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United Airlines, Autism, and Discrimination

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Eggs can be so mean.

Eggs can be so mean.

 

For days now the dominant story in my feed is about the family  who was escorted off a United Airlines flight because their autistic daughter was perceived as a potential threat to passenger safety. The family is now suing the airline for discrimination.

 

I’m sick of reading about this, mostly because everybody has an opinion they want to share. Was it discrimination? Was the mom being too demanding? Who’s to blame?

 

Who cares? If you weren’t there to hear the 30-minute discussion between the mother and the flight attendant, then your opinion is pointless. If you aren’t an autistic person, or the parent of an autistic person, then your opinion is pointless.

 

Don’t despair! There are LOTS of newsworthy things to ponder and pontificate about. To make it easy, I thought I’d make a list of things that would make for great conversations about autism:

 

1. You could talk about all the fantastic autistic people you work with at your job.

 

2. You could talk about all the excellent supported living options available for disabled people.

 

3.  You could talk about your favorite autistic authors and poets.

 

4. You could talk about the great work your autistic community leaders are doing in your area.

 

5. You could talk about how much they celebrate diversity at your child’s school, and how diligently they educate ALL the children about different abilities.

 

6. You can talk about the insight you’ve gained about disability rights and equality from your autistic friends.

 

7.  You can talk about how your local police and fire departments have special training to support autistic people. As a bonus, you can talk about how well they support people with mental illness.

 

8.  You can talk about the neighborhood watch you created that pays particular attention to the fact that one of the neighborhood children is autistic and has wandered on a few occasions.

 

9.  You could talk about your son or daughter’s autistic friends that hang out at your house all the time.

 

10.  You could talk about all the times you’ve offered support to friends with autistic children; your offers of babysitting, friendship, or just a friendly ear.

 

If you can’t talk about these topics because they don’t exist, then maybe that’s a great place to start a conversation about autism. Or perhaps exploring some of these options will give you more insight into disability and discrimination. Or maybe you’re a white male and already have a lot of knowledge and opinions about discrimination. That’s great! We definitely don’t have enough white men talking about discrimination. Or women’s reproductive rights, for that matter.

 

Either way, perhaps making sweeping assumptions about an incident that just lends a negative stereotype to autism families only really serves in taking away attention from more pressing issues.

 

Issues like autistic children being bullied at higher rates than non-disabled children.

 

Issues like family supports that are terribly lacking in many communities.

 

Issues like higher rates of depression among autistic people.

 

Issues like aging out of support services.

 

If you really want to talk about autism and discrimination, contact me. Better yet, contact one of the many autistic bloggers who write about this topic.

 

You know who they are, right?

 

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About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

12 responses »

  1. This is me giving you a standing ovation, Flan!

    Reply
  2. This is “Flan-Freaking-Tastic”! (you can trademark that – just sayin’!) Let’s get started on the other discussions around the country, because we need to! *Ü*

    Reply
  3. YAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSS!

    Reply
  4. I love this! This story has touch my heart. Not only do I have a child with Autism but we also had a negative experience on a plane. A drunken passenger was upset that my son was crying and having a hard time. He told me that that was why children should be put in the cargo hold. He kept making rude comments even after I explained that my son had Autism. The nerve of some people.

    Reply
  5. A lady at the mall called my then 4 year old son with autism a ‘pick pocketer’ as he accidentally touched her bag while running excitedly in a shop.

    Reply
  6. My daughter’s mother-in-law just offered to watch my 2 ASD boys, including a nonverbal 10 year old, plus my son with ADHD, so I can attend my daughter’s graduation. How lucky am I? And how rarely does this happen? (This is pretty much the first and only time).

    Reply

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