Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Discrimination Against B.C. Autistic Teen

Melanie Bowen (right) and her 15 year old daughter Brooklyn (left) (source)
Being the father of an autistic child, I am likely a little more sensitive to stories like this than average folk. I've posted about mothers who kill their autistic children in the past - and I'm sorry to say it happened again recently in British Columbia. I may write about that story later, but for now I'll concentrate on a case of discrimination against an autistic girl also in British Columbia.

B.C. girl with autism, epilepsy denied student exchange trip to PEI

In a nutshell, she applied for and got accepted into a student exchange program with her school, raised the funds required to go to Prince Edward Island, hosted the PEI students and was all set to go. She did all that was required and even raised the money (!) but apparently that's not good enough. Apparently, someone decided that there is nothing Brooklyn can do to deserve fair treatment.
Melanie Bowen, Brooklyn’s mom, says she signed waivers about her daughter’s mild disabilities back in November and was accepted to go on a trip on May 13.

However, while hosting students from PEI last month, she had a complex partial seizure, which means she gets flushed and appears to be daydreaming. She was walked to the sick room where she rested before heading home with her mom.

Days later her entire trip was cancelled by Bluefield High School on PEI.

“We feel that Brooklyn was not currently able to meet the mandate of the exchange with regards to social interaction with her twin and PEI peers,” a letter from the school stated.
Apparently because of the uber mild seizure (or perhaps any old excuse at all), the host school in PEI decided to cancel her trip for her because they felt 'that Brooklyn was not currently able to meet the mandate of the exchange with regards to social interaction with her twin and PEI peers.' What does this even mean?

You know, I knew someone who was diabetic who once had a reaction to her insulin during art class. She seemed pretty flushed and informed someone his hair was fire and that there was a fish floating in mid-air. Nobody cancelled any of her school-related trips.

And the exchange program, SEVEC, claims to accept those with disabilities. Well, it took awhile for them to even entertain the idea of hosting Brooklyn.
After dozens of emails and phone calls, Bowen claims the school says the only way Brooklyn can participate is if she stays in a hotel room alone along with a teacher next door.
Apparently, the school thinks that this girl is scary, dangerous or infectious, or something. The whole point of the trip is a cultural exchange with youth of her age and their families in a province thousands of miles away and the school suggests house arrest and isolation. 

Thankfully Brooklyn didn't back down. She's strong. She bravely started a Facebook page, Fight Discrimination With Brooklyn, which has received more than 1,200 likes. This triggered an outpouring for support from Prince Edward Islanders - some have offered to host her at their own homes.
“My son graduated from Bluefield High School in PEI. He has autism – albeit mild and high function. He went on two Europe trips with students from Bluefield while there. I may be missing something, but my experience was inclusiveness at Bluefield… we live close to Bluefield and would be more than willing to accept her as a billet,” said Neila Auld.
Still no comment from the school, though. I imagine they must be a little concerned now about all this negative exposure.

The exchange organization, SEVEC, hasn't offered any solutions either. They could work to solve the problem. Nothing so far.

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