On Autism and Public Nuisance

On Autism and Public Nuisance

On autism and public nuisance:  My thoughts on the recent lawsuit brought against the parents of a boy who has autism and aggressive behaviors.

Some of you may have heard about the lawsuit that two families in a Sunnyvale, CA neighborhood recently brought against the parents of a son with autism, whom they claim has repeatedly attacked and traumatized their children.

The plaintiffs in this case were the recipients of much criticism.

It was thought that they should have been more sympathetic and tolerant of the boy’s autism.

However, the plaintiffs explained that their issue  was not about the boy’s autism, but about his increasingly violent behavior towards the children in the neighborhood that they all shared.

They were quick to point out that they had nothing against people with autism.

In fact, they felt as if they had demonstrated their care, concern, and support for the boy and his family many times.

They claimed that they had always included the boy and his family in neighborhood events and instructed their own children to be kind and understanding toward the boy with autism.

They even offered to work with the autistic boy’s parents to come up with a plan that would ensure the safety and inclusion of all the neighborhood kids.

On Autism and Public Nuisance
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On the one hand it sounds, to me, like the plaintiffs have been quite reasonable, tolerant, and inclusive toward the defendants.

It sounds to me like they tried to do everything within their power to resolve the problem before resorting to filing a lawsuit.

It sounds to me like they just wanted their children to be safe in their own neighborhood.

That doesn’t sound unreasonable to me.

However, on the other hand, as the mother of an adult daughter who has autism and occasional aggressive behavior, this lawsuit is alarming and greatly concerns me.

It alarms me because I so desperately want the world to understand, tolerate, include, value, embrace, and love my daughter and all others with special need!

Despite the fact that my daughter has occasional aggressive behavior, her dad and I do everything in our power to include her in our community’s activities.

She has just as much of a right to live, work, and play in her community alongside both her typical and special needs peers as everyone else does!

I also do everything within my power to protect others from her aggression, because everyone else in our community also has the right to be safe when they venture out into the world!

The answer to the issue of autism and aggression lies not in isolating and imprisoning our children in their own homes or in institutionalizing them.

The answer is not in bringing lawsuits against families affected by autism and aggression.

I believe we will only find the answer to this troubling and perplexing problem when:

  • The general public accepts the fact that this issue is not going to just disappear. It cannot be swept under the rug and ignored.
  • The general public is taught to identify some of the common behaviors of autism.
  • The general public is taught how to compassionately, safely, and effectively respond to an autistic person exhibiting aggressive behaviors.
  • The general public gives our children with autism a chance and embraces their differences.
  • Parents of autistic children, we need to do their part by making sure our autistic children who have a tendency to become aggressive are always properly supervised.

It is my deepest hope that the general public will someday realize what we, the parents of children with autism have always known… that our children are precious gifts worthy of love and being treated with kindness, compassion, dignity and respect!

*A version of this post was originally published on October 5, 2015.
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3 Replies to “On Autism and Public Nuisance

  1. I think the safety of others is a reasonable cause for complaint.

    Why I Think So:
    A boy pulled my hair during soccer out of frustration. Another was plain creepy and (literally) breathed down my neck. (I could tell he intended to direct his breath down my neck by the way the hot air felt on my skin.) I quit soccer for two years because of them. While one can say that he “just pulled my hair or breathed down my neck”, I (1) worried that it would escalate to more severe incidents and (2) was VERY unsettled due to the latter. These incidents occurred when I was in 4th grade. I was young(er) at the time, so they left a lasting impression on me. I hope no other little girls get their hair pulled or their necks breathed on. (I was in a special needs soccer league when both of these incidents occurred, but I don’t know if they were autistic or not. That still did not make the incident any less traumatic for me.)

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