CORNWALL, Ontario – A letter sent to the grandmother of a 13-year-old boy with autism in Newcastle, Ont., has sparked outrage among local parents with children on the spectrum.
A pair of local moms of autistic children in Cornwall and area are saying not enough is being done to educate the public on how symptoms of the syndrome can manifest themselves.
“Everyone that is not educated says ‘Oh your kids are just like Rainman,'” said Sylvie Chartrand, of Alexandria, who has two young boys with autism. “The spectrum is so wide and each child is different.“
Many in Newcastle have rallied around Brenda Millson, who received an anonymous letter from a neighbour where the writer suggested she move, or have her grandson euthanized.
The writer suggested their “normal children” are being scared by the autistic child’s mannerisms.
Millson contacted police after receiving the letter. Her grandson Max Begley, who was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, lives with his parents and older brother in Oshawa, but had been visiting her home.
The letter states that Max “is a hindrance to everyone and will always be that way.” It goes on to say that “they should take whatever non-retarded body parts he possesses and donate it to science.”
Local parents were shocked at the suggestions.
“Life’s hard enough …dealing with a special needs child makes it harder,” said Dominique Chabot-Payment, whose son is autistic. “Dealing with a letter like this is basically stating you’re doing a terrible job (which) makes life unbearable.
“I felt as though someone pull my heart right out of my chest.“
Police in Newscastle are investigating the incident, but have already suggested the letter does not meet the strict standards that constitute a hate crime.
But some parents think otherwise.
Chartrand suggested if the letter was based on faith or religious practices it would have been taken more seriously.
And Chabot-Payment said the wrong message is being sent to the public.
“When someone suggests you euthanize your child it’s criminal,” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you how to raise your child. If you know deep in your heart that you are doing everything you can…then keep going.
“No one knows better (than) you.”