Autism community debates how library treated ‘Real Housewives’ child
FRANKLIN LAKES — A former "Real Housewives of New Jersey" cast member's complaint about a public library kicking out her son, who was autism, has sparked impassioned conversations, including in the autism community.
Jacqueline Laurita this week posted video of her son at the Franklin Lakes Library being asked to leave after he took DVDs off a shelf and tapped them.
In a subsequent post, Laurita said she was "not OK" with what had happened.
The library's Board of Trustees said that they welcome all to the library but there needs to be mutual respect. "No patron is ever asked to leave the Library unless and until their actions are depriving other patrons of the ability to enjoy our services," according to a message on their Facebook page.
The executive director of Autism New Jersey says children with autism should be welcome in public spaces but their parents should try to work out an agreement that leaves both sides satisfied.
"We've seen really strong reactions on social media about this, mostly people supporting individuals with autism and their right to be in public spaces and to be included in the community," Suzanne Buchanan told New Jersey 101.5.
But others expressed concern toward other library patrons and the difficult job librarians and others who work in community spaces have when the needs of their customers are at odds.
"It's been a real active dialogue the past 48 hours," Buchanan said.
There is no "right or wrong" in situations similar to the one Laurita and her son encountered, she said.
"Certainly, individuals with autism have a right to be in their public library, especially if they are highly preferred places," Buchanan said.
She said it's up to the the librarians to handle the situation by coming up with a solution whether its time limits or relocating to another space in the library.
"It's not just about accommodating the individual with autism. It's about making sure everyone in the space has what they need and we're respectful to everyone," Buchanan said.
Laurita in a new post on her Instagram account said she and her husband are "overwhelmed and grateful" for the support. She does not believe the staff member represents everyone who works at the library but was disappointed in the trustees' response and called their statement "cold."
Christopher Laurita, her husband, in a long Facebook post said he wants an apology from the library and to learn how the library accommodates those with autism.
"Turn this negative situation into a positive and be the example for change and acceptance," he wrote. "There are people all over the world who are watching you and waiting for you to do what’s right. That’s all we want. A place our kids can go to be accepted and feel safe. Turn this negative situation into a positive and be the example for change and acceptance. There are people all over the world who are watching you and waiting for you to do what’s right."