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Handicapped Parking for Autistics

Handicapped Parking for Autistics

I recently got into a spirited conversation with a couple other AutMoms regarding autism and whether or not people with autism should get handicapped placards.

What is the issue?

I responded to a Facebook post which was a page from an AutDad’s blog. The post was about getting handicapped parking for autistic children.

In the first paragraph he said, “I’m always shocked at how many people don’t know that in (most?) states in the US you may qualify for a handicap permit if your child has autism.” He said his child has severe autism (he’s a “runner”) as well as epilepsy.

His very next line was, “To me this is one of the only perks of autism.” He added that front-of-the-line passes are also perks.

He went on to explain the process his family went through (in New York State) to obtain a handicapped placard for his son. The placard is referred to as a “Youth” placard, which allows it to be transferred from vehicle to vehicle, whatever vehicle is transporting the youth. (It is not car-dependent.)

He implied the process was quite easy for his family. Then, he stressed in big, bold letters, “AS LONG AS YOU HAVE YOUR ASD KID WITH YOU,” you can use it anywhere.

He went on to discuss the use of the placard a bit more, saying they don’t always use it, but will if it means walking 1/2 a mile. He said he and his wife refer to it as “Playing the A card.”

What happened?

Even though I had a tough time trying to decipher the writer’s feelings about the issuing of handicapped placards to autistics, I still felt compelled to comment on the post.

“…I have a tough time with this one because I believe most autistic kids/adults do not need a handicapped parking permit. If they can walk within reasonable limits, let them walk. I get very worked up about this because SO MANY PEOPLE take advantage of handicap parking permits — USING THEM WHEN THEY DON’T NEED THEM. Therefore, when a real handicapped person cannot find a spot — because they’re all taken — they’re left out. I saw this so many times at my job as a security guard…It disgusts me for people to get a permit when it’s really not necessary.”

Why did I respond like I did?

First, the tone of post caught me off guard. The poster wavered on exactly HOW he feels about handicapped placards. His tone felt flippant to me, especially when he said that he rarely sees a wheelchair-bound person leaving a vehicle from a handicapped spot, but sees (mostly elderly) people who APPEAR to look healthy.

And, he wrote “appear” in bold.

Then, he implied the elderly “get their Dr’s to say they need it. (My mom falls into this category and it drives me crazy).”

That was his exact wording!

So, I responded to the part where I felt he was saying “Everyone with autism go out now and get your placards.”

I was pleased with the statement in bold, “AS LONG AS YOU HAVE YOUR ASD KID WITH YOU,” but overall I felt the tone of blog post was light-hearted. This is a serious issue and one that I have strong feelings about. “Playing the A card” and “perk” just didn’t sit well with me.

Thinking back on it, I’m sure the AutDad didn’t mean for his tone to come off like that. But, I reacted and wrote my own post. I tried to convey my own experiences as well as the main problem I have with this issue.

What happened after I wrote my own post (in response to the AutDad’s blog)?

I responded the way I did to put a disclaimer out there in order to be completely clear on this issue. Just because an individual has a diagnosis of autism, doesn’t mean there’s a need for a handicapped placard. Every situation is different. I know it!

I wanted to be clear on what felt like to me an advertisement to entire autism community. Autism does not equal handicapped placard. It shouldn’t, in my opinion.

It’s about need, not convenience or “perks.”

It’s not a perk, it’s a need.

It’s not “the A card.”

Now, this AutDad’s son does need a handicapped placard.

And, so does the children of two AutMom who decided that I needed to be taught a lesson when they responded to my post.

At first, I was a bit confused with both of their responses. Did they read the article? Did they read my post?

These two moms both responded hysterically by immediately coming down on me. Both responded with “How dare you tell us that our kids don’t need a handicapped placard? Our kids have a need. We’ve had running problems and meltdowns issues…”

Gosh, was I talking to those folks IN NEED?

No, I was not.

Still, they fired at me in angry, defensive tones.

One AutMom even said something along the lines that most people use it responsibly.

I disagree.

I think there are plenty of people who take advantage of handicapped placards.

No, not everyone, but a lot more than this AutMom thinks.

How did it make me feel?

I truly believe these AutMoms confused me with the original poster. “You cannot tell if a person NEEDS that placard just by looking at them.”

I did not need to hear that because I know better. I wasn’t the person who made that statement in the first place.

Remember the, “APPEAR,” in all caps in the AutDad’s blog post?

I didn’t write that.

I wrote about the people who do abuse, not the people with need.

And, my point was that autism does NOT equal handicapped placards. The entire autism community should not be running out to the DMV tomorrow to apply for handicapped placards.

I still respect these AutMoms a great deal. One mom I don’t know, but I’m affiliated with the other one. I apologize for any misunderstanding.

However, your anger was misdirected. I did not deserve—what—a lesson in compassion?

I know many children on the autism spectrum, and most of those kids I know (within my circle) do not need handicapped parking. That’s my experience.

On the flip side, I have witnessed abuse.

Again, that’s my experience.

If anyone has a need, then it’s appropriate. I’m all for it.

It’s the people who don’t have a need and take advantage of the system. Those people disgust me.

The bottom line is I think I’m being clearer on this issue than the original poster!

Yet, it’s hard sometimes to put your opinion out there. The AutDad did, and so did I.

There are going to be misunderstandings.

I hope this blog post (my blog post) clears up any misunderstandings about how I feel on this issue.

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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