Library owes huge apology to boy with autism
Some will say I'm 'too close' to it since my 2 1/2 yr old was recently diagnosed with autism. I don't think so. I believe I would have found this story just as outrageous a year ago. Hell, I think I would have found this story outrageous even before I was a father 14 years ago.
If the name Jacqueline Laurita is familiar it is because she was on Real Housewives of New Jersey. But far more important than that she's a major voice and advocate in the autism community having an 8 year old son Nicholas on the spectrum. One of Nicholas' favorite things to do and favorite places to go is to the library in Franklin Lakes. He's been there many times without incident, so clearly not the entire staff should be blamed for what happened a few days ago. This came down to one staff member.
One staff member who must be living under a rock. One staff member who has no clue they're living in the state with the highest rates of autism in the nation. One staff member who kicked a child with autism out of a public library.
Over virtually nothing.
Nicholas loves to look at the DVDs. You can see this in the two video clips his mother took of him. He takes one off the shelf, taps it twice on the back, then examines the cover art. He puts it back properly then does it again with another and so on. Pay attention to the second video where he is also doing what Jacqueline calls non-contextual vocalizing. All this really means in layman terms is it sounds like the boy is humming. Not screaming. Not shrieking at some ear-piercing levels. Humming. It doesn't sound terribly loud. In fact in the first clip you hear either staff or patrons talking off in the distance and the volume to me would seem equal considering that distance.
For this, this good little boy was thrown out of the public library. Did he have a meltdown that day? Absolutely. But only AFTER his mother was forced to make him leave.
"I guess non contextual vocals & tapping (twice) on the (DVDs) are frowned upon," Laurita posted. "He had a meltdown as I struggled to get him to leave. Not one person offered or tried to help, or even opened the door for us. They just watched me struggle to get him out...as asked."
No other staff member stepped in to talk to the original staffer who kicked him out. No one did anything according to Laurita. This poor kid. What does the board of trustees have to say about what I regard as inexcusable?
"Our policy of inclusion is demonstrated daily. Our staff has years of experience catering to patrons who are physically challenged, visual or hearing impaired, as well as special education students from our public school system, and developmentally delayed children and adults. 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."
If what we're seeing in these two video clips are any indication of the behavior that got Nicholas thrown out of this library, these words are completely hollow. I've seen neurotypical children even older than this being far louder in libraries and go unchallenged. This staff member owes a huge apology to the boy. Having autism, I'm afraid the damage may already be done and the library may now be off limits for him. Not because he wouldn't be welcome back, but because he was possibly traumatized by this treatment. Children with autism already know that they are different. To be thrown out of a place like a public library marginalizes them further. It's ironic that Chuck E. Cheese, a for profit business, is doing sensory days for children like these yet a public library is living in the dark ages. Shame on them.
Jeff Deminski can be heard with Bill Doyle on New Jersey 101.5, every weekday, from 2 to 7 p.m. Listen live online here at NJ1015.com or on the NJ1015 app. Follow Jeff on Twitter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Jeff Deminski.
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