A few weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at an event honoring military families. He accidentally bumped a child’s nose while he was making a sweeping hand gesture. The 10-year old boy told the vice president that he should apologize, Pence did, and they hugged it out. It was pretty funny, no harm was done, no big deal. Certainly not a reason to make fun of a child on national television, right?
Snowflakes & Safe Spaces
Cue the folks over at Fox News to give their take on the subject which involved interviewing radio “personality” Tammy Bruce about it. She called the child a “snowflake,” and said it ” looked like that kid needed a safe space in that room.” Then she inexplicably compared him to a fired University of Missouri professor, Melissa Click (who claimed she was fired for being white).
Turns out, the boy, Michael, is on the Autism Spectrum. He’s only been verbal for about five years, and he has worked really hard on manners, social situations, etc in therapy for years. The interaction with the VP was actually a HUGE step forward for him. His mom was super proud of him, which she should be because that’s awesome, and she called Bruce out for her ignorant tirade. Rightly so.
Don’t Mock Kids with Autism
A few days later, after a whole lot of negative press, Bruce goes back on Fox to apologize, saying “My intention was never to hurt a kid and his mom. We had absolutely no idea that Michael was on the Autism Spectrum.” She spoke a bit more, but you get the gist. Feel free to watch the video.
Is it pretty awful to make fun of a child with Autism? Of course it is. Mocking a child with a disability or neurodiversity is probably one of the lowest things a person can do. I can honestly say with confidence that I would not have handled the situation nearly as gracefully as Dr. Herrera-Yee (the child’s mother) did (my inner hillbilly lurks way too close to the surface).
Two things really bother me about Bruce’s “apology,” though.
1.) If hurting a child isn’t the intention, why call him names on national television?
2.) Whether or not he has Autism, making fun of him is still a dick move. It’s only MORE of a dick move that you’re making fun of a child with Autism.
Just Don’t Make Fun of Kids. Period
It doesn’t matter if you are on national television or not, the kid has special needs or not, tall, short, loud, quiet, fat, thin, whatever. Don’t make fun of kids. Even if it’s your own child, don’t call him or her names. Nothing constructive has ever come from belittling a child.
We see so much in the news about bullying, and we are always up in arms about children bullying other kids. Maybe as adults, we should set the standard of behavior a little higher.