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The Little Deaf Girl That Terrorized our Neighborhood

Updated on September 24, 2015
Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal, parents of the  disruptive and aggressive autistic boy in Sunnyvale, CA.  The rights of the disabled do not include the right to physically harm others.
Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal, parents of the disruptive and aggressive autistic boy in Sunnyvale, CA. The rights of the disabled do not include the right to physically harm others. | Source

Many years ago, when my children were little, our family lived on a military post. We somehow secured a fantastic house in a quiet neighborhood, with a playground right out front. It was a perfect location for a family with small kids.

Many good memories were made on that playground, but one memory always makes us shake our heads with consternation. It's the memory of the little deaf girl that lived across the playground from us, the little deaf girl that bullied kids at the playground. And the memory of her mother who never did anything to stop her violent behavior, because her daughter was deaf.

I've been following the story of the autistic boy out in California, the one they say is a menace to all the residents on their street, Arlington Court, in Sunnyvale. When the story first came out, people bristled at the idea of neighboring families suing the parents of this young boy. How dare they! How dare they pick on a little autistic boy!

But then, more information: He hit an infant. He regularly sits on a neighbor's cat. He is a true menace to their community.

Neighbors claim that his parents, Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal, do little to curb his violent and aggressive behavior. The first thing I thought of when I read about this story? The mean little deaf girl.

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More Than "Kid Stuff"

I was excited to have a child my daughter's age living across from us. She was the same age as my oldest daughter but because she was deaf, she was in the special education program. My youngest daughter was also in the special education program, so she and Holly* rode the bus together to the special needs program at a local school.

At first, everything seemed perfect. They all played well together and no disagreements ever progressed beyond minor kid stuff.

There were lots of kids at the playground every day. Sometimes I sat outside with them, but I could also sit at my dining room table and keep an eye on them while I worked on various projects. It was on one of those inside days that I saw it the first time.

There were several kids sitting on one of those big plastic tubes, the kind kids can climb through and over. I was taking a teensy break from my work, staring distractedly out of the window at them, when I saw Holly push the kid next to her to the ground. They weren't arguing; they weren't horsing around. Holly just smiled at the kid lying on the ground, then ran home.

I was confused. She couldn't know I saw her.

Holly was best friends with a boy who lived a couple doors down from us. He had a little electric car that he and Holly would ride around the playground. She never let anyone else ride with him.

I thought that was pretty normal. Kids get territorial when it comes to friends; after all, they had known each other for a long time, and we just moved in. But then I was in my daughter's room, on the second floor, and the window was open. I could hear the electric car in our yard, so I looked out to see Holly and her friend making a beeline for my daughter's bike.

"Hit it!" Holly said.

Her friend steered away from my daughter's bike.

"HIT IT!" Holly yelled, pointing at my daughter's bike. So her friend steered towards the bike and ran into it. Then Holly made him back up and do it again.

I yelled out the window for them to cut it out.

Her Friends Weren't Immune

Except for the bike incident, my daughters never experienced any of Holly's bullying. Her friend, however, was not so lucky.

At this point, if Holly was outside with other kids, I kept an eye on her. She and her friend were playing on the big, metal, old-timey slide. They were both at the top of the slide, calmly sitting there together, when she pushed him off. The top of the slide was at least 8 feet off the ground. I watched her casually push her best friend off the top of the slide and smile when he hit the ground. She didn't go down the slide to check on him, she didn't go get an adult to help him. No ... she just sat at the top of the slide, smiling at what she had done.

Of course his parents tried to talk to her mother about it, just as other parents had tried talking to her after Holly hurt their kids. But everyone got the same basic answer: "Holly couldn't do that!" {pause} "She's deaf!"

Around the 4th of July, we went to their house for an early dinner, trying to maintain our already shaky friendship. We were sitting in the dining room when Holly's older sister came rushing in, out of breath and visibly upset.

"Mom!"

Her mother looked up at her, annoyed. "What?" she asked, curtly.

"Mom! Holly just hit my in the head with a stick!" She held her hand up to the back of her head.

Her mom looked at us and laughed. "Well, why didn't you duck?"

Holly's behavior finally created a rift in the neighborhood. Her mother and another mother stopped talking to each other. I was pretty upset over it, but there was nothing I could do to change it.

Unfortunately, Holly decided to mete out that proverbial "last straw" when she bullied my daughter. The housing company that took over our subdivision tore out the park and replaced it with a parking lot. The built another park nearby, but I could no longer keep an eye on the kids from my house. They had both been playing at the park, when Holly started taunting her. My daughter got on her bike and rushed home, tears streaming down her face, Holly pedaling quickly behind her, shouting names at her. I lost it; the memory of that child's every crime thundering in my head. I went to Holly's house, yelled at the mother, and stormed home. I threw my daughter's bike in the house.

No Getting Through To Her

I am guilty of having a quick temper, so I eventually tried to mend the relationship with the mother, but I knew I could never be close to her again. She told me that her daughter could no longer play outside because too many kids were bullying her, because she was deaf. Never any ownership of her daughter's violent or inappropriate behavior. Nope, all the blame rested on all the other kids in the neighborhood, even though their parents had confronted her with their concerns.

They moved soon afterwards, and even though I was a little sad to see the mom go, several moms in the area were very happy to see Holly go away.

People say that those neighbors out in California, Kumaran Santhanam, Bindu Pothen and Robert and Marci Flowers, are blowing things out of proportion. The judge just ordered everyone back into mediation yet again, even though that has failed in the past.

And honestly, if they haven't been able to work it out before now, they're never going to. They will never allow their autistic son to grow up. They will never make him responsible for his actions. Honestly, this isn't even about autism. It is about parents who refuse to raise a child that is ready to face the world and be a part of, rather than a burden on, his larger world community.

* Her real name is withheld.

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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 2 years ago from America

      The bigger Holly grew and the little autistic boy the meaner they would get and more dangerous. It's sad when parents can't see that their children need help and need discipline no matter their problems.

    • profile image

      screwedupworld 2 years ago

      I agree with another person who said it was a parenting issue. However there should have been more done earlier on about the situation. Someone should have had a talk with the mother when this all began about her denial of her child's mental issues(and I agree having a disability is no excuse, I have two disabled children myself).. Yes the girl was bratty and dangerous, but there is more to it. She needed help. And as inconvenient as it would be, the neighborhood kids should have avoided her altogether or played in their own backyards for their own safety.

    • Brynn Thorssen profile image
      Author

      Carrie Peterson 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      It is, although I know several parents didn't want to say anything to the mother specifically because the little girl was deaf, even though "Holly" was terrible to their kids. They just stopped letting their kids be outside when she was outside. Out of control disabled kids can cause a kind of "snowball effect" when they have parents who don't discipline them. People are generally sympathetic to the disability, but then there is the obvious instinct to protect their own kids.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      It's a parenting issue, independent of any medical or mental conditions.

    • Brynn Thorssen profile image
      Author

      Carrie Peterson 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Thank you!

      When I was in my junior year in high school, my family moved and I had to go to a new school, which also meant riding a bus for the first time in my life. The front seat, diagonal from the driver, was always empty until the last stop, and the driver never told people not to sit there. Sometimes, we would get all the way to school with an empty front seat, but everyone knew not to sit there.

      The reason? There was an older boy with Down's Syndrome who occasionally rode the bus, and that was HIS SEAT. God help you if you didn't know and sat there, because on the few mornings we picked him up and his seat was occupied, he would punch the person sitting there as hard as he could until they moved. You could tell the bus driver was at her wit's end but couldn't do anything.

      They finally had to remove him from school because he was grabbing girls' butts so hard he was leaving bruises!

    • letstalkabouteduc profile image

      McKenna Meyers 2 years ago from Bend, OR

      Bravo -- so well said! Not only are parents ignoring their children's bad behavior, but they're often enabling or even encouraging it. I had a boy with Down's Syndrome in my preschool class and his whole team of early intervention specialists allowed him to get away with hitting and pushing kids. He was NEVER to blame. It was ALWAYS the other kids who did something that made him hit or push. We teachers weren't allowed to say that he "hits." We had to say he was "handsy". His parents let him play rough with his big sister at home so he just continued what he knew at school. They did nothing. It was allowed to continue because nobody wanted to stand up and say it was wrong -- too scared by political correctness. Fantastic hub!

    • Brynn Thorssen profile image
      Author

      Carrie Peterson 2 years ago from Colorado Springs, CO

      Thank you so much, and I agree! Kids have to be held responsible for their actions.

    • Vic Dillinger profile image

      Vic Dillinger 2 years ago

      Bad parenting is bad parenting, regardless of the child's abilities or disabilities. And good for you for not turning a blind eye. What an engaging story, Carrie Peterson. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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