Saturday morning I couldn't wait to get out the house. I have been sick with the flu and then bronchitis for three weeks and on a ton of meds. I have not left the house except for Matthew's therapy appointments, preschool evaluation and side trips to Wal-Mart to restock on tissues, tea and Mucinex. To say I had a serious case of cabin fever would be an understatement.
A certain little boy will be turning three in the next couple of weeks and I am so behind on party planning and shopping. Armed with my always present list, we were off to our local mall to tackle the hardest item--buying Matthew's birthday gift. I was a girl on a mission.
The trip was pretty much a bust so we decided to leave and shop for the party supplies instead. Matthew was having a great day out--he was smiling, looking around and baby babbling away. All was right in our little world.
When walking through the food court to our exit, a kiosk worker stepped out and attempted to lure us over to check out the toy he was selling. I politely told him no thanks and kept pushing Matt toward the exit. He stepped out and blocked the path where I was pushing Matthew's wheelchair and dropped this bomb on me:
"Come on lady, your kid is autistic and you won't even let him look at my stuff?"
I froze stiff. Did I just hear him say what I thought he said? Was he implying I was a bad mother? When in the world did it become acceptable to target a disabled person as a sales pitch?
I spun around and looked him, ready to lose it big time, all while Joe was pulling me by the arm to the car. The only thing I could get out of my mouth was to keep asking if he really said what I thought he said. I think he was equally in shock. He has heard me complain before about how people treat those with disabilities, adults always being far worse than kids. I am used to people staring at Matthew, usually I just stare back. I have never experienced such coldness and horrible treatment as this. Joe got Matthew and I into the car and went back into the mall and filed a complaint with guest services and requested a follow up call to find out what steps will be taken in disciplining this person. I will write a follow up post about what comes next.
I came home, still in shock, and posted the encounter on my private Facebook for family and friends. Not really surprising, the responses ranged from outrage, those who wanted to pay the guy a visit to show him what they thought he could do with his comments and generally a lot of love for Matthew. What was surprising to me were the amount of comments telling me to just ignore what happened and comments like that. Well, that isn't going to happen. I'm only getting started in finding my voice in advocating for Matthew.
**As of 3/5 we have received a phone call from the owner of the kiosk, who received our
complaint from the mall manager. She apologized profusely and stated that he will be
removed from his position. We didn't ask for his dismissal, it was the owner's decision.