Different, and Equal

Hi.

My name is Carrie.

We’ve never met, but I read the news report about what happened to you at school, when your paraprofessional used a stapler to attach a note to your hair.

She said she wanted to send a reminder home to bring in a water bottle the next day.

Right away, I want to tell you I am very, very sorry. Reading your story made my heart squeeze tight. I felt sick inside, to be honest. 

I pictured you standing in your classroom, waiting for a drink of water, when all of a sudden you felt bright hot sharpness in your head and maybe you jumped and cried out because you were not expecting it.

You must have been so very scared and alone and distraught. 

Maybe you wondered why anyone would bring a stapler near your head, or how someone who was supposed to protect you and encourage you and teach you could be so terribly mean. 

I wondered these very same things.

You see, my son Jack has autism. 

He is sixteen—just six years older than you.

He is very, very tall.

He wears a blue jacket, and his favorite food is a cheeseburger without any lettuce or tomato or onion or pickle.

That’s exactly how he orders it whenever we go to a restaurant. 

For I would like a cheeseburger with no lettuce no tomato no onion and no pickle.

We tried telling him to just order a plain cheeseburger on a bun, but what can I say? He likes to do things his own way. 

Jack goes to a special school. It is small. There is no cafeteria, or lockers. In fact, the buildings look more like an office park than an actual school. But this is where he learns best. 

I read a lot of words and articles about the spectrum disorder.

I read the research and the statistics and the science of it all.

And when I tire of the black and white canvas, I turn to the color.

Anecdotes about brothers, tributes to exceptional teachers, stories of courage and greatness. 

Some people like to say when it comes to autism, it is different, not less. But I don’t like that phrase very much.

I like to say Jack is different, and equal.

He is, you know. 

He is different than many because of his autism. He thinks differently, moves differently, speaks differently, and even sleeps differently. 

But he is equal. He is just as important as any other 16-year-old in the whole entire universe. 

He deserves respect, and dignity.

He deserves to feel safe, and understood, and valued. 

As do you.

The truth is, if a paraprofessional wanted to send a note home about a water bottle, there are many other ways to do it. 

Email.

A voice message.

A piece of paper tucked into your backpack.

Perhaps this is what bothers me most—her choice. Her conscious decision to hurt, and humiliate.

The good news is, you are not alone. 

Thousands of us read the same news report. 

Thousands of us felt the same outrage. 

We stand with you.

We stand tall, and certain, and ready.

We are ready to give children like you a stronger voice.

A fierceness burns within each of us on your behalf. 

We are with you, and for you.

You are color and wonder and light and goodness.

You deserve more. You deserve better. 

You deserve to do things your way.

Different, and equal.

Written by, Carrie Cariello

Carrie Cariello is the author of What Color Is Monday, How Autism Changed One Family for the Better, and Someone I’m With Has Autism. She lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband, Joe, and their five children. Carrie is a contributor to the Huffington Post, TODAY Parents, the TODAY Show, Parents.com. She has been interviewed by NBC Nightly News, and also has a TEDx talk.

She speaks regularly about autism, marriage, and motherhood, and writes a weekly blog at www.carriecariello.com. One of her essays, “I Know What Causes Autism,” was featured as one of the Huffington Post’s best of 2015, and her piece, “I Know Why He Has Autism,” was named one of the top blog posts of 2017 by the TODAY Show.

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Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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