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  • Disruptive behavior by autistic kids stirs furor

    Disruptive behavior by autistic kids stirs furor


    Aug 13, 4:35 PM (ET)
    By DAVE KOLPACK



    FARGO, N.D. (AP) - When a 13-year-old Minnesota boy was banned from church after parishioners complained about his behavior, it exposed a painful truth so politically incorrect that some people feel guilty just saying it out loud: Some autistic children can be annoying and disruptive in public.

    The case of Adam Race and others like him has laid bare conflicted feelings - among both parents of these children and other people - over autistic youngsters in public places. And it has stirred debate over how much consideration one side owes the other.

    In the case of Adam Race, a judge agreed with a priest in Bertha, Minn., who said the 225-pound teenager was disruptive and dangerous, and upheld a restraining order barring him from services. The priest said Adam spit, wet his pants, made loud noises and nearly ran over people while bolting from the church after services.

    Carol Race, Adam's mother, said the congregation's claims were exaggerated. But in a letter to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, JoAnn Brinda of Crystal, Minn., said the Race family should have shown more consideration for others.

    "I don't understand why families that have a challenged child who becomes loud and abusive remain at a service where all participants are quiet and contemplative most of the time," Brinda wrote.

    Susan Duclos of Peoria, Ariz., who writes the conservative Wake Up America blog, called the Race story a "horrible situation all around."

    "I have known a few people over my lifetime who have had to deal with autism with their children," Duclos said. "It's as frustrating for them as it is for the public."

    Similar cases involving people with autism have played out in public recently. A California man was kicked out of a health club for screaming. A North Carolina boy was taken off a plane before takeoff after having a meltdown. A South Carolina girl was ordered out of a restaurant by the town's police chief for crying.

    Syndicated radio talk show host Michael Savage added to the furor last month when he charged that doctors and drug companies are overdiagnosing autism, and said, "I'll tell you what autism is: In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out." Several major companies pulled their advertising from Savage's show.

    Lisa Jo Rudy, who is the mother of an autistic child and writes and consults on autism, said Savage's words were "truly nasty and hurtful." At the same time, Rudy said the talk show host has raised awareness of some of the frustrations of parents of autistic children and the wider public, too.

    Rudy said there are times when parents should not put their children in situations where they may be disruptive. "Some of these stories really are the ones where the general public can absolutely identify with the other side of the story," Rudy said.

    Jason Goldtrap of Davenport, Fla., said too many people diagnosed with autism are out and about in public because of political correctness. Goldtrap, 40, has two nephews, ages 3 and 21, with autism, and said the older one has become so violent at times that the police have been called.

    "I certainly sympathize with all the families who are in this situation," Goldtrap said. "But when we got away from the concept of institutionalization in America, we lost an important element of trying to maintain civility. There is a place for mental institutions."

    Goldtrap added: "If it were up to me, he would be in an institution. My brother doesn't agree, and that's his prerogative." He declined to identify his brother, saying, "I don't want to start another argument."

    Autism is a disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and can include a host of complications. It varies widely in its severity. Some people are well-behaved; others are prone to outbursts or self-abusive behavior such as biting or head-banging.

    A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of every 150 U.S. children over the age of 8 is autistic or suffers from a related disorder. About 560,000 Americans under 21 are believed to have autism.

    Many parents say that their autistic children are largely misunderstood, that they can't help it when they act up, and that they need interaction with the public.

    Barbara Coppo, whose 30-year-old son, Kenny, was banned from a Vallejo, Calif., health club for screaming, said Americans need to learn about living with autistic children.

    "Autism may frighten people because so little is known about the disorder," said Coppo, who wrote a book about her son. "The cause has not been scientifically proven and the victims often act in ways society doesn't understand."

    However, some parents wonder how much understanding can be gained in grocery stores, churches or other public places.

    Nikki Wilmoth-Williams of Rockport, Texas, said certain high-traffic areas are off-limits for her autistic 14-year-old son, Zach.

    "I'm an advocate for my child, but we all have to play on the same playground," she said. "It's not about clearing the playground so my child can be on it."

    Wilmoth-Williams recalled one day after Sunday school class, when Zach licked several trays full of Oreo cookies set out for students. He was asked to find a different class.

    "We're talking 50 to 60 Oreos. He didn't understand the effect it had on the entire class," Wilmoth-Williams said. "I had to make amends. I had to volunteer."

    Rudy advises parents of autistic children to arrange forays out in public with care, which may mean five minutes in the grocery store instead of 45 minutes.

    "Certainly there are cranky people in this world. If a mother glares at your child for something that's really pretty harmless, quite honestly that's her problem," Rudy said. "But if your child is going to have a meltdown, I don't think it's in anybody's best interest to bring the child along."

    Joe Schmitt, a Minneapolis lawyer who has often defended employers against claims they discriminated against disabled employees, said people who object to certain accommodations may be viewed as insensitive to those with autism or other disabilities.

    "They usually really do care, but they have to weigh the considerations of others," Schmitt said.

    Schmitt said church officials in Minnesota knew they would be criticized for banning Adam, but took action after the two sides failed to arrive at a compromise.

    "I'm not saying they were right," Schmitt said of the church. "But I would disagree with anybody who thinks they did that casually or it wasn't important to them."

    Sandy Boyles, whose 18-year-old son, Walter, is autistic, said that when she began attending First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, N.J., she didn't bring him along, because in other churches he would run up and down the aisles screeching.

    "She was afraid of being ostracized. I told her, 'So what? Bring him anyway,'" the Rev. Susan Kramer-Mills said.

    Eventually, the small congregation revised its services to Walter's liking. Worship used to start softly and build to a crescendo. Now, it starts with more noise.

    "I have to be careful because sometimes he'll do a fast movement or run," Boyles said. "But the other members aren't as scared as I am."


    I love this article. My niece has an autistic son, and she takes great pains to try to make everyone's outings enjoyable - including her's, both her sons', and everyone else's around her.

    Some places she doesnt take him, and that probably wont change until he gets older, at least.

  • #2
    When I was an instructional aide, I worked mostly with autistic children. I once spent two hours physically restraining a child who bit, pinched, and kicked me....it took that long for his parents to "get away" from work.

    I think it's really important to not set any child up for failure, including those with autism. There are simply situations that are too stimulating for them to handle with any success.

    Having any kind of disability does not give you the right to unduly disrupt or endanger anyone else.
    Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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    • #3
      I agree no child needs to be set to fail. Autism is not down syndrome / mental retardation. It means the child processes information differently then others. Over stimulation can cause the child to be "out of control" as they react to the stimulations.
      She had the problem before, with him running up and down the aisles. That is a problem that SHE could have corrected. How, by using child care, or taking him to the back out of the church and letting him play in another area. She needs to look at her options before she jumps up and yells" they told me to bring him."

      This is a child that understands alot more then people are giving him credit for. One of my best friends has a autistic child and this Child in now of legal age, and lives with friends and is looking for work. She is "off" as in most thing Amber is "social misfit" but other then that she functions very well with her limited social skills.
      I'm thinking the Mother needs parenting classes to help give this child structure instead of her tears.
      ‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.’
      Oscar Wilde

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      • #4
        They didn't say how tall he is, but he's 225 lbs!
        Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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        • #5
          I think it's the mother's responsibility to not take him places that are inappropriate.

          I do sympathize, as my therapist believes I'm on the autistic spectrum myself, but that doesn't give you free reign to be a total nuisance.

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          • #6
            There are many different levels of Autism affecting different things. Sometimes the kids CANNOT control what they do.

            In those cases the parents cant do anything discipline-wise to stop it.

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            • #7
              Are y'all TRYING to make my head spin around or get me banned?
              sigpic

              I don't agree with your opinion, but I respect its straightforwardness in terms of wrongness.

              Comment


              • #8
                I used to work at a camp for handicapped kids. I worked with the teen-age females. (Yeah, I had to change their female items for them.) They were at the extreme end of the spectrum. One of the girls, when she had her period would cry and bite herself while walking around in circles. I would often find myself sitting on the ground, legs spread, her sitting on the ground with her back against me and I would hold her wrists out away from her body. She and I would sit there while I sang songs from The Monkeys and she would rock and cry.

                There was a teen-age boy (I would sometimes fill in with the teen boys) that would get violent when things didn't go his way or he didn't understand what was happening. He was bigger and taller than me and strong as the dickens.

                Do these children (and yes, no matter the age, they are children) belong in an institution? No. Should the world change to accomodate them? Not to the extreme that some would wish. Do they need help and understanding? Yes. Should they be taken out of situations when they become a disruption? Yes, same as any other person.
                http://hoppeshomestead.blogspot.com/

                The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Jellybean400 View Post
                  There are many different levels of Autism affecting different things. Sometimes the kids CANNOT control what they do.

                  In those cases the parents cant do anything discipline-wise to stop it.
                  Which is why it's so important to control their environment whenever possible. It's not a discipline issue as much as it's a calming issue.

                  There are lots of therapies out there that can help them cope with the over-stimulation, but it's really not fair to the child to put them in situations where they will stress out.

                  What do you accomplish? The child is stressed out. The parents get stressed out. The public sees the child only at their worst. Remember the couple that abandoned their disabled child at the hospital? They were stretched beyond their limits.

                  You cannot force your normal on someone who is wired differently - you have to find a new normal.
                  Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by willowdared View Post
                    Which is why it's so important to control their environment whenever possible. It's not a discipline issue as much as it's a calming issue.
                    Yes, i agree.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by willowdared View Post
                      You cannot force your normal on someone who is wired differently - you have to find a new normal.
                      I love this.

                      As someone who is "wired differently" than most, and been told that I'm sick, bad, wrong, etc. and put on various medications to make me society's version of "normal," I can appreciate this.

                      I agree that caregivers should not put these children in situations that are guaranteed to cause stress. It does the autistic no good, it does the public no good, and it does the caregivers no good.
                      .
                      .
                      .
                      Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

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                      • #12
                        As the parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder, I can see both sides and in between daily. My 9 yo, one and only, has socialization issues and triggers that sometimes cause those meltdowns referred to.

                        Since the school district was of no help in K, he was removed and is now home schooled. His brief time in school was being subject to being singled out by other kids because of his difference, who as we all know can be exceedingly cruel. Nothing more fun than punching someones button and watching their human SCUD impression huh ? Some adults and school officials were little better in their response.

                        We have identified many triggers for the disruptive episodes and do not subject him to known stimulus or stress. Much progress has been made but the end of that road may be years away. He is not disciplined for a stress / trigger meltdown. Its not his fault

                        He has structure, rules, guidelines and consequences for just plain old bad behavior. So no, he doesn't get away with things because of the disorder.

                        But I refuse to shut him away, we work constantly to calm, redirect, educate, and assist him in crossing the barriers that exist for him. To help him assimilate to his environment and be self sufficient. One day m&d wont be there. Fortunately he is higher functioning, intelligent, inquisitive ( some times 2 much ) and playful. Loves to learn and reading is a passion.

                        I will not deprive him of the quality of life benefits available to all because some people are inconvenienced. Museums, movies, parks and shopping are all open. Shutting them in a locked closet w/ duct tape headwear might work for some, but I fail to see how shielding them and not helping to overcome these obstacles serves anyone.

                        So if you see us at the store and we're having a little issue, it's being addressed, removed or redirected to minimize your inconvenience. If this disturbs you, I trust you can remember your way out unless you were airdropped, in which case you should have an eergency evacuation plan. If not please exercise as much patience as you can muster. It's for his benefit

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                        • #13
                          Katz, I don't think anyone is saying "don't ever take them out," they are saying, know your child, and be prepared to handle situations as they arise.

                          While places are open to the public, they do have the right to remove someone who is disruptive.

                          I am a firm believer in making a place for everyone, and I think all children benefit by knowing a child who is differently abled. I just know there are some parents who are in denial about what a child is able to handle, and they exacerbate the situation on all sides, instead of being a calm guide.
                          Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

                          sigpic

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by willowdared View Post
                            Katz, I don't think anyone is saying "don't ever take them out," they are saying, know your child, and be prepared to handle situations as they arise.

                            While places are open to the public, they do have the right to remove someone who is disruptive.

                            I am a firm believer in making a place for everyone, and I think all children benefit by knowing a child who is differently abled. I just know there are some parents who are in denial about what a child is able to handle, and they exacerbate the situation on all sides, instead of being a calm guide.
                            This. Very well said.

                            My children are not bothered by wheelchairs, missing limbs, grouchy old people, blind, service animals, or anything you would see going to a VA because that is what they are exposed to on a regular basis.

                            A child acting out catches their attention because they know that behavior is unacceptable. When they see a child acting like that, I tell them that while the behavior is unacceptable, sometimes a child can not help themselves and "See? The Mommy (or Daddy) is taking care of the child so everything is going to be ok."

                            When a child acting out is not being helped by the parents or the child becomes a danger to themselves or those around him and the parents do nothing, that is when I have a problem.
                            http://hoppeshomestead.blogspot.com/

                            The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. – Thomas Jefferson

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by willowdared View Post
                              Katz, I don't think anyone is saying "don't ever take them out," they are saying, know your child, and be prepared to handle situations as they arise.

                              While places are open to the public, they do have the right to remove someone who is disruptive.

                              I am a firm believer in making a place for everyone, and I think all children benefit by knowing a child who is differently abled. I just know there are some parents who are in denial about what a child is able to handle, and they exacerbate the situation on all sides, instead of being a calm guide.
                              Exactly!!

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