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Punished for Autism?

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Several incidents in the last month have moms thinking.

punished_for_autism270.jpg

An airplane was about to take off from Raleigh, N.C., when they turned around to remove an upset, autistic toddler and his mother. According to an American Airlines statement, Janice and Jarret Farrell were kicked off primarily because Janice wouldn't put her bag in an overhead compartment--but they also said that Jarrett was crying and screaming so loudly that "the child's well-being was in question." Was it really necessary to remove them from the plane--after all, what mom hasn't had the nightmare of a scared kid in flight? Or is it that we are in a new era of discrimination against autistic children?

  • In May, Carol Race's local parish got a restraining order against her autistic son, Adam, claiming that his behavior was extremely dangerous and disruptive and that he spit and urinated in church. She denies the claims.
  • Also in May, Alex Barton's kindergarten class was allowed to say what they didn't like about him and take a vote about whether they wanted him in class or not. By a 14 to 2 margin, little Alex lost.
  • Just this month, Darla Granger, mom of twin autistic boys, discovered that her sons' class--along with two other classes with autistic children--was left out of the school yearbook at Quail Glenn Elementary. Darla is filing a complaint against the local board of education.

"Autism discrimination against our kids is not new, what's new is that it's being noticed by the general public," said Genevieve Hinson, a blogger and mom of a 15-year-old with autism.

"Because autism awareness is gaining ground, these stories are getting reported on, and maybe they wouldn't have been before. It's sad what's happening to these kids, but in a way it might help benefit the greater good and the community, if people are made more aware of the challenges that people with autism face. Maybe people--instead of kicking them off the plane--will ask what they could do. For my son, it's (a matter of) giving us space--let him have his moment and he will be fine. It may be different for every person." 

What's your view?


next: ML's Latest Obsessions
25 comments so far | Post a comment now
MomofAS June 27, 2008, 3:38 PM

Great article. I really believe that this will be the next civil rights movement.

Thank you!

Heather O June 27, 2008, 3:51 PM

It is very disheartening how insensitive people are towards children with autism. I’ve met Adam Race, the boy who was banned from church. He is a gentle, intelligent boy. I’ve attended the church that banned him. It was a noisy service with all of the crying and fussing babies and kids. Adam’s non-verbal expressions are quietier. The priest stated under oath that Adam is not noisier, just different, so that’s disruptive.

I was at the hearing where the priest admitted about 8 of the 10 accusations in his restaining order were based on hearsay. What other people have said Adam did in the past 2 1/2 years. The priest could not verifiy the accusations nor did he have wittnesses. On the otherhand, there were may wittnesses who tesified that many of the accusations were false.

The church lawyer stated they can choose to exclude anyone they want. Wonder who is next?

Lally June 27, 2008, 5:17 PM

If he’s such a gentle, well-behaved joy, then why wasn’t Adam Race in court with his mother so the judge could see how well he can sit for a few minutes at a time without disrupting court proceedings? Or was his mother’s excuse that it was an unfamiliar setting and wouldn’t be fair to place him in a new place she couldn’t control?

Because it seems to me that if the only way that Adam Race can sit or get through life without bolting or causing a scene is for there to be no variables at all… For every church service to begin and end in exactly the same way with the exact, correct positioning of everyone in the church standing, waiting, speaking, entering and exiting the building in the manner Mrs. Race judges best… then maybe society shouldn’t be bending to fit the Race family’s desires since they’ll never be up to Mrs. Race’s standards anyway.

If Adam tried to bolt from the last church he was in simply because his brother didn’t walk in the right direction that Mrs. Race wanted him to, and that was enough to set Adam off, then how on earth is an entire congregation supposed to behave the way she wants them to? And should they even have to?

I simply think that some people suffering from autism, Adam Race included, do not have the control to fully participate in some activities. I don’t think his behavior would be acceptable in a nursery full of sleeping children, in a crowded movie theater or in a community’s meditative yoga class. He may have the RIGHT to be there, but that doesn’t mean he SHOULD be there. Same goes for this particular church.

I think a good mother isn’t one who shoves her round kid into a square hole. I think a good mother is one who look for a million other round holes she can ease him into.

Norma Papagni June 27, 2008, 5:23 PM

As a granparent to a autisim child, I think some of those parents should stand back and watch behavior of their “normal” child.

Mr. Max June 27, 2008, 5:37 PM

I am the father of a newly diagnosed 3 years old, and was shocked by the reaction of the public to the american airline affair earlier this week. Everyone talked about their ”right to enjoy a silent flight” and were lashing out to everytime they had to take a flight and were disturbed by an infant, whether autistic or not, and I was badly discouradged at the sheer intolerance of our societies.

It seems discriminating and excluding is more and more acceptable, and more so behind the anonymity of the internet ”public opinion”. Some of the content tended to vindicate bullying of the mother, who was ”unfit” and I just couldn’t believe the stupidity of 80% of the people on that rant board.

I am thinking about my son, who is the most loving and caring and beautiful thing on this earth, and to think he could be bullied that way in society, I just get nauseous.

I like your positive views on awareness, and pray that you are right - people are being made aware and our societies are evolving.

Regards,

-Max,

Canadian father of an autistic child.

Mr. Max June 27, 2008, 5:51 PM

I understand. A round kid in a round hole as far away from you as possible.

It is not the children who are spoiled, it is the parents which need that all surroundings adapt to their own comfort level.

Just picture the same people having the same griefs in a crowded bus in Bengladesh, and if you do not think of the people of Bengladesh as ”less deserving” then you, then you will agree to my point.

Emme June 27, 2008, 6:06 PM

So what’s the point of having any kind of rules at all anyway? If they all have to be bent to include everyone, let’s just have a free-for-all.

Lights should be left on in movie theaters, radios should be played in there, children with autism should scream if they want to, people can pick whether they want to pay or just come in for free or not. Airlines shouldn’t have seats, people should just wander around and sit or stand our use seatbelts or not if they want to. If excess bags they want to leave lying around go flying, big whoop. No biggie if it hits someone.

There shouldn’t be any schools at all, because not all kids can participate fully, so to save their feelings kids should just wander wherever they want to throughout the day. That’s a lot more fair.

Or the alternative is we have a minimum standard of public behavior and some people are going to get left out. Your pick.


I can understand parents feelings being crushed because their kids have autism, but shoehorning them into public 24/7 where they scream and have meltdowns is NOT the answer.

Mr. Max June 27, 2008, 6:22 PM

Rules are sometimes a good thing. There is no such situation when ”everyone” melts down, ”everyone” jumps around everywhere.

Even in tribes, where rules are upheld to their minimal expressions, a natural order occurs.

It is just simply intellectually dishonest to try to vindicate your own level of comfort on order of the society. An excess of rule leads to dictatorship and oppression anyways.

My pick is that I want no part of a excluding society. There is protecting people against a real threat, and excluding the people from a possible or imaginary threat. These false threat are
used to create unfair rules, for spoiled adults who want to pass their comfort levels for so called ”security threats”. Everyone forgot the sense of the ”sophistique” in a discourse, that is the real problem.

I have been in planes for business trips. My purpose is to get from point a to point b. if an infant cries because it needs to, so be it. If an autistic child has a meltdown in a plane (those have a limit in time, you know?)then let it be, it’ll pass.

Some people think creating a rule is the answer. What a sorry society this is.

Sorry for my bad quality English.

HodekS June 27, 2008, 6:33 PM

I just don’t get why everyone here seems to think it’s OK for children with autism to have meltdowns or tantrums in public and the public should just deal with it.

If a quote-unquote “normal” kid is screaming in my ear excessively for 45 minutes and obsessively kicking my seat on a plane, it’s OK to say something.

But if a child with autism is doing the same thing, I’m a horrible beast if I even look at the parents quizzically? And if I say something about the behavior I’m being judgmental and trampling on someone’s “civil rights?”

If you want to talk about fairness, then why are there two sets of standards? Normal kids are held to a certain level of public behavior, but kids with autism are NOT. They’re special. They have special privileges to do whatever.

Except, parents want them to be treated just the same as everyone else. It’s a hypocritical catch-22 in my eyes.

Mr. Max June 27, 2008, 6:48 PM

It’s getting to be a false debate. Have you ever witnessed a Tantrum? Like, you are exposed to Tantrums more then 1% of the time of your life? Really?

Chances are, if you got kicked in your rear seat, it was not necessarily an autistic child.

What is hypocritical, is the fact that you (not anyone in particular) have experienced discomfort because of an autism child’s tantrum more then twice in your life, if there are no autistic child in your family. Autistic child account for less then 1% of society (0.75%).

You need guidance? Here it is: if a child kicks your seat, express yourself politely, the parent will be able to solve the issue 99% of the time.

About the privileges of being autistic, that’s very weak. It’s like saying it’s not fair someone with limited mobility has a better parking spot then yours. Grow up. Experience the discomfort. Nietzsche said that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Do you really want to be in their place?
See, that is real hypocrisy.

My point is: meltdowns happen. Black people can now share your buses. Sometimes, a handicapped person will try to express himself and it’s not going to sound pretty. It could even be ”ugly” by your standards.

Get on with it. And if twice in your life, you have to put up with a tantrum, can you just try to be tolerant, or is it too much to ask?

BTW, my son never had a tantrum in is life, nor has disturbed anybody more then a normal 3 years old.

Your issue is not with autistic children. It is with children. If you can’t stand to be around children, well be prepared to be the last one of your generation. You know, the only one that really mattered.

Holly June 27, 2008, 7:25 PM

The reason I am on this board is because I DO have an issue with an autistic child… The one in my daughter’s 2nd grade class. You can say ‘mainstreamed,’ I can say ‘the kid who is allowed to scratch my daughter and other kids in the class and we parents are called ogres when we complain.’ Because the administration and the kid’s parents scream prejudice and discrimination when we’ve politely suggested that being in this class is detrimental to every kid involved. So yeah, I agree that there are limits to how and where autistic children should be allowed to go.

Mr. Max June 27, 2008, 7:33 PM

The same goes for bullies. Do not generalize hastily.

All autistic children are not violent. You have a localized problem that has to be locally solved.

I do not support excluding all autistic children because you didn’t find an solution to your local issue.

I will not ban all asians because one asian was a bully.

Please people, see things in perspective.

edge June 27, 2008, 9:37 PM

wow, you are so right emme and holly. they shouldnt be allowed to be in general public. yeah we should remove all those rules emme , like womens right to vote-we cant have those silly women voting now what sense would that make. oh and we should probably bring back slavery too since thats obviously infringing on you freedom to own people. oh hey maybe we could make those useless autistics our slaves that would solve two problems that way. or maybe just maybe you two grow up and realize there are some sweet innocent individuals with autism out there that just need a little break and maybe some compassion from people, or am i asking to much from the ultra selfish society this has become?

LEE June 27, 2008, 11:43 PM

I AM THE PARENT OF AN AUTISTIC CHILD AND I BELIEVE THAT IF THE CHURCH IS TEACHING ABOUT GOD’S LOVE FOR EVERYONE THEN EVERYONE SHOULD BE FREE TO COME AND LEARN ABOUT GOD. IF KNOWING THAT HER FAMILY IS NOT WANTED AT THE CHURCH MAKES HER UNCOMFORTABLE THAN SHE SHOULD FIND ANOTHER PLACE TO WORSHIP. NOT ALL AUTISTIC KIDS ARE THE SAME AND WHAT MAY BOTHER ONE WILL NOT SET ANOTHER OFF. WHEN MY SON IS BEING “DISRUPTIVE” I GET THE SAME LOOKS THAT A MOTHER WOULD GET WHEN HER “NORMAL” CHILD IS MISBEHAVING. HIS DISABILITY IS NOT KNOWN BECAUSE HE IS NOT IN A WHEELCHAIR OR HAS THE LOOK OF A CHILD WITH DOWN’S SYNDROME. I DO NOT EXPLAIN TO ONLOOKERS THAT HE HAS AUTISM, I JUST CONTINUE TO BE HIS MOTHER. ALL PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM SHOULD CONTINUE TO TAKE THEIR CHILDREN TO THE MOVIES, OUT TO DINNER, ON PLANES OR BUSES, AND ANYWHERE ELSE IN YOUR COMMUNITY. THEY DO EXIST AND HOW WILL THEY EVER LEARN HOW TO BEHAVE IN DIFFERENT SITUATIONS IF THEY ARE NEVER PLACE IN THEM. AND FOR ANYONE THAT FEELS THAT PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT SHOULD JUST BE LOCKED AWAY, FORGET ABOUT IT! SO BEFORE YOU BUY THAT PLANE/MOVIE TICKET, MAKE RESERVATIONS FOR DINNER, OR SEND YOUR CHILD TO SCHOOL, PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT AN PERSON WITH AUTISM MAYBE NEAR BY.

Jen  June 28, 2008, 9:16 AM

I am appalled at the lack of human decency that some are showing on this issue!! I’m assuming that most of us are parents? Would you not want the same respect for your children that these parents are fighting for theirs? If your child is having a tantrum all you want is for every one around you to go on with their business and ignore you. That’s all these parents want as well. I hope that in your life you do meet an autistic child or even adult so you can see how they are people just like you and me who disserve your dignity and respect.

RavenTIC June 28, 2008, 2:30 PM

What the hell is wrong with some of you people?? My god, were suppose to lock away people who don’t meet your criteria of what is considered “normal”. You should be ashamed of yourselves and take a look in the mirror. Who and WHAT is normal? I’m not suppose to take my nephew to the store because he might throw a tantrum and YOU might not like it? Who the hell are you? You go along and do your buisness and I’ll do mine!
As for Adam, who was thrown out of church….honestly….shouldn’t that be the ONE place that poor little boy could go to and get some sort of understanding?? Isn’t that what your book tells you? Arn’t you suppose to love everyone? But that’s religion for you….guess thats a whole other blog though isn’t it!
These are human beings. They deserve EVERY ounce of respect as you or I. Rapist need to be locked up! Pedophiles should be thrown out on a remote island, killers need to be taken off the streets. Not our autistic and mentally challenged!
These children need to be brought out into the world, they need to be given a chance to succeed. Even more so, they need the understanding of others like you and I in order for them to do it. Stop being so selfish and rediculous and have some compassion people!

ASmom June 28, 2008, 10:29 PM

To all of those who are typing on a Microsoft product but are anti-Autism people, you are a hypocrite. The above stories are about higher functioning AS kids.

Alex Barton for one has a higher IQ then any classmate that voted him out of their class. I hope someday my grandchildren attend the school he teaches.

As for Jarret Farrell, you may someday be flying on his airline.

Wait until you see the Granger pair on America’s Next Top Model.

Little Adam Race learned one thing from the bible that not one in that “church” can even begin to understand.
“Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1 Cor 6:2)

Princesspeachfan2008 June 29, 2008, 12:49 AM

Reports say that Steven Speilberg has Asperger’s Syndrome and it is a mild form of autism, so what, he is a good film maker, he is the one who made E.T the Extra Terestrial and E.T became widely popular now. So if its for the other autistics, you may think they are such a fuss, but what if one day, they will become popular people like a gold medalist ice skater in the Winter Olympics or the next winner of American Idol. Just keep your hopes high and you might not know, your autistic kid goes to harvard.

momof9 June 29, 2008, 12:38 PM

We must find the delicate balance in our society between the rights of the few and the rights of the many. A return to a tradition of simple basic good manners in my opinion would be a good start. Our rights stop where anothers rights begin. Our nation can only remain free if we freely forego our personal rights from time to time in favor of what makes a better society for all.

Megan July 1, 2008, 10:57 PM

I’m the parent of a son recently diagnosed with Aspergers. He is the most honest, silly, extremely gifted child I have ever known. He may not be able to fit in socially or behave the way others want on cue, but never in a million years would I want to subject him to punishment of staying out of the real world. He shouldn’t have to leave a store, plane, restaurant or school setting if he has a meltdown. It will stop and he will be fine after. As for the other stuffed shirts; the ones who think the world needs to be rid of loving gifted individuals with Autism, shame on you. Why don’t you go and educate your self. If you ever had a child diagnosed, it would break your heart to know that someone hates/dislikes your child for being born special.

Autism Awareness.
Change the Future for our children.
Megan


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