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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Another example of parents behaving badly.

May 19, 2008 by

badparentsI read a story on Fox News today about a mother of a 13 year old autistic boy who wants to take him to church despite a court order that bans the boy from the church. The pastor of St Joseph Church in Bertha Minnesota had to go to court and obtain a restraining order barring Carol Race’s child Adam from St Joseph due to his disruptive behavior. According to court documents Adam spits, urinates and once struck a child during Mass at St Joseph. Race states that Adam doesn’t spit, and that the urination is incontinence. She does admit that Adam once struck a child. I tend to doubt Race’s contention that Adam doesn’t spit and that the urination is only incontinence. Why would a pastor of a church go to all the trouble of obtaining a court order if Adam was not doing exactly what the pastor claims he was doing? If Adam was only incontinent no one in the church would have noticed the urination if he was wearing an adult diaper. And Race does admit that her son once struck someone. So why would she continue to insist that her son be allowed to attend services? I can speak with some authority about autism as I have an 18 year old severely autistic stepson who does none of the things that Race’s 13 year old son does but would still be disruptive in church due to his mannerisms and noises that he makes. Why do you think that most autistic children attend special education classes in school? It is because they would be disruptive in regular classes, besides not getting the level of care that they can only get in special education classes.

Instead of insisting that her son be allowed to attend church services despite being disruptive and dangerous, Race should be investigating whether there are special worship services that are available for autistic children. I see this type of behavior from parents all too often. How many times have you read where a child has been suspended from school or punished for genuinely bad behavior only to have their parents stand up and defend the child’s behavior? When a child is wrong the parents should accept the fact and work to resolve the issues that led to the incorrect behavior instead of defending the child’s poor behavior. Parents, your child is not always right and there are cases where you have to accept the fact that your child may not always be able to get their way. The good of the one does not outweigh the good of the many, if I may borrow from Spock.

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