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Girl Tells Tearful Mom Why She Thought Having Autism Made Her ‘Bad’

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When 7-year-old Cadence, who has autism, was at school one day, she sat under her teacher’s desk and wrote a note to her mother Angela. Cadence wondered if autism made her “bad” after hearing remarks from adults and television programs that portrayed children with autism in a negative light. She wanted to set the record straight.

In the note, which Angela posted on the family’s public Facebook page, Cadence first asked if “being autism” made her “bad,” which prompted Angela to ask what gave her the idea. Cadence wrote about the misconception that being a parent of a child with autism is “hard” and if someone has autism they might “hurt people,” adding that kids who have autism “have to be put in [jail] to keep others safe or tied up.”

“I don’t like hurting people,” Cadence continued. “I don’t like being [scared]. I would be [scared] in a [jail] room. I was born [with] autism but that doesn’t mean I was born bad.”

Then, at the end of the note, Cadence asks her mother, “Are you crying?”

What ‘messages’ are children hearing – from ourselves, from other parents, at school, from media and in the general…

Posted by I am Cadence on Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Angela responded, “Yes. I have happy tears that you know what is true; and I have sad tears because there are lots of people who don't know what is true.”

Angela captioned the photo of the letter, “This ‘conversation’, between Cadence and myself, started under her teachers desk – a ‘safe place’ where Cadence had put herself in her confusion that she was somehow ‘bad’ – a belief that had culminated from over-hearing other parents and hearing news stories.”

Angela told BuzzFeed News that she hoped the letter would serve as a reminder that the way adults talk about children affects them more than we might think.

“The burden of responsibility for enabling all children to feel safe, accepted and loved, rests with us, the ‘grown-ups' – and sometimes we need reminding that we don't always do a good job of it,” Angela told BuzzFeed. “There have, on a handful of occasions, been scenarios where grown ups who are either not familiar with her challenges, or not tolerant of how she experiences the world, have behaved and responded poorly to her. The negative impact on Cadence of these incidents have been very clear.”

Originally published: November 13, 2015
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