Posted in Atttitude, Autism, Disney, Disney Parks, Special Needs, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World Resort

“Leave Me Alone!”

If I may preface this Post with a brief word about judgement.

Judgement is a natural instinct, I don’t care who you are, we’re all guilty of it, and we’ve all passed some during the course of our lives. The challenge here is to try to stop yourself before you act, and do any more potential harm. You can’t get your words back. You can never repair the damage, because at the end of the day it’s about how you made that person feel.

Recently I took my son on vacation to Walt Disney World Resort, his favourite place on Earth, and ours too, because that is the place where we have seen the greatest developmental gains, both spontaneous, and gradual. We’ve seen his independence thrive, his sensory limitations expanded, his adaptive skills increased, and everything in between, so yes, we try our best to get him there as often as possible because the joy that radiates from him when there, is magnanimous. Just take a closer look at the photo of him on his way to Walt Disney World Resort.

It was there that he learned proper dining etiquette, and how to wait in lines (we’re up to 30 minutes now), and it was there that we are always made to feel at home by the caring, helpful Cast Members (that’s what Disney employees are called). But, it wasn’t always so easy, or straightforward.

I clearly remember the days when we had a card for a special accommodation to attractions, and we were judged by others in line because my son’s disability is not clearly visible until you begin to really observe him. I was the mom who had little cards printed up explaining his disability because I was truly interested in educating others, and this helped me save my voice from repetition, but most importantly, it saved my son’s dignity. He may not be verbal, but his comprehension is close to his age level.

So, yes, I was and still am his greatest advocate, and my antennae are on high alert for any unfair stares, and/or comments, but I always try to handle uninformed people with care, because it’s not their fault that they do not know about autism. So I can’t judge them, and I won’t. Life is not always about us after all, and not everyone is affected by disabilities.

But, last week, I learned something new about my son. He does have a voice other than through his art, and his music.

He spoke up.

We were lined up at a kiosk at Epcot to pay for something, and while he stays close to me, while I am paying, he tends to swagger from leg to leg, and do odd things with his hands, and he may babble a few words.

Until I heard a voice behind me from a woman who quite harshly asked him, “what are you doing?”

His response, “leave me alone!”

So, while this may not have been the best response to the woman, it gave me great hope, because he actually advocated for himself.

At that point, I turned, smiled, and briefly explained about my son, to which her reply was mockery through sneers at us.

We just walked away.

It was the best thing to do.

My job now? I have to teach my son the proper language in dealing with comments that ruffle him, because “leave me alone” is harsh, and inappropriate.

So please, while it’s easy to judge, try to derail from it, by thinking that we all have feelings, and that we may all do things differently from each other.

If you can’t say something nicedon’t say nothing at all.” – Thumper

Posted in Atttitude, Autism, Life, Special Needs

A Rough Day

In the wake of needing to fulfil a basic human need, my son was subjected to public degradation, not once, not twice, but three times in a span of 20-minutes.

My son is a young man, afflicted with autism. His cognition is that of a toddler. His skills are improving, his speech is improving, he is not reciprocal with his language, but he understands. He understands everything. He is sensitive to people’s feelings and to their expressions.

Last week, he was made to feel like a piece of trash.

“Get out, you don’t belong here, you’re a man.” This is what the public restroom attendant told us both, as I was waiting with my son for a Handicapped stall in the female restroom.

I described my son’s condition to the attendant in front of others and that he requires assistance with toileting, I explained that we tried to wait for the one and only Family Restroom for a reasonable amount of time, but when my son expressed behaviours of urgency I had no choice but to enter the female restroom. She was unyielding. She maintained that he “could have waited for the Family Restroom and that he had to leave.”

When I was assisting my son with hand-washing, the attendant was still there reprimanding me and telling us that he doesn’t belong in the female washroom because he is a man. When we left the female washroom, the attendant followed us out and continued her reprimands. At that point, I could feel my anxiety rising and I chose to leave because I didn’t want my son to become even more upset. Curiously enough, the Family Restroom was still occupied. Twenty or so minutes had elapsed from the time we tried to use that restroom. Did the restroom attendant seriously expect my son to wait that long? Is that reasonable? Is it up to her who uses the restrooms? Is that in her job description?

What if my son was neuro-typical and in the process of a gender change not yet entirely complete, and his physical appearance was still that of a male, but he identified himself as a female? What then?

How can this person act this way?

I have since contacted my local Human Rights Tribunal and I have opened a file against the property managing company that owns this mall. I contacted the property managing company and expressed our experience and I was promised that by the end of September 2019, more Family Restrooms and a Universal Restroom would be in place, to accommodate all people. I was also informed that sensitivity training had already commenced for this particular restroom attendant and all others contracted out by that third party.

Update:

The local mall is almost finished completing the installation of three “Universal Washrooms” and one more “Family Restroom” (in addition to the original Family Restroom).

Success! Andrew’s challenging experience paved the way for better experiences for many people.