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 Church in America bans Autistic boy

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PostSubject: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 12:00 pm

Quote :

Autism campaigners are calling on Pope Bendict to act on autism in
the wake of a church ban on a 13-year-old boy with autism in Bertha,
Minnesota in the US.
Adam Race, who has severe autism, and his mother Carol have
worshipped for a number of years at the Roman Catholic Church of St
Joseph in Bertha.
Last week, controversy erupted when Rev Daniel Walz of the Church of
St Joseph obtained a restraining order against the mother and autistic
boy on the grounds of 'disruptive behaviour,' out of "a growing concern
for the safety of parishioners".
According to Autism Awareness Campaign UK, the church alleged that
Adam had urinated in the church, had bumped into parishoners, and had
also made sounds during the service.
The Sheriff of Todd County had told Carol Race that if she took her
son to Mass and entered the church, they would be arrested. The
controversy has stirred debate in light of the 60 million people with
autism around the world.
Around 1 in 150 children is on the autism spectrum in the US, whilst
in the UK 1 in 100 children has autism - over 500,000 people are on the
spectrum, says Autism Awareness.
"Numbers are rising all the time, probarbly due to better diagnosis
so many children and young people with autism will be entering
churches," the charity said.
"Autism is a 24 hour job and it is a daily struggle for parents and
carers. Some have to fight for public services for their children.
Others are desperate for access to education, health, specialist speech
therapy and respite care," it added.

[...]

Autism campaigners are now calling on Pope
Bendeict to issue guidelines to Roman Catholic churches on how to deal
with children and adults with disabilities like autism and Asperger's
Syndrome. Other Church leaders around the world have been urged to do
the same.
No pope has ever talked publicly over autism and Pope Benedict has
been asked to address this issue in the wake of the controversy in
Minnesota.
Churches are being asked to understand the complex needs of children and adults with autism.
The Autism Awareness Campaign UK is urging churches in the UK to
have sensory rooms or a quiet area for 'time out' if things get too
much for a child or adult with autism, training for clergy and staff on
autism, the use of a communication system like PECs (Picture Exchange
Communication systems) in churches and other resources for autism.
Above all, campaigners are calling for a partnership between
religious organisations and parents and carers in order to address
issues that may arise.



Sorry for the long posting, I took out the irrelevant bits of the story. For those of us who attend services, what is your opinion on this issue?

We have an autistic boy attends our church every week and he can cause quite a stir at times. However, most people have learnt to accept him and he will go out to the Sunday School so he is not in for the whole service, the sermon etc.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 12:05 pm

I think there is guidance on this. I remember something along the lines of "Let the little children come to me, and don't forbid them, for of such are the kingdom of heaven".

But then I'm an atheist, so its not my place to say.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 12:06 pm

My thoughts exactly cactus Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:06 pm

What's the story exactly with autistic children, do they cause a disturbance? Can they be any worse than the screaming infants that regularly compete with the priest?
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:09 pm

905 wrote:
What's the story exactly with autistic children, do they cause a disturbance? Can they be any worse than the screaming infants that regularly compete with the priest?

The guy in our church likes to sort of say things during church and then get up and wander about sometimes. But we have a childrens story up the front during church anyway so it keeps him happy. We also have Sunday School so he wouldn't be in during the sermon. I think it is things like that which allow you to be able to have children who have special needs to be able to enjoy themselves at church but also not to make it unbearable for everyone else.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:20 pm

Yeah but toddlers and babies aren't going to be quietened by stories, yet we let them all in.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:39 pm

This is Mathew:

Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15 And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.

And Luke:

And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.

I would say that the same guidelines should apply to someone with reduced capacities of any kind.

Byblos.com is a great site for comparative translations.

Are the institutionalised churches Christian at all?
I'm asking that as a mischievous atheist.

Not all churches let children in: Westminster Abbey does not. A local parish priest used to send the women with noisy babies out. As soon as they got cars they went to the next parish and left him with a wimmin free church.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:48 pm

Westminster Abbey doesn't let children in when? I was in that place countless times as a tourist when I was younger and then also once when my grandad preached there, but that is slightly different, they could hardly kick me out Razz.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:50 pm

johnfás wrote:
Westminster Abbey doesn't let children in when? I was in that place countless times as a tourist when I was younger and then also once when my grandad preached there, but that is slightly different, they could hardly kick me out Razz.

Should have said - won't let them in for services.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 1:52 pm

Really? That is rather shocking. As I said the only time I've been in there for a service was when my grandad was preaching at the service so it isn't like they could have kicked me out. If that is the case I may have to take the issue up with a couple of people I know - very shocking indeed.

Not that I'm an Anglican so I doubt it will make much difference :p.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 2:00 pm

http://www.westminster-abbey.org/worship/services/
The music looks mouthwatering - Byrd, Tallis and Palestrina.

Looked their site - nice site - could not find a reference to children at all. Last time I was there there, a few years ago, there was a sign up at the entrance saying no children were allowed at the service.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 5:09 pm

I'm really surprised by this story.

I've got three autistic sons - two now grown up. I've never encountered any problem of this sort in churches. Although I've been a Quaker for a long time, we still visit other services and churches and, unlike in restaurants and other public places where things can be quite unfriendly sometimes, we find priests/vicars and whoever especially welcoming. Quaker meetings for worship include children for the first 10-20 minutes after which they go out to their own room for various activities. (MFW is silent except for occasional ministry from anyone who feels moved to speak - young children don't much like the silence and stillness of it until they are a bit older, though some do.)

If anything, the antics of the boys have at times had people in fits of giggles at mass or wherever - especially my youngest son who does a fantastic but deadly serious impersonation of pained piety which is how he sees the behaviour of everyone around him. At the sign of peace, he is practically climbing out of the pew to shake the hand of as many people as he possibly can - and people nearby, out of understanding and good will - all usually make a big effort to give him a handshake too - leaning and stretching to him from precarious angles and distances. But clergy have always been very welcoming and understanding - even when the goings on have been quite disruptive - though we do our best to minimise that. Sitting somewhere near an exit so a quick escape can be made if things get really out of hand is only considerate.

From an atheist's perspective I suppose its analagous with taking an autistic child to the cinema - except that there, you will be sshhhed out of the place in quick time. When I took my eldest son to see ET - a long while ago- he announced at the top of his lungs 20 mins after ET made his appearance that 'they should phone the guards and get that animal taken away.' A classic display of unsentimental autistic literalism. The film thus critically dismissed, he then proceeded to crawl around under the seats - occasionally popping up at various points in the auditorium, much to the surprise but not so much the amusement of the other cinema goers. We left in disgrace at the interval.

To go back to the church situation though, woe betide anyone with any unusual distinguishing features of any kind in the vicinty of an autistic child - well some autistic children at least. Any child can be tactless, but an autistic child will not let it be no matter how much you ask them to - until they have completely got their fascination with the mole, the large backside, the baldness or whatever it is - completely out of their system. When you are trapped in a church with a child who cannot moderate the volume of his voice - or even what he believes is his confidential whisper, the experience is torture.

Anyway, just thought Id offer an insider's perspective, at odds with what has happened to these people in the US. Sounds like an unusually cranky sort of priest on the face of it.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 5:20 pm

Quaker, very interesting, not many of you guys about these days. I probably know quite a few people that you know.I have alot of time for the Religious Society of Friends.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 5:38 pm

Great post Aragon, thanks.

No comparison, but I was once run out of an Oxfam shop when I asked if I could feed my hungry crying baby in a cubicle. Funny, I thought, in a deeply ironic way.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 5:52 pm

The real problem is that the problem with dealing with the socially disruptive behaviours of those with conditions such as autism is, in our society, almost the sole responsibility of the individual's family. The state throws a few wee pennies their way, in a begrudging way, but other than that, it's not our problem.

I think the solution is not to pretend that some behaviours are not disruptive and interfere with the rights of others (e.g. the right to watch a film in a silent environment), but to ensure that, where there are people who are not capable of observing social norms that protect the rights of others, society should provide alternative spaces for them and doesn't leave it all up to the family.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 6:13 pm

chekov wrote:
The real problem is that the problem with dealing with the socially disruptive behaviours of those with conditions such as autism is, in our society, almost the sole responsibility of the individual's family. The state throws a few wee pennies their way, in a begrudging way, but other than that, it's not our problem.

I think the solution is not to pretend that some behaviours are not disruptive and interfere with the rights of others (e.g. the right to watch a film in a silent environment), but to ensure that, where there are people who are not capable of observing social norms that protect the rights of others, society should provide alternative spaces for them and doesn't leave it all up to the family.
I agree with the first part but not the second part Chekov. I agree that responsibility is wider than the family, or even more so, that we are family, even if society at the moment is inclined to forget it. If you get a bit shouty, grouchy Mad and dribbly in your old age I'll do my best to put up with you. Very Happy and I hope you'll put up with me if I do.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 7:30 pm

chekov wrote:
The real problem is that the problem with dealing with the socially disruptive behaviours of those with conditions such as autism is, in our society, almost the sole responsibility of the individual's family. The state throws a few wee pennies their way, in a begrudging way, but other than that, it's not our problem.

Families do not want the state to intervene in how they manage their children. Anarchism by definition ought to include the individualism of those with disabilties. As equal members of society, people with disability have a different set of needs and therefore deserve the necessary supports and funding that they need to lead full lives - in the same way that people enjoy any other publicly provided service - wthout the state jackbooting over their personal choices. The problem for people with disability is that their needs are seens as seperate and exceptional when in fact they are just a part of the mix of human existence. Many will never avail of maternity or library services for instance and so are not a draw on the public purse in those different regards. But because a person is perceived as being atypical, their needs are seen as being beyond and additional to what others regard as 'the norm'.

Quote :
I think the solution is not to pretend that some behaviours are not disruptive and interfere with the rights of others (e.g. the right to watch a film in a silent environment), but to ensure that, where there are people who are not capable of observing social norms that protect the rights of others, society should provide alternative spaces for them and doesn't leave it all up to the family.

When you participate in direct action, a lot people regard your behaviour as 'disruptive' and 'interfering with the rights of others'. And accordingly, the status quo does its best to silence, jail and otherwise marginalise you as it possibly can. You are arguing for a comparable form of marginalisation and segregation of people with different behaviour patterns to your own. I'm shocked that you are capable of saying what you have said.

The fundamental assumption behind what you say is that people with disability are worth less. Who are you to define 'the norm'? You talk about protecting the rights of minorities in the context of anarchism - the right to be different. Do you have any appreciation at all of the worth to humanity of people with even the severest disability? As many socialist and anarchist people with disability will attest, it is a state that is almost wholly socially constructed in so far as it puts people at a living disadvantage. Disability is a fantastic opportunity for everyone - to reflect on our nature and the difficulties and 'abnormalities' that everyone suffers from to a greater or lesser degree - temporarily or otherwise. It's arguable that it offers us one of the most vital but as yet unacknowldged opportunities to come to terms with ourselves. There are whole worlds of philosophy, sociology and politics as yet untapped because of people with your sort of attitude - the tyranny of the majority is nowhere more evident than in attitudes to those with what is currently understood to be 'disability'.

I'm amazed at you Chekov.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 7:46 pm

cactus flower wrote:
I agree with the first part but not the second part Chekov. I agree that responsibility is wider than the family, or even more so, that we are family, even if society at the moment is inclined to forget it. If you get a bit shouty, grouchy Mad and dribbly in your old age I'll do my best to put up with you. Very Happy and I hope you'll put up with me if I do.

I got a bit shouty, grouchy and dribbly a good while back, but I'll try not to impose it one you Smile

My point is pretty simple actually. I think people should be able to set behavioural norms for participating in collective activities and limit participation to those who follow those norms. I don't think that I have the innate right to show up at your film showing and shout throughout it. As long as I'm offered an alternative venue where I'm free to shout I don't see the problem.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 8:01 pm

I've no personal experience apart from the baby/Oxfam one that doesn't really count. I'm aware from the baby at weddings debate that crops up every few weeks in the press that there are two halves of humanity who disagree on this and perhaps always will.

I appreciate it when someone carries a screaming baby out of an event but I never feel that it is anything other than their own judgement call if and when to go.

I wonder if people's views on this shift depending on their own situation - whether they have children, or someone in the family with disabilities. If you are in that situation you have to deal not only with the difficulty of minding the person but also with the sniffyness or obstructiveness of onlookers. I don't think it is too much to ask that if we don't have a problem we dig in and find some patience for the short time we are affected by what some people are dealing with 24 x 7.

I don't imho think it is realistic to have separate segregated film showings for example, where I live we are lucky to get one quick look at what is on general release and if someone in the row behind is shouting Dead! Dead! All Gone! (like last week) then it all adds to the flavour of the event to me.

Is there anything you could do to reduce your sensitivity to disturbance? Yoga perhaps, or camomile tea ?
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 8:37 pm

Just to add

Chekov said...

Quote :
I think people should be able to set behavioural norms for participating in collective activities and limit participation to those who follow those norms.

If you set agreed norms for people who understand them and are capable of conforming with them, that is fine, but if you set them for people who can't then I think that the problem is not one of norms, and excluding people who don't conform, but of how best do we deal with including them, and to heck with our norms.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Tue May 27, 2008 9:49 pm

Aragon wrote:
When I took my eldest son to see ET - a long while ago- he announced at
the top of his lungs 20 mins after ET made his appearance that 'they
should phone the guards and get that animal taken away.'

Laughing An absolute classic. And without a doubt the most 'to the point' and accurate critique of ET I've ever heard. Nice to know I've a kindred spirit out there.

What I'm going to say is possibly beyond the remit of the originating post, but I think this thread, considering the subject matter, has passed that rubicon, and was bound to pass it anyway.

Each and every one of us is capable of being pissed off by another human being and indeed, capable of pissing off another human being. That's ever before one brings any aspect of disabilty into the picture. In fact, disability is really a red herring in this picture.

My best friend was stabbed 70+ times, is in a wheelchair, lives on top of a mountain, used to be responsible for carrying me around (I don't drive - be thankful!) before I moved to Dublin, could rip me in half like a wishbone, and can usually give my arse a royal thrashing at chess. Which of the two of us is disabled?

Everyone can add something, so long as there is inclusion. Acceptance is quite another thing. I am not bound to accept anyone, I either like a person or I don't. But rather than promote an exclusion policy, against a trait I'm uncomfortable with or dislike, I'd promote excluding myself first. If I could live with my self-imposed exile - fine. If I couldn't, I'd learn tolerance quickly.

One can no more dictate how human interactions will occur than king Canute could command the waves. That we would even try, shows that we are far from being fully educated. What happened in this church in the States is an absolute disgrace (and I recognise that the interruptions etc. can be very frustrating), I hope the flock of this particular church come out in solidarity with their fellow believers. Maybe the parties involved can sit down and work out their difficulties, just like good christians should.

As my chess playing buddy likes to say: (I'm paraphrasing) "The difference between a valid and an invalid is bigotry."
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Wed May 28, 2008 12:21 am

chekov wrote:
The real problem is that the problem with dealing with the socially disruptive behaviours of those with conditions such as autism is, in our society, almost the sole responsibility of the individual's family. The state throws a few wee pennies their way, in a begrudging way, but other than that, it's not our problem.

I think the solution is not to pretend that some behaviours are not disruptive and interfere with the rights of others (e.g. the right to watch a film in a silent environment), but to ensure that, where there are people who are not capable of observing social norms that protect the rights of others, society should provide alternative spaces for them and doesn't leave it all up to the family.

This is a thought-provoking post, chekov.

I think we have to first acknowledge a couple of things.

Firstly treating people the same is not the right thing to do - we should treat every person according to their needs, that's what equality really means and in order for that to be meaningful, we have to have some real awareness of what those needs are that are different to the norm. Whether we like it or not, Aragon, we live in a world where people are happy to operate within broadly accepted parameters.

I would feel that autism is different to many of the disabilities we are most familiar with because it is in essence a social disability and those of us who don't have autism find that the techniques and skills that we use in general discourse are often less than useless when we try to communicate with someone on the Autistic spectrum. My best friend's daughter - with Asperger's Syndrome didn't speak to me for years. I'm not used to that. I'm also not used to people becoming suddenly violent and unpredictable as I've seen happen with people with autism. I can accept that they do, but every time such an event happens, I have to learn or revise a set of coping mechanism to deal with it because it is outside the realm of what occurs in my everyday life.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Wed May 28, 2008 1:11 pm

Kate P wrote:
chekov wrote:
The real problem is that the problem with dealing with the socially disruptive behaviours of those with conditions such as autism is, in our society, almost the sole responsibility of the individual's family. The state throws a few wee pennies their way, in a begrudging way, but other than that, it's not our problem.

I think the solution is not to pretend that some behaviours are not disruptive and interfere with the rights of others (e.g. the right to watch a film in a silent environment), but to ensure that, where there are people who are not capable of observing social norms that protect the rights of others, society should provide alternative spaces for them and doesn't leave it all up to the family.

This is a thought-provoking post, chekov.

I think we have to first acknowledge a couple of things.

Firstly treating people the same is not the right thing to do - we should treat every person according to their needs, that's what equality really means and in order for that to be meaningful, we have to have some real awareness of what those needs are that are different to the norm. Whether we like it or not, Aragon, we live in a world where people are happy to operate within broadly accepted parameters.

I would feel that autism is different to many of the disabilities we are most familiar with because it is in essence a social disability and those of us who don't have autism find that the techniques and skills that we use in general discourse are often less than useless when we try to communicate with someone on the Autistic spectrum. My best friend's daughter - with Asperger's Syndrome didn't speak to me for years. I'm not used to that. I'm also not used to people becoming suddenly violent and unpredictable as I've seen happen with people with autism. I can accept that they do, but every time such an event happens, I have to learn or revise a set of coping mechanism to deal with it because it is outside the realm of what occurs in my everyday life.

There are some misunderstandings here. Autism is a neurological disability, one of the many symptoms of which is an usual form of sociability - some people are withdrawn while others can be gregarious. Nobody would remotely suggest that unpredictable and violent behaviour (which a minority can be capable of) should be tolerated as unremarkable.

If it does occur, it is possible to understand it though - and that is a very different matter. Some people with autism suffer from heightened sensory perception - all senses can be affected. This can mean that a peson is unable to prioritise the sounds in their environment so that everything they hear has an qual draw on their attention. It's a particular difficulty in a classroom or crowded place where there can be lots of different sources of noise. Sometimes children get overloaded and will become distressed. Unless you know what is wrong, it can look like an inexplicable outburst.

But this is exactly where the need for inclusion and understanding is most urgent. Given that there are so many people with autism in society - diagnosed and undiagnosed - the fact that their experiences are yet regarded as outside of what you call 'normal parameters' says more about the exclusivity and general ignorance within those parameters than it does about autistic people or how respectful interaction might be assisted. There is no need for the present state of affairs at all. If disability were embraced as a welcome and unexceptional aspect of human existence, if it were valued and respected as it should be - the necessaray educational, medical, social, economical and other factors would be properly attended to - instead of which most people are languishing in various states and degrees of neglect - with far too few exceptions - frequently dependent on unpredictable charitable fundraising rather than on a safe and adequate level of state support.

There are three classes of disability as things stand. People argue, and I agree with them, in line with what you say, that autism should be in its own, fourth category. Whatever about that, with an entirely realistic and achievable educational programme in schools and elsewhere, we could all be infinitely better informed about many of the disabilities that exist in our society. The parameters of what is understood to be normal would then include those with disability. The fact of disability is normal - it occurs, it has always occurred and will always occur. It isn't for 'us' to tell 'them' what is normal. We are all 'us' - or at least should be.

It's a pity, though, to single out this example when there are so very many more examples of positive and valuable behaviours and contributions that autistic people make to our society. And when you consider the atrocious conduct of neuro-typical people, who can behave incredibly anti-socially with little or no criticism in many instances, why set an unequal and unfair standard of judgment on autistic people?

Once you are aware that someone has Asperger Syndrome, I can't see why them not speaking to you should cause difficulty. There is no positive imposition on you other than initial confusion and surprise until the situation is explained. I dont see why it should cause a problem anymore than with a person who does not speak because of profound deafness, for instance. Taking it personally to the point of finding it difficult suggests you dont entirely believe the problem is genuine - that despite knowing the nature of the disability you continue to expect something from that person which she is incapable of. Maybe I'm wrong.

I'm always quoting this statistic: there are 1.3 million people affected by disability in Ireland - and this is said to be a conservative figure. That includes people directly affected and their carers/families . It is a huge but largely invisible and disempowered lobby. It has yet to make an appreciable impact on the ignorance and prejudice with which it is greeted and people are sick and tired of having to justify their right to the common spaces, understanding and courtesies that are theirs by right as much as any other person's. Incidentally the 1.3 million figure does not include people on the autistic spectrum.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Wed May 28, 2008 1:43 pm

Excellent thread. Well done all.

On the original issue, you'd wonder why they don't just go to a different church? It'd be the Pope's loss not theirs.

Only joking - I realise the distinction between churches is of some significance to their adherents!

Aragon is right, the disability lobby is weak, divided and disorganised. If they got it together they'd be running the country.
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PostSubject: Re: Church in America bans Autistic boy   Fri Jul 25, 2008 5:06 pm

Autism rates skyrocket according to Treehugger and they ask if environmental factors are to blame.



Quote :
With the root cause of autism still only speculated upon, and everything from prescription drugs in the water supply to pesticides used to grow food and the manner in which vaccines are constructed potentially to blame, a new study shows socially aloof couples with a small circle of friends are more likely to parent autistic children. Suggesting genetics and the resulting social environment in which kids are raised may be more to blame than anything.

Parents of Autistic Children Show Similar TraitsThe study, conducted by the California Institute of Technology looked at how parents of autistic children evaluated facial expressions and found that they gauged faces in exactly the same way as people with the disorder, despite the fact that they were not classified as autistic themselves.

Parents deemed “socially aloof” had very few close friendships, where sharing and mutual support were routinely evident. And intriguingly the parents of autistic kids were largely dependent on reading the emotions on others faces via their mouths and not their eyes, as is the case with most people who are not afflicted with the condition.

So is it drugs in the water, pesticides in our food, and concerns over vaccines or simply a case of genetics? Who knows, it’s even possible that the stark rise in reported cases of autism is simply due to those of us who’ve become sensitive to its symptoms reporting them more often.

Are cases skyrocketting ?
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