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Dear Ann Landers: This is in response to "Concerned in Minnesota." She had seen a young boy hit his mother while shopping. The mother was soft-spoken and lenient with the child. The writer was upset by the boy's obnoxious behavior and blamed the mother for not teaching him to be more respectful. You agreed.

Did you or that writer stop to consider that the child could be handicapped? I have a 14-year-old son who is attractive and normal-looking. He is, however, developmentally disabled and has the cognitive abilities of a 4-year-old. When we are out in public and his behavior is inappropriate, it is painful for me to endure the disapproving glances of onlookers.

I once had my son wait for me outside the ladies' changing room at a swimming pool. A woman who was upset by his presence proceeded to lecture me about the "tackiness" of having a boy that age hanging around the women's dressing room. She said her teen-age son would know better. I finally had had enough and replied, "Well, that's wonderful for you, but my son is handicapped, so please mind your own business." She was embarrassed. Her face turned red, and she didn't say another word.

Please tell your readers that unless they can contribute something helpful to a stressful situation, they should stay out of it. People need understanding and compassion these days, not judgment.
-- Rocky Point
Dear Rocky Point: Your letter is a splendid example of the dangers of popping off before knowing the facts. Thanks for the lesson you taught millions of people today. Keep reading for more:

From Grand Island, Neb.: I'm tired of parents being blamed for everything their child does. The federal and state governments have taken away our parental rights to discipline our own children. Even kids who have been raised with the utmost tolerance, love and respect sometimes fail to show those traits. A friend of mine has a teen-age son who has been in trouble with the law. When they were being questioned by the probation officer, the son shouted obscenities at his mother. She tapped him on the arm and asked him to watch his language. The police were called, and the mother was charged with child abuse. Where is the sanity in this?

From Chicago: Times have certainly changed since I taught seventh grade in the Chicago public school system in 1965. In those days, if a student hit a teacher, he (or she) was taken to the principal's office, and the parents had to come to school before that student was allowed back in class. Today, my daughter is a teacher. Recently, a 13-year-old student slapped her. She just stood there and did nothing to protect herself for fear of being arrested. I'm glad I'm not teaching anymore.

From Bay Shore: In today's society, children have no respect for parents, teachers or adults in general. Students in school will tell you that you are violating their rights if you even attempt to reprimand them. This happened to a friend of mine. He and his wife went to a crack house where their 13-year-old son had been living for several days. They dragged him home. The boy had his father arrested for child abuse, and a restraining order was placed against him. The boy may have been young, but he certainly knew his rights.

Dear Readers: Any juvenile authorities want to speak up? If there is another side to this story, I would like to hear it.

Gem of the day

It used to be "Spare the rod, and spoil the child." Today, it's "If you use the rod, you could land in court."

Problems? Write to: Ann Landers, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

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