Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

Inspiration to Start the Day

This morning I had to wake up early – on a Saturday! – to take our teen to school for her JROTC drill competition. As we drove, she was telling me about a bullying incident that she witnessed the other day. I’m not going to get into specifics, but the bullied kid has a rough home life. The last thing he needs is to have a rough school existence, too. My daughter was disappointed in her reaction to the bullying – think deer in the headlights – so she talked to a teacher, anonymously. As she was retelling the story and explaining her disappointment in herself, she said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” (Quote from MLK, Jr.) She is hoping that the teacher will do what she was unable to do – stand up for the child and put an end to the abuse at school.

If that wasn’t wonderful and inspiring enough to hear from your teenager, the morning got even better.

We arrived at her school a good 15 minutes early. While we waited for the other kids to arrive, a fellow early bird came up to the car and began chatting with my daughter. “Blah blah blah,” was all I heard. Until the boy called another child “retarded.” I jerked up from my smart phone and looked at him. Before I could say anything, my daughter said so sweetly, “Please don’t say that.” I don’t know that it registered with this boy, but it sure did with me.

It’s really easy to sit behind a computer screen and preach the utter wrongness of that word. We all (well, most of us!) agree that the “R word” is wrong. It is slang for “stupid”, “wrong” or “unbelievably messed up.” It is also a word that, in the past, was used to describe those with cognitive impairment, or intellectual delay. It was used to describe those like my son. Today, people like Ann Coulter and Bill Maher alike bandy this word about without second thought to those with special needs – or the people who love them.This word causes hurt to so many, yet it is like pulling teeth to try to make this word extinct.

But this morning, my daughter took a stand. She stood up to her peer and asked him to stop using that offensive word. It may not resonate with this kid today. It may not resonate with him ever. But maybe the next kid she speaks to will take heart. And, if nothing else, this practice of speaking up for what is right, is a beautiful thing. We need more of it in every facet of our lives. I’m so incredibly proud of my daughter today.

It makes our earlier argument about cleaning her room pretty obsolete. She’s a messy teen, but one with a sense of right and wrong, and a will to stand up for what she believes. I’ll take that any day.

Love you, Kiddo.

Written by Kelly Hafer. Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to three children; 16 year old NT, 6 and 5 year old boys on the spectrum, and a bun in the oven. Kelly has been featured in a collection of essays on special needs children entitled, “Wit and Wisdom From the Parents of Special Needs Children.” She can also be found at In her spare time, Kelly is part of the Military Special Needs Network Executive Board. You can contact her via email at


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