Having a child with autism does not allow you to abridge the rights of others.

Jul 17, 2008 by

There have been a spate of stories in the news recently in which autistic children and their parents have supposedly been discriminated against due to the child’s autism. Let me say right now that I have a seventeen year old autistic child so I am as much an expert on autism as any other parent with an autistic child. In one incident a church had to get a restraining order against a mother whose child was extremely disruptive in church. In the second incident a mother and her autistic child were asked to leave an airliner due to the child’s disruptive behavior. In the most recent incident a mother and her autistic child were asked to leave a diner due to the child’s disruptive behavior. In all the incidents the parents seemed to think that their rights were being infringed upon when they were asked to leave. In the most recent incident the reporters were very sympathetic and asked the mother if it was just a lack of tact or simply discrimination again autism. This question was asked by the reporters without even knowing if the person who asked the parent and child to leave knew that the child had autism.

I feel that if a child is being disruptive and infringing on the rights of others to enjoy whatever it is that they are doing, it is not discriminating against a child with autism to ask the parent and child to leave if they cannot control the behavior of the child. It is accepted social practice, or at least it should be, to remove a disruptive child from a social event if they continue to be disruptive. If a child is crying in a theater or a church it should make no difference if the child is autistic or not. Just because a child is autistic does not give the child special license to be disruptive in public. I know it is often difficult to control the behavior of an autistic child but when the child’s behavior is disruptive the child should be removed from the scene until the child’s behavior is acceptable. People should no more have to tolerate the disruptive behavior of an autistic child than the disruptive behavior of a child having a temper tantrum.

My autistic son has vocal mannerisms and physical movements that could possibly be disruptive in a setting like a church or a restaurant. Usually this is not a problem but in the rare instances when it was, especially when he was younger, I did not take offense when someone complained that it was disturbing them. I would either try to calm him down or failing that I would leave. I would do the same thing with my daughter, who is not autistic, if someone had a legitimate complaint about her behavior. Having an autistic child is a very challenging thing and it requires much more of the parent. And one of those things is to know when your child’s behavior is being disruptive to others and dealing with it in a gracious and courteous manner.

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