Karla Begley, the Canadian mother of Max, a teenager with autism, was the subject of a shocking hate letter earlier this month. Now she's taking a stand.
An anonymous missive from a person in her neighborhood suggested her autistic son should be euthanized, shaking the community and going viral.
How do you fight back against that kind of intolerance and hate?
Begley does not hurl insults or express anger. Rather, she seeks to end ignorance about special needs kids and families, enhancing the public conversation.
She spoke with Love That Max, a site where blogger Ellen Seidman writes about her experience raising a boy (also named Max) with cerebral palsy.
“The first step is having the courage to talk openly about the subject,” she says. "If Max's sounds bother someone, I'd hope that person would let us know in a respectful way."
"Give us a chance to handle it instead of being cowardly about it. I'd rather people bring things out in the open. Sometimes, kids come up to me and ask 'Why does he talk funny?'"
"The parents are embarrassed. But if the mom isn't going to talk properly to a child, or teach him that kids with autism are not contagious, I will!"
"I'd rather kids ask than grow up to write nasty letters about autism!"
Begley also highlights how important it is to recognize that her son, and anyone else out there with special needs, has all of the same rights others do.
"People with special needs are people first," she writes.
"Instead of anger, I wish people would be more understanding. Trust me, if there's behavior ruining someone else's day, it's ruining mine and I want to deal with it!"
"Instead of glares, I wish people would give smiles."
Far from considering her son a burden, as the anonymous letter suggests in the most vile terms, Begley says he is a blessing, each and every day.
"Everyone has their place in the world. Some are meant to hold big jobs. Some people make you happy and smile. Max brings pure joy and love."
"He has taught me to slow down and appreciate life, as seen through his eyes. He's taught us what's important ... I think I'm truly lucky."
"How many moms still have their 13-year-old wanting to sit on the couch, have mommy time and cuddles, and not be afraid to show love and affection?"
Follow the link for more of Begley's talk with Love That Max.