In a story that is quickly going viral, a grandmother in Newcastle, Ontario, received an anonymous hate letter about her 13-year-old grandson, Max, who has autism.

Max's mother, Karla Begley, told CityNews that her son, Max, stays with his grandmother in the morning during the summer, which is where the letter was delivered on Friday, Aug. 16.

"I was shaking when I was reading it," Brenda Millson, Max's grandmother, told CityNews. "It's awful words. You don't know why somebody would ever do such a thing."

The typed letter calls Max a "nuisance" and a "wild animal" before suggesting the family move or "euthanize" the child. The author refers to the child as "retarded," and the tirade argues that no one will ever love or marry Max. Ironically, the anonymous letter ends with, "Nobody wants you living here and they don't have the guts to tell you!" (Guts, indeed.)

Begley says the police have been contacted and charges will be filed against the letter's author if possible.

Global reaction

Hateful letter to child with autism

In an outpouring of disgust and sadness, people have responded with anger and concern. A post of the letter on Facebook has been shared more than 21,000 times at publication time. The Facebook page Everyone Matters spoke out: "The more we all understand each other's differences, the less judgment there will be — and the accusation of 'otherness.'"

We may never know who wrote this letter, but maybe something good can result. My hope is that it sparks conversation and education, among adults and children.

A personal experience

My son has Down syndrome, and I wrote recently about an experience on a playground with another child — one seemingly developing typically — who pointed to my son and yelled out, "He's weird!" followed by a tirade of "He's an alien!" I was heartsick as I watched the scene play out, made somewhat easier only by the fact that Charlie is 3 years old and doesn't understand such taunts.

Charlie's silly reaction at park

But it also made me keenly aware of Charlie's behavior. He was shrieking (with glee) and dashing around as best he could — he has a hard time bending his right knee (from stubbornness or a developmental delay) and so at best, his pace is a quick walk as he swings his right leg out, keeping it completely straight. Yes, he looks different. He sounds different.

For a child who has never seen someone with a disability, the combination of yells and shrieks (he doesn't speak yet) and struggling gait might cause another child to stare, say thoughtless things or ask a teacher or parent, "What's wrong with that little boy?"

But in the end, she was a child, no more than 10 years old. It's human nature to notice differences and be curious. It's abhorrent behavior to berate someone who is different and wish him dead. The anonymous letter placed in Millson's mailbox is from a cowardly, anonymous, hateful adult.

Will you fight hatred?

Because the letter is anonymous, perhaps its author has never shared such dark thoughts with anyone else. Perhaps the words in the letter were discriminatory slurs buried deep in his or her mind, never emerging until the penning of this hate letter.

More likely, this person has shared such disgusting ideas with others. Maybe even with you. Or maybe you know someone who could have written this letter.

How we, as adults, choose to address even the smallest gesture of intolerance, hate and discrimination may mean the difference between teaching the next generation kindness, compassion and respect and watching another generation hurt one another.

How we, as adults, choose to address even the smallest gesture of intolerance, hate and discrimination may mean the difference between teaching the next generation kindness, compassion and respect and watching another generation hurt one another.

This gesture — this cowardly, ugly, painful, hateful gesture — deserves nothing less than the most the law will allow. If anyone should be packing boxes and moving from a neighborhood, it is that letter's author.

What can I do?

Maybe you think you don't know anyone who could have written this letter. Perhaps, the letter is so shocking, you feel sure it's a hoax.

Talk with your children today about why differences are important, and why everyone matters. Talk about why it's not OK to be mean to someone, ever.

No matter. The words are out there, stirring conversation and causing a reaction. How we choose to address this incident and how we teach our children to address such hatred can change lives.

Please. Talk with your children today about why differences are important, and why everyone matters. Talk about why it's not OK to be mean to someone, ever. Everyone has feelings, and a family in Canada is in terrible pain because of one person's hatred. Speak out.

More about autism

Why I won't apologize for my child
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Don't sweat the Stimmies
Autism tips: How to avoid overstimulation at birthday parties

Letter photo credit: Everyone Matters Facebook

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