Australian politician Pauline Hanson ignited backlash over her recent comments about children with autism in schools. According to Hanson, children with autism were “holding back” their neurotypical peers and should not be allowed to be mainstreamed in integrated classrooms.

These remarks were not only offensive, but they were also incorrect. The truth is, many individuals on the spectrum thrive through attending public schools and being in integrated classrooms. What’s more is that there is no evidence that their peers “suffer” because of this. In fact, many experts believe that diversity in classroom settings promotes compassion and empathy.

However, while these facts were quickly pointed out by countless critics, none of the responses to Hanson’s remarks were able to quite convey the hurt that words like these can cause like nine-year-old Ivory Clarke.

In a Facebook post published by her mother, Ivory wrote a letter directly to the senator, calling her out for her hurtful language and thoughtlessness.

Ivory’s letter to Senator Hanson, as shared on her mother’s Facebook page

In her letter, Clark shares “I have learned that you need to think about what you say and filter your words so that you can do…better…thinking before you say things that hurt others.” In this short message, Clark expressed a higher level of maturity and understanding than Hanson, a so-called leader.

Unfortunately, Hanson’s narrow understanding of autism is not uncommon. It is typical for people to assume individuals with autism behave one certain way or that they all carry the same difficulties. This kind of thinking, as expressed by Clark, can be very hurtful for those affected by autism who know the truth.

By speaking out against Hanson’s hurtful words, young Ivory has added her own voice to the conversation – one that understands exactly what it means to live with the disorder that others merely debate about. Through her courage to speak up, Ivory has added a much-needed sense of empathy to the issue.

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