Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Autism Awareness Month: So Much to Teach
Read this article to see what happened in a town near Rochester this week. The charges have not been dropped. There is a court date.
This story is so hard and scares parents--and should scare so many more people.
This boy's outburst is a symptom of his condition--a condition that made him respond to the sensory assault and destruction of his routines caused by 4 fire drills in one morning with agitation. These symptoms require intervention and accommodation, not litigation.
Could a safe, quiet space with routines of its own be designated for fire drills... probably. Could meds and routines be put in place to decrease agitation, possibly.
Can our courts or jails provide any of those things? Nope.
I don't know the reason the charges haven't been dropped, but I fear it's for the old familiar reasons: that there are people who think that people who hit people get charged... and things like 'he just has to learn...' etc. I imagine some folks saying, as someone often does, the community/school/whomever is not equipped to deal with these situations.
The answer to not being equipped is becoming equipped, of course.
People with developmental disabilites are not the only ones whose conditions have these symptoms. By this token elders whose Alzheimer's disease elicits violence from them should also spend time in jail... because the community/caregivers/healthcare facilities are not equipped to deal with that... We could empty out the nursing homes, hospitals and community caring situations right now...
And it wouldn't work.
The court/jail systems are not equipped to manage these conditions either. And does not have the funding or vision to become equipped for this either.
Because punishment does not alleviate symptoms.
The idea that 'we shouldn't have to' or 'someone else should.' deal with these situations holds no answers. Historically this leads to isolation and intstitutionalization leading to horrifying outcomes for people with disabilities at great cost to their communities.
Communities must become equipped. Autism education, committment to finding and implementing the individualized accommodations that people need are a community (including, but not limited to, schools, caregivers, law enforcers, etc) responsibility.
There is no substitute.
This is why advocacy exists. To build society's capacity to embrace its members.