WATCH: Police investigating after Oshawa family receives hate-filled letter about autistic son. Cindy Pom reports.
TORONTO – An Oshawa family is reeling after receiving a typed letter filled with vitriol that says the family should “euthanize” their autistic son.
Karla Begley, whose son Maxwell has moderate to severe autism, saw the letter on Saturday. It was delivered to her mother’s home in Newcastle Friday where Max plays in the backyard on his grandmother’s trampoline.
“You’d figure that his grandma’s backyard is his safe place. He goes there to relax,” Begley said in an interview Monday. “Ok, he can’t go to his favourite place. It’s heartbreaking.”
The hate-filled letter pleads with the family to “do the right thing” and either move or “euthanize” their son.
Begley said she was “floored” by the letter and thinks it tries to reduce her son to “a waste of space.” When he was younger, she said, it was difficult to take him out. But now that he is 13 years old it’s getting easier for him to be sociable.
Durham police are investigating.
“We’re worried about our son’s safety and other kids’ safety,” Begley said. “A loose cannon like that, you never know what she could do.”
Sam DeCaria, a spokesperson for the Autism Canada Foundation finds the letter “disturbing.”
“This is not the way that the Greater Toronto Area should be going,” he said in an interview. “It should be going the other way to being more sympathetic, empathetic, more understanding, more tolerant to avoid an incident like this.”
The Autism Canada Foundation exists to disseminate information about what autism is and bridge gaps of understanding and tolerance. And while more people are understanding of the condition, a small minority of intolerant and ignorant people can lead to “pretty terrible eventualities,” DeCaria said.
“Autistic individuals typically present as otherwise normal individuals,” he said. “Imagine a young boy like Max flailing his arms in public. If those around him don’t understand it, the consequences can be very bad.”
Maxwell doesn’t know about the letter and Begley said they just want Maxwell to be treated the same as everyone else.
“Maxwell deserves every right to live in this wonderful community. He deserves his right to see his grandma. He deserves everything every other normal child can have. It’s tough on kids with special needs, making friends and stuff because they can’t get out the same way. But no one deserves to be treated like this.”
On Monday evening, Edmonton MP Mike Lake, who has a son with autism, spoke to Global News about the letter, which he said he had a hard time reading without choking up.
Lake hopes the mean-spirited letter won’t discourage the family.
“One of the most difficult things for families dealing with autism is to take that step and to get out there with their kids, and to feel comfortable getting out with their kids. And families need to know they have the support of the community when they do that,” he said.
He also believes the family has the support of people across the country.
“I would say, that 99.999 per cent of Canadian families, their hearts would be with that family tonight, and they would absolutely reject the sentiments in that letter. And I think that’s the most important thing.”
Read the full letter below:
A copy of the letter was also distributed online. August 19, 2013.
-With files from Cindy Pom