A Belleville mother’s open letter to a stranger who publicly shamed her son who has autism has been shared more than seven thousand times online.
On June 10, Ashley Wright took her two kids, Brinlee, 11, and Logan, 13, to the Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough. Logan is on the autism spectrum and has other disabilities.
“He is on the severe end of the spectrum. He has very limited verbal skills. All four areas of his brain are affected by his autism,” Wright told CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning Thursday.
She said shortly after they arrived at the zoo he began showing signs that he was stressed, but was unable to verbally communicate.
“He started growling a bit and pinching himself. He had to use the bathroom but he wasn’t able to tell me that he needed to.”
Wright said on the way to the bathroom, a man who was at the zoo with his family yelled out, “Why do people bring kids like that out in public? They ruin society.”
Too shocked to respond, Wright focused on getting Logan to the washroom.
Logan deserves to be out in public just as much as anyone else. He doesn’t ruin the society. He didn’t hurt anyone.Ashley Wright
That’s when another man intervened and told the man who yelled at her family to leave them alone.
He told Wright to keep up the good work, which she says was heartening for her.
“It showed me that not everybody felt that way. Because sometimes in that circumstance more people start to stare and you kind of feel like you’re on the spot … Should we just leave the zoo? Maybe we shouldn’t be here.”
Wright says she and the kids then continued on to see the camels, Logan’s favourite animal.
Staring is something that’s fairly common for them, Wright said, especially because Logan is large for his age — over six feet tall and 190 pounds — but the mean comments are rare.
Later, at home, Wright wrote a long Facebook post detailing the events of the day and acknowledging that her son can sometimes be distracting. Her open letter has been shared almost seven thousand times and garnered more than seven thousand “likes” since being posted.
“Logan deserves to be out in public just as much as anyone else,” she wrote. “He doesn’t ruin the society. He didn’t hurt anyone.”
“All I can hope is that in the future if a situation like this happens again you don’t make another family feel the way you made ours feel today,” her post continued.
“Because he needs that social interaction. He deserves to get to see his camels after a good week of behaviour. He deserves to be treated just as good as anyone else.”