To the Young Lady Who Used the R-Word to Describe My Son With Asperger’s


One day, my son Aaron’s manager at the grocery store was speaking with a young lady. The young lady was talking to the manager about getting a job there. The young lady became upset when the manager informed her there were no openings at that particular store. In her anger, she yelled out as Aaron was walking by, “You can hire retarded folks like him [pointing to Aaron], but you can’t hire me?” Aaron’s manager then told the young lady her comments were inappropriate and asked her to leave the store.

This is my response to that young lady.

To the young lady who used the R-word to refer to my son in her rant while he was working:

There are six things I wish you knew about my son, Aaron:

1. Aaron has successfully worked with others since he was a young boy.

He helped my father deliver newspapers in eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. He did not just deliver the papers to customers; he had to follow multiple-step directions in order to fulfill each order correctly.

He also had to interact with my father’s customers. He came to be known as “Mr. Holley’s little helper” because he was just 7 and 8 at the time.

2. While in high school, he worked, went to school and played sports in the fall, winter and spring.

Again, he had to follow multiple-step directions in order to complete his job duties, something that can be difficult for those on the spectrum. However, because he was taught by his parents to work hard and always ask questions until he had a clear understanding of how to complete his assignment, he was praised by his co-workers and supervisors for his strong work ethic and attention to detail. Others he encountered while working praised his politeness and willingness to help others.

3. This same young man just completed his first year of college.

That experience was not without its difficulties, but Aaron persevered. He did not shy away from the challenges and was able to finish with a great GPA. He recently started his second year of school and is still determined to make a life for himself.

4. Aaron is a helpful and humble person.

During his senior year of high school, I asked him what he thought his position or job was on his football team. He responded without a beat, “My job is to help my teammates whenever they need me. If they get tired, I can take their place on the field until they have had enough rest.”

Most athletes might want to have all the playing time during their senior year. But Aaron assured us he was fine “helping out.”

5. Aaron is a great encourager.

Even though he has had periods of loneliness and bullying, he has not allowed that to scar him emotionally. Instead, he makes sure those who have been victimized by others feel loved, accepted and wanted. He often shares encouraging posts on Facebook. He’s shared how his friends find comfort in those posts.

6. The most important thing I want you to know is that Aaron is loved by many people.

Your comment, once it became known to others, was quite upsetting. You see, early on, my family and I prayed. We prayed for God to place angels in Aaron’s life to help him along the way. I believe God has not disappointed us.

Aaron has angels everywhere. It would be wise of you to watch your words; you never know who may be listening and who may be negatively affected by your words.

Why did I share six things instead of the usual five or 10? Because Aaron has always followed his own path. He has never allowed what others thought of him to keep him from doing what he knows is right to do.

This list is dedicated to my oldest, my Aspie, my Aaron. Keep blazing your own path, son!

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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