A Frightening lesson in Autism Awareness

Last week Malcolm, Bethany, Jeremiah, and I stepped through the back entrance to our somewhat local art museum.

Little did we know that Bethany would soon provide an extremely frightening lesson in autism/disability awareness for the employees who work there!

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As soon as we walked in the door, Bethany immediately went into “shut down” mode.

She quietly and without fanfare sat down on the floor in a corner in the museum’s basement hallway and covered her eyes.

She was having a seizure!
Then she proceeded to lie down in the hall way, still silently and without a creating a disturbance.

This was not meltdown behavior, but to the untrained eye, it might look like one

However, she was not causing a scene!

Knowing that she needed a few minutes to recuperate and compose herself,  we decided that Jeremiah and I should continue on through the museum while Malcolm waited for Bethany to feel better

Unbeknownst to Jerry and I, while we were merrily strolling our way through the museum’s exhibits, several of the employees respectfully inquired of Malcolm if everything was alright.

My husband explained that everything was fine, that Bethany had autism and she had just experienced a small seizure.

He let them know that she just needed a few quiet moments undisturbed to gather herself together.

But then she unfortunately fell asleep in the corner of the museum hallway.

Jeremiah and I quickly went through the whole museum.

My husband and Bethany never joined us.

When we returned to where we had left them, they were gone.

We found them sitting in the car in the parking lot.

My husband then recounted to me all that had transpired in our absence.

A supervisor of the museum had decided that Bethany’s SILENT and unobtrusive behavior was unacceptable.

She threatened that Malcolm better get her out of the museum or she would call the authorities to have her physically removed from the premises!

It was even suggested that he leave her alone sleeping on the floor while he went out to the  get the car and move it closer to the museum door in order to make dragging her out to it easier!

Thank God Bethany only slept for a few minutes and woke up before any of that could happen!

When she woke up, Malcolm’s suggested they wait in the car and she calmly and cooperatively exited the  museum.

No harm done!

The Supervisor’s reaction to Bethany’s seizure and autism was rude, insensitive, and disturbing to say the least!

Forcibly removing Bethany from the museum would most likely have sent her into a full blown, knock down, drag out, kicking and screaming meltdown.

A meltdown which might have resulted in a scene frighteningly similar to the one that Robert Saylor experienced when he was murdered by the police for refusing to leave a movie theater.

I sent a message saying as much to the museum’s President.

I received a message back from his assistant saying that he was very concerned and wanted me to call him.

Since it was my husband who had actually experienced the situation, I asked him to call the president back and explain everything that had transpired.

The president, who also just so happens to be on the board of the United Cerebral Palsy Association was appalled at his employee’s behavior.

He apologized and let us know that he had just arranged for the Cerebral Palsy Association to teach and train his employees about autism/disabilities and how to better handle situations such as this one!!

Just one more small step in bringing awareness of the issues that plague special needs individuals to the public eye!


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28 Replies to “A Frightening lesson in Autism Awareness

  1. Some people are just so ignorant towards those with special needs! I’m so glad that this story has a happy ending though, and I love the president’s reaction!! Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m so very glad and grateful that it didn’t turn ugly and also glad that something will be done about it. Hopefully no other person with autism will ever go through that kind of treatment again!

  2. Wow! I’m glad that the President called you back and worked on resolving the issue and I’m glad Bethany walked out on her own lessoning the situation that could have been. Bless you, you have so much on your plate. Hang in there!!

  3. Sorry to hear about your husbands experience but glad the president talked with him. It’s nice to see that they will be doing some training and maybe react more appropriately next time.

  4. You know, I think it’s AWESOME that Bethany was able to recognize and do what she needed to get through the situation is a calm, collected matter. Oftentimes kids simply get to overwhelmed and can’t do that. It took a lot of control on her part. What an accomplishment!

    My youngest son doesn’t have Autism, but he does have Sensory Processing Disorder. When he was younger, before extensive therapy, he would have some serious, disruptive meltdowns dealing with sights, sounds and movement. We’ve found ourselves in quiet, dim corners of museums more than once for him to calm down and sometimes even sleep. Dealing with the world was exhausting. Never has anyone told us to leave however. I’m glad that the assistant recognized a need for change.

    1. Yes Jessy, it did take a tremendous amount of energy for Bethany to control herself. She has, many time in the past had total, massive, and violent outbursts. We were extremely thankful that she didn’t lose it like that at the museum. Who knows what might have happened!

  5. It is sad that this thing happened to you. I am surprise that the supervisor is insensitive for not accepting Bethany’s situation. I am glad that the president showed his concern, offered an apology and even suggested if the employees should undergo seminar. I am glad that everything went well with the day inside the museum.

    1. In the end everything did turn out okay. A lesson was learned and awareness was made! Now hopefully compassion will grow! Thanks for your comments, Sarah!

  6. Thank you for posting this, it touched me. As you say, ironic that it happened during Autism Awareness Month! My son does not have autism (so far as we are aware) but does have sensory processing disorder. He finds places like museums and galleries very overwhelming. Unlike Bethany, he is usually very loud in his reactions, so dealing with myself first so that I can be there for him is very important. If I’m busy worrying what other people are thinking (that I’m a bad mother and what’s an 8 year old boy doing having a “tantrum” like that, etc) I’m not present to support him.
    I’m sorry your family had this experience, but glad some good has come of it in the form of the training.

    1. It’s sad but true that special kids and special parents are sometimes judged pretty harshly. Bethany is known for her tendency to have violent tantrums in public and it’s not at all fun. thanks for stopping by, Lula! I appreciate it and your comment!

  7. Congrats on your success!

    People with interests in different disabilities definitely need to band together to create the kind of change we all want to see to make the lives of the people we care about richer, fuller, and more accepted.

  8. Oh my gosh, I am appalled that the museum employees were such jerks! Unbelievable and sad and scary and some people just suck!! However, I am very glad that you “fought back” and contacted the museum and that their employees will be trained in dealing with autism and other disabilities. I hope that the president had a good talking-to to the employee who suggested you should “drag her out” of the museum. Thanks for doing one more thing to raise awareness for our kids.

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