Photo: Nicole Duggan
An Irish mom of a son with autism, Nicole Duggan is finding herself stunned that a long-agonized-over Facebook post she put up has gone viral.
The topic? Her son Riley, 3, who has autism.
“I have wanted to post it for a long time, and I never did,” Duggan told ABC News. “But I just decided that now was the time and 2017 was the year we would make a difference and try to spread awareness.”
The post is a plea for acceptance of those with autism, but it’s not aimed at the kids who are her sons peers. It’s aimed at their PARENTS.
“I always find it is the parents that have a problem,” she said. “We have been in situations where parents have pulled their child away from Riley in playgrounds and it is so hurtful for me. But thankfully, Riley doesn’t notice as such. Kids never treat him any differently. The innocence is lovely. They love to play and so does he, and that is all they see,” Duggan said.
My child does not have autism, but I have two out of three kids who are a little bit “different” and were especially in their preschool years. Based on my experiences, I 100% agree with Duggan that when they would show their differences, the weird looks, uncomfortable attitudes, and unkind behavior came from parents, not from their kids. But the problem here, as Duggan explains, is that kids will LEARN this behavior from their parents.
“To the mothers that pull their children away from him, you are creating the bullys [sic] of the future,” she said in her post.
Parents, when your kids ask questions about people who are different, use it as an opportunity to teach kindness and inclusivity. As long as they aren’t in physical danger, only good can come from accepting a child with a disability and learning about others different from ourselves. Duggan goes on to explain some of Riley’s differences, saying:
“My little boy is just like your child, he loves to dance, he loves to be cuddled, he cries when he falls, and he adores Mickey Mouse. He is however ‘wired differently.'”
Photo: Nicole Duggan
“The small things we take for granted every day are the hardest things for him to cope with. Different lights, sounds, smells or even the look of something can cause an overload that is too hard for an adult to deal with, let alone my little boy. ‘Normal things’ such as going shopping, playing in a kids play zone, or even a hair cut can be unbearable for him.”
She also offers a solution: find some common ground. For example, “To the people that stare at him because he hums, join in with his little singsong, because in his eyes he is singing the best song in the world.”
And who doesn’t love a singalong?
Moms and dads, the fact is this: people with disabilities are beyond precious to God. And they should be to us. Let’s all do BETTER when it comes to teaching our “typical” kids about how to react to them.
Check out Duggan’s entire Facebook post on her page.