Mom Overreacts When Disabled Son Is 'Set Aside' in Classroom Photo

Mom Moment 282

One mom is heartbroken and her mind "boggled" that her 7-year-old son was placed off to the side of his second grade class photo, making him stand out more than he already does because he's in a wheelchair. Miles Ambridge, who has spinal muscular atrophy, has one of the biggest smiles in his class, but the photographer placed him completely separate from his classmates, and his mom, Anne Belanger, is spitting mad. She has opted to never show the photo to her son.

Belanger admits that the photo was probably not done to deliberately hurt her son's feelings -- it's clear from the photo that the boy is so far to the side because the end of the wooden bench everyone else is on would have prevented him from being closer to his classmates -- but she feels that this is just one more act of discrimination that Miles will have to endure in his life and it's not fair. She says:

Being picked on and being set aside is horrendous and this was what was happening.

I'm not sure who is picking on Miles -- or if she is just recounting other things that have happened to him. It seems she is incredibly raw and sensitive about her kid's feelings, even if his separation in the photo was done by accident. She says:

I couldn’t comprehend how the photographer could look through the lens and think that this was good composition ... this just boggled the mind ... The only alternative seemed to be to set him aside ... This was not a malicious act, I don’t think it was done on purpose. I just don’t think there was any rational thinking behind it.

The photographer probably figured he had to place the class in the middle of the bench, just like the hundreds of other class pictures he or she had taken. The only other options would have been to put Miles in front of the bench, which may have blocked anyone behind him -- or moved everyone to the side Miles was on, which would have left the teacher standing far to the side. Perhaps there would have been some more creative approaches, but the photographer clearly wasn't Steven Meisel.

I can see why the mom is hurt -- she must feel like yet again her son is being left out, ignored, separated, treated differently. Unfortunately this is something he'll have to deal with on a fairly regular basis throughout his life. But with that big smile, I have a feeling he'll tackle it head on.

After Belanger posted the photo on the photography company's Facebook page, it offered to retake the photo for free. Will be interesting to see how they arrange the kids. Hopefully Miles and his beautiful smile are in the middle this time.

Do you think mom was being overly sensitive or had every right to be upset?


Image via hoyasmeg/Flickr

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LostS... LostSoul88

I think she's over reacting. Just look at the photo there is no other way to get him closer. I keep trying to figure out other ways for him to be more involved in the photo but it would either displace other kids or he will no matter what be placed out a little farther. He looks happy as hell. I think if the mom didn't make such a big deal about it the kid would not think anything of it.

Rootbear Rootbear

Everyone could have scootched over towards the teacher and he could have sat in front of her.

jrphelps jrphelps

"She has opted to never show her son the photo."  YET it is on the internet with the attached news story. 

nonmember avatar kayla

if the teacher had stood behind/beside him, he wouldn't seem so removed. also, i'm surprised the kids couldn't have just stood for the picture, with him in front, and some around him. it would still be "balanced" at least.

tessi... tessiekat

The Mom has a point. There are ways to get around the huge space between him and his classmates. She may have blown it out of proportion with getting the media involved, but the photographer/teacher/any adult there could have suggested a few alterations to balance out the picture better with her son included. I like Rootbear's suggestion. Forget centering the bleachers and center the kids and teacher on one end of them.

nonmember avatar Christie

Thank you @Rootbear, I thought he could have been in front of the teacher too. I don't get why others didn't see this as a problem (teacher included). My children aren't disabled, but if they were I would be sick over this too. Her little boy is going to be "left out" of things for his entire life due to his disability, it's up to us who are able to make sure that he gets every normalcy he can. And any adult that cannot see and act on that shouldn't be working with children, or taking their photos. Period. And I definatley don't think she was overreacting, I read in an article today that she and her husband released a statement that the school and photographer did make it right when she contacted them about it, but they want people to know about it so they are more concious in the future. Leave it to some "parents" they'd be yelling law suit right about now.

Lisa Lloyd

This mom has every right to be upset. Parents of average children have no idea what it's like to see your child left behind, set aside, or ignored because of a disability. Yes, on the surface, it looks like just 'a one time thing.' But, trust me, it's not.

mande... manderspanders

Kiri, this is such an uncompassionate, intolerate stance for such a liberal elitist woman!

I don't believe the mother overreacted; however, the unfortunate thing is that this is life and the boy will need to adapt. 

But for those saying there was no other way to do the picture... you are idiots... THE PHOTOGRAPHER CAME BACK AND RE-DID THE PICTURE.  They took the boy out of his wheelchair (*OMG WHAT A CONCEPT! cuz ya know, kids with disabilities are perpetually attached to a wheelchair) and put him on the bleacher with person to assist his balance so that he could be pictured with his class.  This is what should have been done initially.  I truly cannot believe that the TEACHER didn't attempt to be more inclusive of this child.

In the whole scheme of things in this child's life, this picture is the least of his worries. But seeing the picture... it definitely represents a bigger societal problem... it isn't necessarily about accomodating those with disabilities (or attempting to accomodate the unacommodatable), but it is about not seeing these disabled children and adults as somehow different or less than their peers. The contrast is stark and well represents what happens daily to this population.

nonmember avatar Dee

Every special accommodation sets them apart from their peers. While I am quite liberal and all for equality I'm sick of this type of person who believes their special kid should get extra special treatment/rules/accommodations. That way he'll never learn to live like a normal person in society. It's these mothers that half the time create the issues. It doesn't seem like the kid himself even noticed. So who, exactly is the "victim"? Now if we were talking an actual abuse or mistreatment, yes. But we're always talking about special treatment these days. These kids are a lot more harmed by their mothers then society in general.

Nancy Crawford Olmeda

I find this article pretty insensitive. Does the writer know what it's like to have a child with severe special needs? What gives her the right to decide that the mother is "overreacting?" I do think the photographer could have positioned him better, or tried a few different poses first. If I were the teacher, I would have stood between him and a few other kids to bridge the gap. I do agree, however, that the mother could have handled the matter more privately if she's concerned with how the picture will affect her son.

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