It should never happen, let alone at a church.
Kids with special needs shouldn’t be singled out, but that’s what happened to Stacey Gagnon’s son, according to a now viral social media post. When her son with special needs was allegedly ridiculed at a church, the Arizona resident took to Facebook to encourage parents to teach their children about differences.
Gagnon and her husband have six children, four of whom have special needs, ABC News reported. On July 16, Gagnon took her family to a new church in Campe Verde, where one of her sons received a less-than-warm welcome.
When Gagnon dropped off her three youngest children off at a separate children’s church. “the room became silent and every child stared or pointed at my son, Joel,” Gagnon, 41, wrote.
Joel has been diagnosed with Goldenhar syndrome, a congenital birth defect that affects the development of the face and other parts of the body. Joel was born without a right ear and is missing one of his right ribs, his mother said, but other than that, “he’s just like a normal boy.”
“He is missing an ear and some bone structure,” Gagnon wrote on Facebook. “I know he looks different, but today hurt.”
Gagnon and her husband adopted Joel when he was 18 months old. The former school teacher said she has often in the past stopped to teach children the value of differences, but the experience at the new church affected her too much to do so.
“I have always stepped into the role of teacher to educate kids… but today I did not,” she wrote. “Today, I did not teach someone else’s kid, because I was too busy holding my broken-hearted son.”
As of Monday, the emotional post had been shared more than 23,000 times. Gagnon said she hopes her story will encourage parents to educate their kids on empathy.
“These weren’t bad kids,” she said. “But we have to be intentional about teaching kids about this. Kids fear things that look different, but when you just explain it, it’s not a big deal.”
(H/T: ABC News)