Autism “entitlements” to include dogs in the classroom?

Recently, the Toronto Star carried an article “Parents of kids with autism fight to get service dogs in schools”, (1).  The opening paragraph says “While federal law protects a blind person’s right to be accompanied in public by a service animal, the rights of children with autism who rely on trained dogs to keep them safe, regulate unruly behaviour and help them develop socially are not so clear.”

Just a few words into the article, and already we are talking about “rights”.  And while some children may need specially-trained dogs to keep them safe etc., I shudder to think of the effect on other pupils if a dog needs to “regulate” any “unruly behaviour” during class-time.

I am thinking of pandemonium and screaming by frightened younger children, and I am astonished that autism activists would even bother to request something so impractical and potentially traumatic for others.  But, it is “Supported by lawyers and equal-rights activists, (who) are fighting for the dogs to be viewed as assistive devices…”

Indeed, we are told that parents with such dogs have to deal with “standoff-ish board officials” who raise issues such as “concerns about potential allergies, cultural sensitivities (can a child who is prohibited by religion from drawing an animal be in the same room as one?), strained resources (who would fill the dog’s water bowl?) and liability insurance.”

And, would parents have to come to school to clean up any mess made by the dog?

In the Toronto Sun article “Ont. man says he sold pot to support autistic son” appearing on January 23rd this year, (2), we are told that “Jim Bender, 49, a former mayoral candidate here, was arrested Tuesday after police searched his shop, Lady Godivas, an adult store that also sells drug paraphernalia, including pipes and bongs.”  In addition to some $10,000 worth of marijuana, the police also seized an unstated number of “prohibited weapons”.

Bender’s autistic son requires care 24 hours a day, and his government funding will run out when the boy turns 18, hence Bender’s foray into selling marijuana… we are not told where the weapons fit in.

We are told that his son needs two support workers as well as a teacher when he attends school, but that the three of them are unable to control him sometimes, and he is sent home.

In addition, “He cannot talk; he wears diapers and is on a special diet for celiac disease requiring all his food to be pureed. He is known to have fits of violence and often screams in public spaces… If left unsupervised for even a few minutes at home, Jayden often destroys things, wipes feces on the walls or tries to run away.”

Something is very badly wrong with this picture.

What is the point of trying to educate such a person?  The money spent on two assistants and a teacher could be spent on behaviour modification and social improvement by finding things he likes to do, and enabling him to do them, thus giving him some satisfaction in life.

I cannot understand why such parents would not be willing, let alone eager, to have such a child institutionalized, because I don’t believe that any family should be expected to cope with the aggravations listed above, nor should others have to put up with such disruptive behaviour.

It is a recipe for disaster, as nerves fray and tempers explode.

Nobody wants to throw people other than criminals into an institution unless it is absolutely necessary, but surely common sense should be allowed to prevail in cases like this.

Bender states that he had somewhat of a “breakdown” when told that funding would cease, but quite frankly, I find it hard to believe that we are getting the entire story here.  Did Bender commence breaking the law because of his son’s problems, or is this just a ploy for sympathy, as when he says “I don’t know what we’re going to do. This will be catastrophic for Jayden”, rather than catastrophic for himself.  It will be an interesting trial…

John From of Ottawa, in responding to an N5 notice from his landlord to stop the “running, jumping and screaming” noises being made by his son or face eviction proceedings, knew his “entitlements” quite well, (3).  He was reported in the press as claiming that he and his wife were responsible parents, and that the complaints were based on behaviour by his son “that is specific to his disability”.  He promptly threatened to go the the Ontario Human Rights Commission if eviction proceedings commenced.

Very neat and tidy, all wrapped up with a cute little bow of entitlement!  Not that the neighbours were having much fun, but that’s their problem.

One voice of sanity in this grab for rights, and special treatment regardless of the effect on others, is the Ottawa Police.  They now have an “autism registry” so that parents can put decals on their window or door to “alert police that there is an occupant with autism who may not respond to verbal commands and who participates in the registry.” (4).

The registration form also asks for information regarding “de-escalation techniques”.  But at risk of being mean-spirited, I doubt that would be necessary if Canadian police didn’t have such a track record of killing people who are often unarmed and mentally ill.

Also, I was very touched by the plight of the mother of an autistic nineteen-year-old who left him at a government office last year because she just couldn’t cope.  The CBC News article is an interesting and informative read, (5).

Alan Shanoff of the Toronto Sun wrote a hugely prophetic article titled “Time to change laws in which religious rights trump equality” published on January 18th, which tells us that “When the law requires us to reject reasonableness and common sense, forces us to abandon our core values and permits ancient religious beliefs to trump our principles of equality, it’s time to amend the laws that permit this.” (6).

Later on, he tells us that “The three main Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, all have features that violate our core values of gender and sexual orientation equality… The debate we must have is whether we are ready to allow religious accommodation to trump our core values, contrary to reason and common sense. And our answer ought to be no.”

It is obvious how an extension of “human rights” to cover disabilities, as well as religion, could cause strife and even civil upheaval as dozens of special interests groups use the law in an effort to obtain favourable treatment for themselves, without any regard for the rights and well-being of others.

The writing is on the wall – something to think about.

Jeff Goodall.

(1) – See here.

(2) – See here.

(3) – See here.

(4) – See here.

(5) – See here.

(6) – See here.