Cheryl Walker · Sunday November 27, 2005
I was born the same year as Mark Martin, in 1959. I have fewer wrinkles than he does, but I know that he can do a whole lot more push-ups than I can. If I didn’t dye my hair red, I’m thinking we’d about match each other in the amount of those pesky silver hairs. However, he prefers a manly crew cut, while my hair hangs to my lower back, just as it did when I was in high school.
I wonder if Mark Martin had a crew cut in high school? No, wait. I seem to recall a picture of Mark with long hair and a mustache early in his racing career. Well, for a time there I had kinky permed hair. I guess we all have those crazy phases with our appearance.
Another thing I can remember about being a junior and senior in high school back in the 70s was the segregation of the "˜regula’ students, and the ones in special education. I am sure that Mark Martin and anyone growing up in my era remembers the distinction between "˜us’ and "˜them’. I recall with great shame making fun of the "˜speds’ that had the classrooms down in the basement near the cafeteria, and that rode those funny looking mini-buses back and forth to school. They were secluded from us, and that was fine with everyone. I also believe they were shielded from us, because everyone knows how cruel kids can be.
Times have changed, and so has the way school systems deal with their special students. The new and politically correct way to handle how special children are educated is to "˜mainstream’ them. I could write a long thesis on my thoughts and opinions of how that is working out for everyone, and the motives behind some of the choices that have been made, but that would stray far from the point of this article.
I have come to feel that NASCAR has the same sort of reputation as the "˜sped’ students I went to school with. If you would consider basketball, baseball, football, and hockey as the "˜regula’ sports, then the one odd and misunderstood one would be stock car racing. With a history that some are embarrassed about, just like as in the way people have treated children with disabilities in the past.
We have made progress in how we feel about NASCAR and special kids, and with time and education we have learned that neither deserved the reputations they had. And the public as a whole is learning that the people that make up NASCAR racing aren’t all backwoods dimwits, as well as that the range of children with disabilities is farther and wider than anyone could have ever imagined, and "˜normal’ is now becoming vague and misunderstood itself.
If you have hung onto these words this long, I applaud you. And I will tell you that the reason they are being put here in cyberspace by me today is the recognition that this is "˜Autism Awareness Month’, and there are a whole lot of children out there afflicted with this disorder. And that you should care about that, because some say that many of these children are autistic because of the way babies are given inoculations, and what those inoculations contain. If you are young person reading this, you may someday have a child that you will be told to inoculate your baby. If you already have young children, you may be concerned about these reports. If you are like me, you will have had a child that has been diagnosed with one of the autism spectrum of disorders (Asperge’s Disorder), and it will be important to you to encourage the medical world to keep the research into these hypothesis and theories going at full speed.
I never imagined back in the late 70s as a young girl with long hippie hair that I would have a child requiring those special education classes, and him having to ride one of those mini-buses. You never know what life has planned for you.
So my plea is that when you see that ribbon of many colors, or hear the announcers talking about Jamie McMurray’s, or Hermie’s or Elliott Sadle’s paint schemes, or hear of some special event being held to raise money for autism awareness, that you listen and learn. You may be touched by it someday in some way or another, and you will be glad that you did.
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