On World Down Syndrome Day, March 21st, Dhahran “Dude” Hart and Phillip O Berry High School's Exceptional Children Class will host a book signing at the school. "Dude Has Downs" provides the gift of knowledge while also donating to the Therapuedic Recreation summer camp program of Charlotte Park and Recreation. As a way for us to 'give back' a percentage of book proceeds will assist in sending a special needs person to camp. Four years ago, we relocated to Charlotte and the TR staff enrolled Dude for the entire summer, free. We enjoyed the drama productions, festivals, artwork and especially the camaraderie.
Years prior to the birth of my son, I witnessed a bus monitor beat a young physically and mentally disabled man. My sister and I waited behind the bus and watched as the mother and the monitor dragged the man down the sidewalk, to the stairs and she quickly ran back into the home. My sister and I watched as the monitor, immediately, began beating the man across his head and back with a broom handle, while the bus driver pulled off. Cell phones were not in the majority so when I arrived home I called the board of mental retardation, MRDD. I was very familiar with the organization and the short, yellow buses because my other sister, two years older, has a mental disability. I reported this abuse and someone was to contact me. Never happened. I called back several times over many years to follow up. Still nothing.
Growing up with my sister, who has a disability, I experienced much trauma due to the teasing, stares, the ignorance and the ignoring my sister endured. I always wanted to fight and confront the offenders. As my son, Dude, grew up. I experienced the same torture and reacted in negative ways. I have a phobia of special needs bus drivers and monitors, understandably, but also with teachers, family, friends, neighbors, stangers and everybody who comes in contact with my son. Dude is non-verbal and when he answers, 'yes,' no one would probably believe him.
For my son's first birthday, March 8, 1992, I wrote a poem describing my feelings and emotions about having a child with Down syndrome. Now, 20 years later, for his 21st birthday, the poem, "Dude Has Downs," is a self-published children's book for adults too who don't understand. Parents have gotten away from telling their children, “Don't stare!” as they stare themselves. I feel I've discovered a positive way to address the bullying, although I still, at times, want to just smack them. I have a better weapon for them: knowledge.