A mother in Canada was shocked when she reportedly received an anonymous letter from a neighbor shaming her autistic son for his behavior.
Tamara Downey lives with her husband, Todd, and son, Ryan, in the town of Kippens, CBC reported.
“I describe him as my gentle giant because, although he's only 12, he's about [5-foot-8] already and wears a size 11 men's shoe. But in his own mind and his heart, he's just a kid,” she told CBC's "Corner Brook Morning Show" of her son.
The letter, received late last week, was allegedly written on behalf of a group of neighbors who became concerned about Ryan’s behavior.
“When I received that on Friday, I was absolutely devastated,” she said.
The note accused 12-year-old Ryan of stealing, damaging things in the neighborhood, and blocking traffic with his specialty bicycle. The neighbors stated in the letter that the police had been contacted, and that they even started a file on the boy.
“The implication that neighbors have discussed that things have gone missing from their property and damage has been done,” Tamara said. “Ryan does not take things from people's property and, if he did, he would bring it back with us — we're there with him all the time."
Tamara reportedly contacted the town and learned that no reports had been filed relating to damaged or missing property.
“No one has ever come to me or my husband to say that there's things missing or damaged,” she said. “And, of course, if property was damaged, we would absolutely like someone to come forward and we would help pay for it."
Tamara added that her son’s autism means that he relies on his parents for everything from getting dressed to communicating on his behalf.
“His behaviors aren't because he's a bad kid or we haven't been good parents — the way he acts is the autism,” she said.
“I don't think they understand what autism is all about and the traits and the severity of it," she added. "I can't and I won't keep my child locked up."
Tamara and her husband are now trying to figure out who wrote the note and said they have a feeling it wasn’t a large group of families as the message suggested.
“I believe this is maybe one or two people who have gotten upset if Ryan has gone onto their yard, or been in the street riding his bike and it takes Todd a little longer to get him off to the side,” she said.
“Ryan, with his autism, can be a little noisy as far as when he's outside playing and he gets excited," she added, "but there are more supportive people in my neighbourhood than there are who wrote this letter.”
Some neighbors have even come forward to condemn the letter, according to The Telegram.
"I see their (parents Tamara and Todd Downey) struggle every day and applaud them for what they are doing with Ryan," neighbor Odell Archibald told The Telegram.
"It made me feel sad to see the family having to go through dealing with the letter as it was a very mean and cruel thing for someone to do," another neighbor, Clayton Moraze, added.
Photo credit: thetelegram.com