When Strangers Stick Up For People With Special Needs

The story of the man with Asperger’s who got berated by a customer at the supermarket for checking her out too slowly went viral after his big sis posted about it on Facebook. Jamie Virkler, 43, asked people to show her brother Christ Tuttle, 28, some love. ”What this woman doesn’t know,” wrote Jamie, “is that ten hours later, Chris told me the story as if it just happened, he was just as stressed and just as upset. She has no idea how damaging her actions were…to one person. Part of Asperger’s is the inability to move on, to not be able to wrap his mind around the fact that this woman isn’t worth it…He doesn’t understand why someone would be so nasty to him.”

Tens of thousands of comments and virtual hugs have poured in for Chris, a Wegman’s employee since 2006.

People posted comments of the outraged variety (“I think that customer owes Chris a big, big apology!!!)

People posted comments of the been there, felt that variety (“I used to be a cashier and was considered pretty fast and people sometimes yelled at me too! People who are mean and yell at people are always gonna make up a reason for it!”)

People posted comments of the heartbreaking variety (“I have a 19-year-old son that has Asperger’s…. He wants a job, but I’m afraid to let him get one because of people like that woman. Continue to be yourself and remember you are better than she is.”)

People posted comments of the philosophical variety (“That’s why I like dogs better then people.”)

People posted comments of the super-supportive variety (“You’re beautiful. It’s them, not you” and “Chris: all those people you’ve helped? Focus on them!”)

The day after her original update, his sister posted, “Thank you so much to everyone, I just wanted to brighten his day and WOW you have done more than that!” Chris has become a local celebrity in Granby, NY a local website reports. “I’m letting it go and moving on,” he said.

As the parent of a child with disability, stories like this stir up my worst fears about Max’s future—but also offer hope. The people who “like” Facebook updates such as this one (154,263 and counting!) and who leave the nice comments are the good human beings of this world. As for those people who are not, people who would yell at someone like Chris, there’s a chance incidents like this give them pause. Maybe even puts them on notice. As one comment on Syracuse.com said, “I have a camera phone and an active YouTube account and am not afraid to use them. Griefers want to yell at innocent cashiers? Get ready for your 15 minutes of fame…the hard way. This is not the 1980s.”

From my other blog:

Does this child seem exploited to you?

Holiday gifts for kids with special needs: wish list 2013

A shocking truth about the bestseller Wonder and its disability dis

Image: Facebook/Turtle Landing Retreat 

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