Cruel taunts a part of life for family
JOEL Carter, 13, was sitting in his wheelchair with his mum at Alowishus Delicious when a belligerent man approached them.
"Look at you, you fat, f---ing, little turd," the man taunted the boy.
A muscular man nearby braced himself to intervene but the rude man stomped away.
Joel's Mum, Sharon Carter turned to her son who simply smiled and said: "Mum, I think there is something wrong with that man".
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Ms Carter could not help but laugh.
Ms Carter and her family have become accustomed to the stares and sideways glances her son receives.
It's never easy, particularly on Joel.
But Ms Carter says it's part and parcel of being a parent of a child with a disability.
In September, Joel was diagnosed with Bardet Biedl Syndrome, a rare condition afflicting about 150 Australians.
A typical BBS presentation has symptoms like Retinitis Pigmentosa, which can lead to loss of vision, kidney disease and failure, liver and heart disease, hearing loss, being overweight without cause, autism, severe mental health issues and much more.
"The diagnosis was a bittersweet moment because we finally knew what was wrong and could focus on what needed to be done," Ms Carter said.
"Joel's presentation is quite intriguing and the gene mutations involved are unique to him, so we've been asked by two research facilities in the US to be involved in their genetic research and gene therapy trials."
Ms Carter said she and her son had never been confronted in such a manner as the one last week at Alowishus, and while Joel put on a brave face, the incident had rocked his already fragile confidence.
Ms Carter said it had been a tough few years for Joel, whose mental health took a dive about two years ago when the family lived in Sydney.
Ms Carter, a single mum, decided to pack her bags and her three other children, and return home to Bundaberg this year.
"I wanted to be closer to my family," she said.
"My sister has been amazing and helped out."
Joel has been attending Bundaberg Special School, which has been "incredibly welcoming".
As part of Joel's ongoing therapy, he uses swings to improve his sensory issues and balance.
But Ms Carter said it was rare for him to use community playgrounds as he found it overwhelming being around strangers.
She has set up a GoFundMe page to raise $7000 for a portable therapy swing set that can carry her son's weight.
"I am also keen to have it made available to a few other families that I know with children who have autism or similar disorders," Ms Carter said.
If you can help, visit www.gofundme.com/carterjd.