Children's Health

Chick-fil-A encounter moves mom of son with special needs to post touching thank you note

Leah Carroll regularly keeps friends and family up-to-date on the latest developments and growth milestones of her 4-year-old son Malachi. But it’s her latest post about an encounter at a local Chick-fil-A that has thousands talking.

“To the mom of three at Chick-Fil-A: I sensed your panic when your five year old son pointed at my son in his wheelchair and shouted 'Mom look at THAT boy!'” Carroll, of Tennessee, wrote in a May 4 Facebook post. “You leaned forward and quietly told him and his three year old brother that we don’t say things like that and they shouldn’t point or stare. But as in most cases, these suggestions are futile with young, curious minds and they continued to stare and loudly ask questions about my son’s differences.”

In previous CaringBridge and blog posts, Carroll revealed that Malachi was born in 2013 at just 24 weeks gestation. He did not have a heartbeat and had to be revived immediately after birth before being whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit for many weeks. He has since been diagnosed with hydrocephalus, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy, cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, epilepsy, severe reflux and orthopedic abnormalities. He has already undergone 12 surgeries and endured multiple hospitalizations.

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In her post to the unnamed mother, Carroll applauded her courage and approach to parenting as she introduced her sons to Malachi.

“When you realized your whispers weren’t working I saw the panic disappear and you took a deep breath and took a step of courage,” she wrote. “You brought your boys over to Malachi and said ‘I bet he would like to know your names!’ As they said their names my little Malachi started grinning from ear to ear and jabbering back to them. The joy on his face brought tears to my eyes – he loves kids his age but so many are fearful to come and speak to him. Your boys continued to ask questions about his foot braces, his wheelchair, why his legs don’t work, why he holds his mouth open like that. You took the time to educate your sons in that moment and help them understand that different is okay. Different is not something to fear. And that it was okay to ask questions!”

The post, which has more than 193,000 reactions and nearly 70,500 shares, went on to thank the mom for giving Malachi the chance to meet other kids his age, and for being a good model for others.

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“Thank you for giving my son a chance to meet your kids. Thank you for being the type of mom who educates your children instead of frantically trying to silence them,” Carroll wrote. “Special needs moms have to develop tough skin- we get used to stares, comments, and whispers. Please know it takes a lot to offend us, particularly when the comments are coming from young children. Give your kids the same grace we give them and use the opportunity to teach them about differences. So Chick-Fil-A mom, thank you for raising your children to embrace children like Malachi. And thank you for giving my son something to smile about.”