Friday, January 07, 2011

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Life on the Short Bus

I just did my first 'unfriending' on Facebook. And it hurt. A lot.

I don't just 'friend' anybody. If I have allowed you to look at my life on Facebook, I have very good reason for doing so. However, sometimes relationships come to an impasse. Sometimes you have to let people go.

I got a very acrid message from a "friend" about some of my posts about the r-word and short bus jokes. I'll be straight up: not only do I dislike them, flinging about these words and "jokes" are very painful for me and for my family. You have the right to say them. That's Freedom of Speech. But I was always taught that with every right comes responsibility. You have the right to say anything you want- so take care when speaking. Use your right responsibly. You may have the right to drink, even to excess, but not to then drive a car. Someone could get hurt.

In recent testing, Joey passed the fourth grade end-of year tests for math. He's in the third grade. He can recite the birthdays of every family member, including ones he only sees a few times a year (and a couple he never sees at all). He reads dictionaries and encyclopedias for fun and comfort. So why does my son ride the special needs bus?

Well, because he has special needs. He has trouble with expressive language, so has difficulty telling us what happens to him during the day, and would have difficulty reporting problems he may have with peers. If he got upset, he might try to bolt, and the regular bus stop is around the corner and out of sight of the house, and no one is required to be at the stop to meet the children. In other words, he is on there for his safety.

Why would I feel the need to justify the safety needs of my own child? He's on that bus because it was decided he needed to be on that bus. He gets to school. He's smart as a whip and does good work when he's there. How he gets there should be nobody's business but ours. However, we've entered the moment where every year, a new variable pops up about his transportation: his social situation.

See, making fun of kids who ride the short bus is socially acceptable. Flinging around "retard" and "short bus" jokes is common, pervasive, even encouraged by adults. Joey cannot effectively defend himself from these types of jabs, but he feels them. He knows. Those words and jokes have been levied at him, and he's an easy target. And you know what? Even if my child embodied every single thing such jokes and jabs implied, they would be wrong. And you know why? Because my child would still be a fellow human being. Degrading fellow human beings for your own amusement is not only wrong, it's callous and heartless and cruel.

We teach Joey and Andy the importance of treating others the way they wish to be treated. it is a vital life lesson that so often falls by the wayside.

You can say anything you want. Having a right doesn't make it right.