Ella Singleton is a nine-year-old girl from Liverpool who is on the autism spectrum. She struggles to make friends, so she was very excited when some of her classmates gave her Christmas cards.
Although Ella’s mom, Jenna Singleton, is aware that the classmates who wrote Christmas cards to Ella are not really her friends on a regular basis, Ella thought the holiday cards meant true friendship too. They gave her a sense of belonging. But when she opened one of them, she got a rather unwelcome surprise.
The card contained only a few words. “To Ella,” it said at the top, followed by, “I hate you” and signed at the bottom, underneath the pre-printed words “Yappy Christmas.”
Understandably, Ella was quite upset about the nasty message she had expected to be something much kinder. She was visibly upset when she got home from school that day but didn’t tell her family anything about it until later.
“She kept saying everyone hates her and how she should go away,” says her mother. “She began lashing out at family members, saying she wanted to die and even tried to run away from home.”
Ella made it a full two blocks before she was stopped by a delivery person and her nan was able to catch up with her. It was only after fleeing and being brought home again that she told her family about the horrible note.
“I told her people could be mean,” said Singleton, “and that she should never go away from me because that would break my heart.”
Sadly, Ella has a long history of trouble getting along with kids her age. She walks around alone during recess and is constantly unhappy about having no friends. Her mom recalls a birthday party to which 32 children were invited and only one showed up.
After Singleton’s Facebook post went viral, neighbors and organizations began reaching out to her in an effort to help Ella feel better. The family received flowers, free tickets to zoos and parks, offers for free dinners (Ella is even allowed to make her own milkshakes at Just Wings in Southport), and more. One charity organization even offered a free ski trip to Italy from February 23 to March 1, and Ella was excited to go.
But it seems this poor girl can’t catch a break. Ella’s mother informed the school about the dates for the trip and says no one ever mentioned that there might be an issue with Ella attending it. “They even said how wonderful it was and joked if there was any room for them on the trip,” says Singleton. “I definitely thought I had permission – it was all very pleasant.”
And so, as you might expect, Ella went on the trip. According to her mother, she had a fantastic time, learned a lot, and begged to go back afterward.
However, when Ella got back from her “holiday of a lifetime,” her mother was “gobsmacked” to learn that the school was fining her a whopping £120 fine for Ella’s unauthorized absence from school.
“This trip came off the back of something that happened at school, so I thought there would have been a bit more understanding,” says Singleton. “It is not as though I booked this trip myself and chose to do it in school time; they were set dates by the charity.”
Singleton continues, “I am disappointed with the school, to be honest, and I don’t feel like they have given Ella much support. After everything that happened, they should have been happy for her to have been given this trip.”
Singleton is working on appealing the fine.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?