The grandmother of autistic child received anonymous letter:
'I wish people would be more understanding': Mother of autistic boy who received hate-filled letter from angry neighbor telling her to 'euthanize' her son issues touching response
- Karla Begley, 44, was interviewed by a blog about special needs children
- On August 16, Max Begley's grandmother got a vile letter complaining about the noise the 13-year-old autistic boy was making
- The self-described 'pissed off mother' who penned the letter suggested that Max be euthanized
A Toronto mother who had received a shocking anonymous letter last week urging her to have her 13-year-old autistic son euthanized has issued a forceful response, highlighting the importance of tolerance.
Karla Begley and her family were left reeling after receiving a disturbing, hate-filled missive from a neighbor in Newcastle, Canada, informing her that the noise her special needs son, Max, was making while playing outside terrified her 'normal' children.
On Wednesday, Miss Begley, whose 15-year-old son, Jack, is also on the autistic spectrum, and she herself is wheelchair-bound due to multiple sclerosis, gave an interview to a blog about special needs children called Love That Max to address the controversy in a constructive way.
Eloquent answer: Karla Begley, pictured here with her son Max in 2010, took to a blog about special needs children to deliver a response to a vile letter a neighbor had sent her complaining about the boy's sounds
Words of wisdom: Mrs Begley (left) urged people to be more understanding towards special needs children like her son (right), whom she called a blessing
‘I will not stoop to an insulting level,’ she said. ‘What I have to say is about tolerance, acceptance and respect for kids with special needs.’
Begley addressed the noise complaints cited in the callous letter she had received, saying that all children make noise, not just ones with special needs. In the case of her son, the sounds he emits is the only way he can express himself.
‘If Max's sounds bother someone, I'd hope that person would let us know in a respectful way,’ Begley said. ‘Give us a chance to handle it instead of being cowardly about it.’
The 44-year-old mother went on to say that she prefers when people openly address her son’s disability, like kids in the neighborhood who come up to her and ask why Max talks ‘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!’ she told the blog. ‘It's important to help kids understand and not be fearful from a young age.
‘I'll tell children, "He has autism and he has trouble with speech, but you can say 'hi' to him." And then I'll have Max say 'hi' back and it's OK. I'd rather kids ask than grow up to be the sort of people who write nasty letters about autism!’
The mother further explained that just because her son cannot express himself in words like most people, or take part in activities like other children his age, he still understands everything and enjoys life.
Nothing good to say: An anonymous neighborhood mother wrote this letter to the grandmother of a severely autistic teen in Newcastle, Canada
Sadness and anger: Max's mother Karla Begley was in tears as she read the hateful letter directed at her son
‘People with special needs are people first. They have every right others do,’ she argued. ‘Instead of glares, I wish people would give smiles. Instead of anger toward parents, 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!’
In the disgusting missive the Begleys had received, the cowardly author called Max a useless burden to his family. But his mother has insisted that in fact her son has been a blessing to her.
‘I think I'm lucky: How many mothers still have their 13-year-old son wanting to sit on the couch, have mommy time and cuddles, and not be afraid to show love and affection?’ Karla Begley said.
The mother added that while her son’s future is uncertain due to his disability, she and the rest of the family are unfazed by the possibility that Max may never have a wife or a job.
‘Everyone has a place in the world,’ she said in her eloquent response. ‘Some people are meant to hold big jobs. Some people make you happy and smile.’
During the summer, 13-year-old Max spends his mornings with his grandmother Brenda Millson in Newcastle.
She says she was shaking after receiving a letter August 16 from an anonymous neighbor complaining that the noise Max makes outside is 'DREADFUL!' and that it 'scares the hell out of my normal children!'Mrs Millson shared the whole letter with CityNewsToronto.
The woman's anonymous letter went beyond the offensive noise complaint into even more repugnant territory, writing that Max is a 'hindrance'.
'Who the hell is going to care for him? No employer will ever hire him, no normal girl is going to marry/love him and you are not going to live forever!'
Then she recommended something truly atrocious.
'Personally, they should take whatever non retarded body parts he possesses and donate it to science. What the hell else good is he to anyone!'
'Do the right thing and move or euthanize him! Either way, we are ALL better off.'
'Who says that about a child?' Max's mother Karla Begley asked City News.
She started to cry as she explained that her secondary progressive multiple sclerosis keeps her from walking and running with her son.
13-year-old Max was diagnosed with severe autism when he was two and he spends his summer mornings at his grandmother's house, usually playing in the backyard
On his side: The neighborhood came out in support of Max after hearing about the abhorrent letter
Since learning about the letter, neighbors of Max's grandmother have come out in a public display of support for the boy in an attempt to out the letter's author.
Max's father is worried that the letter might lead to violence against his son.
'A person that's that crazy or demented who would fabricate something like that...it leads me to believe that they're very dangerous,' Jim Begley said, 'and right now I'm scared for my son's safety.
If the writer is identified, Max's family plans to press charges.
An interview with the mother:
Kerry Magro: Hi Karla. We appreciate your time today to help answer a few questions. So Karla, can you tell us a little about your son?
Karla Begley: Oh Max. Well, he’s 13, has autism and loves life. He’s my little angel. He’s very smart. We always kind of joke around. Our oldest son Jackson, he’s 15 and he has high functioning autism. Max has a lot more common sense about the world but loves to have fun. He can be so silly at times and he loves physical activity. He’s just always moving around; it’s hard to keep up with him at times.
KM: Can you tell us a bit more about what happened?
KB: About two-and a-half weeks ago, Max was at my Mom’s house about two towns over from where we live. My mom was checking her mail and found the letter and was completely disgusted by what she saw.
She was completely mortified and disgusted by the wording of the letter. She didn’t like the wording especially the term “euthanize”. Max I would say spends about 20 percent of his time at my mother’s house and this was a complete and total shock.
KM: Do you have any idea who wrote the letter?
KB: We don’t but the police are looking into it, and taking my mom’s fingerprints to see if they can see any other prints on the letter. A detective was just at our house the other day. From what they said, it seems to me that they are on the right track. One thing they are doing is sending forms to everyone in the neighborhood to get more information from them if they know of anything.
the Questionnaire distributed
KM: What was your immediate reaction to the letter?
KB: One thing many people don’t talk about is that the incident didn’t happen at my house. Although it happened at my mother’s house it was targeted at Max because he’s always the one there and going around the neighborhood. So I finally found out about it that day from my husband. He said that there was a nasty letter written about Max. The neighbors in my mom’s neighborhood got a hold of it and started posting it.
My immediate reaction was that it made me sick, sick to my stomach. I didn’t know what to think about what would happen next until it got posted online. Even though I’m disgusted about it, there’s been so much support from everyone both locally and nationally. It’s made things good from getting it out there but also a little overwhelming with all the attention our family has been receiving.
KM: What was the reaction from your neighbors?
KB: My Mom’s neighbors have been up in arms and proactive about the entire situation. They have stood behind Max and what’s going on.
My neighbors have also been really good about it. We moved to our neighborhood in Oshawa, Canada in March 2000 and Max was born in April 2000 so he’s spent his entire life here. Our community has been very warm towards him and all of his transitioning to this point. I can remember times when Max would throw clothes and CDs into other people’s yards but all the neighbors would always collect them and bring them back. And they were very understanding.
KM: Has life changed for you since your mother received the letter?
KB: My life hasn’t that much but Max’s absolutely has. People have been so warm to Max, saying hi to him when he’s out. For me, I haven’t had that much time to get out but friends have been visiting and sending their best wishes.
KM: What do you think is the most importation lesson to be learned?
KB: It’s all about acceptance. There are a lot of us (families affected by autism) out there in the world. People stare and give off rude expressions. I just think it’s important to treat people as people. There’s always going to be that one person that is going to be ignorant but hopefully they can change because we aren’t going anywhere. Our voices are just getting louder and louder.
KM: If there was one message you could share with our community about the incident what would it be?
KB: We have to keep pushing out there and have a thick skin towards our community. We’ve fought for everything we’ve done for Max. We won’t give up and we hope these types of people get quieter as we get louder and spread acceptance and awareness. Life is short. Anything can happen. Be careful how you treat people because it can happen to you. Max is a blessing. Don’t get me wrong but ignorant people need a dose of reality. They need a day in our shoes.
KM: How is your son doing now?
KB: Well, my son doesn’t know about the letter but he’s been more vibrant and more sure of himself because people have been coming up to him and saying hi. His positivity has skyrocketed. He’s actually smiling at me right now.
KM: Karla, thank you so much for speaking with us! We send our support and stand with you on this and look forward to speaking with you again soon!