Ashley Wright had just arrived at a zoo with her two children when she knew her family outing was already taking a turn.
Wright and her children Logan, 13, and Brinlee,11, were at Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough, Ontario, when Logan – who has severe autism – was trying to tell his mother than he needed to use the bathroom. As Wright attempted to steer her increasingly-agitated son to the bathroom, he started biting himself and trying to pull her hair while screaming "EEEE."
That’s the moment a stranger walked over, not to help the mother with her 6'1, 190-pound son, but to utter a rude comment.
It shook Wright so much that later that evening, she wrote an open Facebook letter to the man, explaining Logan’s behavior and the hurt he caused.
“You got about two feet away from us and very loudly yelled ‘WHY DO PEOPLE BRING KIDS LIKE THIS OUT IN PUBLIC? THEY RUIN SOCIETY,’” Wright wrote on Facebook.
"Was I asking for your help? Your opinion? Your advice? Nope. But you, a man about 6 foot 3 and easily 250lbs watched a mom who could’ve easily been hurt and scared and made a situation worse."
Wright acknowledged that her son was likely distracting and probably scary to other people in that moment, but that he didn't hurt anyone with his outburst.
"What you don't realize is Logan deserves to be out in public just as much as anyone else. He doesn't ruin the society. He didn't hurt anyone," she wrote.
"We made it to the bathroom unscathed he peed. I turned away and cried because I was relieved it went so well but I also cried because I know there will be days like this. Days where people stare. Days where people are ignorant and hurtful. Days where we thought we too would have a fun family outing and that just wasn't how it started."
About one in 66 children and youth is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported this year. The neurodevelopmental disorder can include impairments in language, communication skills, and social interactions, plus restricted and repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities, the agency wrote in the report. It may limit a person’s ability to speak or interact socially. It can also cause a person to become extremely agitated when upset, moving limbs rapidly or making noises.
After a friend encouraged her to make her post public, Wright says she's been flooded with messages of support from around the world.
"It's just flabbergasting," she told the Ottawa Citizen. "It's made me feel really good, because I've had people literally all over the world message me ... I'm trying to respond to them all," she said. "Some of them are telling me similar stories."
Wright also wrote on Facebook that she hopes the stranger never makes another family feel the way hers did that day.
"I also sincerely hope your children don't grow up feeling that kids like Logan shouldn't be out in public. Because he needs that social interaction. He deserves to get to see his camels after a good week of behavior. He deserves to be treated just as good as anyone else," she wrote.
Hopefully, people will start being more kind. The world needs more kindness.