn’t know what else to do but scream and cry. This poor child not being protected by the teacher. This poor child. It really upset me. I am a teacher. I want to protect my students from anything bad happening. I want them to feel accepted and appreciated. I am embarrassed because of what this teacher has done.
There are so many aspects, so many things wrong with this story, but I think it is important to move away from the hate of the situation and think about how to prevent this kind of behavior from happening again. Not only that but think about how this influences people to think about what autistic children are like. I have a soft spot in my heart for these children. They are brave, they are strong, they are unique, they are amazing. Most importantly, they deserve to be in this world as much as anyone. Don’t judge them because they are different. Don’t treat them poorly because you don’t know them. Learn with them, love them, treat them with kindness, and be a smiling friend for them. Children remember. They remember how people made them feel. They watch your actions. And if you treat people with kindness and respect, show that you care, teach that it’s ok to be different, they will listen and follow in your footsteps.
It’s ok to feel vulnerable and sometimes helpless, and maybe that’s how the teacher in the article was feeling, but regardless of how awful you might be feeling inside, treating someone as horribly as putting them in a trashcan does not do anything but make you a bully. Do you really want to be labeled that ugly word? Do you want people to be afraid of you and not come to you for help? I know you don’t. I know you want to feel loved and that you matter. The next time you feel stressed, helpless, angry, or frustrated, think about how this child felt being dumped into a trashcan. Would you do that? Would you want to be the reason why a child is screaming? Check your behaviors when you feel these emotions. Think before you act. Think before you speak. Don’t bully someone because you don’t know what else to do.