On Accommodation

22 Jun

I had the good fortune to meet John Robison at IMFAR. I told him then, and I still believe it, that we agree more than we disagree. This is especially true of some very important subjects. With that experience behind me, I have been been more likely to read his pieces when the titles pop up in my searches. He has a recent piece up on accommodation, posted to his own blog and has cross posted it to the Autism Speaks blog as well. I found that I couldn’t put the piece out of my mind but I couldn’t manage a short enough response to post to either blog. So I took his piece as a springboard to discuss my own views on accommodation, especially as it pertains to non autistics and how it has changed over the years.

Here’s a quote from Mr. Robison:

In my last post, I talked briefly about Asperger people who fail to get jobs for whatever reason, and then allege discrimination. Some neurodiversity voices ask for an end to that discrimination, and for greater acceptance.

I have asked for greater acceptance myself. I think that is a noble goal, but not one we will see attained anytime soon. When I look at how I was treated in childhood, how my 21-year old son grew up, and what I see today I see some change but not much. It leads me to wonder how much acceptance and accommodation we might reasonably expect.

I think I see things differently. In specific, I see that a great deal of accommodation has been gained over the years. This leads me to believe that more accommodation, especially for the disabled, is possible in my lifetime.

When I compare myself and my life to that of my father and mother I see huge changes in accommodation in a relatively short time period. In the 1950’s when my parents first started their family, a married woman, even without kids, was unlikely to be working. If she was working and she announced that she was pregnant, probably the first thing she would hear is, “when is your last day” or “will you help train your replacement?” The thought of keeping a job was not to be expected.

Part of the reason for this was simple: if a child was sick and had to leave school, or had to stay home (and that happens to all children), someone had to pick up the kid and stay with him/her. No way that would be the father. No way his work would accommodate him. Now many workplaces do, and this allows mothers to work.

Many companies didn’t have maternity leave in my parents’ day. Paternity leave? Forget it. Paternity leave is a fairly recent accommodation. A good example of how accommodations are still being added to our lives.

My mother loved to tell the story of the maternity floor on the hospital where she had her first baby. Women were moved there after giving birth and no men were allowed. She told of one of the hospital executives showing up at the maternity floor and being stopped by a nurse. Today maternity rooms include chairs that change into beds so fathers can stay with the mother and child. That is an accommodation.

IEP meetings, evaluations, placement visits…all these are familiar terms to parents of autistic children. This year was a big one for me, with many visits, evaluations and multiple IEP meetings. This coincided with one of the biggest deadlines in my career at work. I am incredibly grateful that my management took the position: get the job done and take the time off you need for the IEP. That’s a huge accommodation. No way my father’s management would have approved of that.

The workplace has continually added accommodations. But I think we often don’t see them as accommodations when they are granted for those without disabilities. In other words, I’ve benefitted greatly from the accommodations which have come out in the past generation. Why can’t I expect more accommodations for the disabled in the next generation?

Like Mr. Robison, I want to be acting. Part of that effort is directed at what I hope makes a better life for my child. Those accommodations may not be in the workplace, but that makes them no less important.

Mr. Robison has much good to say. In the end, we live in today, not the future. We have to work within the restrictions we face now. But, let’s not mistake fighting for a better future with mere complaining about the present. As a wise man once said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

6 Responses to “On Accommodation”

  1. Nightstorm June 22, 2011 at 16:00 #

    And this is why self-advocacy is important. Employment is one of those fields that self-advocacy can greatly benefit you. However as an autist that has been job to job, the hard part isn’t so much advocating and knowing how the ADA works. But asking for the right accommodations. It was only recently when I got accommodations for my job. One of them was I was promised never to be fired because of a meltdown.

    🙂 you have no idea how happy I was when I was told that.

  2. LBC June 22, 2011 at 19:43 #

    In my experience, a big struggle with accommodations in the public schools often starts with parents of NT children. I had a parent tell me just yesterday that it’s “the parent’s job,” not the school’s, to help an ASD child function well in school, and the teacher should not have to have “three different lesson plans” to cover all the kids in her class. Accommodating ASD children, according to this parent I spoke with (whose view represent those of many public school teachers and parents of NT kids), is unfair to the kids in the class who do not need special treatment, and unfair to the teacher who has to work harder and teach things she never intended to teach (i.e., special ed). This parent thought kids should be separated based on ability and needs: a class for smart kids, a class for special ed kids, a class for average kids, etc., to streamline education. Because so many parents and teachers feel this way, I’m not sure we’ll ever really have inclusive education and necessary accommodations.

    Teachers and parents say one thing on the record, but it’s pretty easy to find out how they really feel about accommodating ASD kids in school. I have had this discussion with many parents and a few teachers. If they’re being honest, they say they’d rather not have any sped kids in the class with the “normal” kids. Remember Alex Barton in Florida? I bet if you took the parents of his former classmates aside, 90% of them would say they’re glad that boy is no longer in their child’s school.

  3. Dianne June 24, 2011 at 08:33 #

    Transition planning is essential. Start planning as early as you can. Generate dreams and imagine what your child will be like, and will need, as he leaves school and moves into adulthood. Try to learn by communicating with others in similar positions, what your child’s accommodation needs will be, and start planning for them as soon as you can. Don’t expect what you and your child needs to be dropped into your lap.

  4. David Chiarelli June 24, 2011 at 20:09 #

    This is interesting. In Ontario Canada where I teach all these rights are guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our constitution. Since nobody is above or below the law, a court case will confirm these rights and the accomodations that need to be made; autism, maternity/ paternity leave, and so on. Of course some cases have to be fought all the way up to the supreme court, but it seems a lot more progress has been made. I’m not quite sure how this is different in the US but it sounds like it isn’t applied equally across the country.

  5. Barbara June 28, 2011 at 10:03 #

    Concerning accommodation in schools, you may be interested in this


  1. Twelve Things You Can Do to Plan for Your Child’s Future Today | South Australian Autism Advocate - June 24, 2011

    […] On Accommodation (leftbrainrightbrain.co.uk) […]

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