By Trang Do
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — April is Autism Awareness Month and one mother in Mayfair learned that one of her neighbors still has a lot to learn.
Her neighbor wrote her a letter that upset her so much, she threw it out immediately, but posted a photo of it online.
Ryan, 3, is Bonnie Moran’s youngest son. Like most kids his age, he’s high-energy. He also has autism and ADHD, which often affects his behavior.
“Sometimes he gets overstimulated or gets upset and just doesn’t know how to find the words,” Moran said. “He just started speaking eight to nine months ago, he’s just learning still.”
Moran was horrified when she received an anonymous, handwritten letter left at her door. It was signed “one of your neighbors” and criticized Moran’s parenting and her son’s behavior.
It reads in part: “No one wants to hear him acting like a wild animal. It’s utterly nerve wracking, not to mention, it’s scaring my normal children.”
“They said, I don’t care if it’s the way you raised your child, or if he’s retarded. That hurt,” Moran said. “To single out a child and call him names, such horrible names, I can’t even find the words because there isn’t any.”
After posting the letter to Facebook community group Mayfair Uncensored, Moran received an overwhelming response from people outraged by the note.
“I was just so touched by the outpour from the community,” Moran said. “Let’s set up a play date, let’s do fun day, Autism day, play dates. It was really touching. Truly, truly touching. So something good came out of it.”
Kelly Nydegger, an assistant director at The Center for Autism, said incidents like this are why Autism Awareness Month is still so necessary.
“We try to promote awareness, and promote sensitivity and promote understanding that every individual has unique challenges, has unique strengths and those may be displayed in a variety of different ways, but to have understanding and empathy around that,” Nydegger said.
Moran said she would have welcomed a dialogue with her neighbors and anyone else who has questions about Ryan.
“He’s just a child and they could’ve came to me at any point and talk to me, they didn’t have to be a coward,” she said.
Moran said she still doesn’t know which neighbor wrote the letter. But that many of them have been very supportive of her and her family.