Yesterday the charity sent out a letter that stated that of the 5,000 applications handled in 2011 nearly 50% were from those affected by autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). They argue that due to limited resources and funds they are no longer able to deal with these applications as efficiently as they wish. As a result those families whose children are on the autistic spectrum will no longer be able to apply directly to the charity. Instead they will have to apply for complimentary tickets through their local NAS group or through the special school their child attends.
With such an increase in applications it may seem a logical way to divert applications through the National Autistic Society (NAS) or through special schools but when you look closer the proposals are flawed.
Not all children with ASD are lucky enough to get a place in special school even if they have a need for specialised education. As I have experienced, there is insufficient educational provision for those affected by ASD and families are often forced into non-specialist provision which is often not supportive enough. This doesn’t mean their child’s ASD is necessarily less than those in specialised schooling. Furthermore there are also those who are out of school or who are being home educated whose ASD’s can be as disabling as those in special school.
Another problem is relying on local NAS groups to apply for tickets on behalf of their members. There is a cost attached to becoming a member of the NAS so clearly those who have can’t afford a membership are going to be excluded from applying for tickets. Furthermore, do local NAS branches have any idea of the number of families affected by ASD in their locality and if they do will they be applying any sort of criteria as to who is applicable for complimentary tickets? And, what about parts of the country that are not served by NAS branches?
It seems that these ill-thought out proposals are a way of restricting the huge number of applications to those who have more severe forms of ASD but this raises questions about what we mean by ‘severe’. I accept that there may be some people with a mild form of ASD who can access fun parks with minimal distress but for the bulk of people with ASD, I believe their disability is a barrier to coping with everyday things. And I should know. With two children on different points of the spectrum (including a daughter with aspergers) our lives are significantly affected by their disabilities. In many ways we feel as though we just ‘exist’ as our lives are largely housebound dealing with our children’s difficulties. This isn’t meant to be a sob story but the reality for me and many other families like mine.
So it is shocking to learn that a children’s charity wants to disuade applications from families with autistic children just because the organisation are receiving too many applications. To single out a disability in this way is discriminative as far as I am concerned and until the charity reverses its policy or makes it fair for all families with disabled children to apply, I will be boycotting the Merlin organisation.
This post is day 24 of the nablopomo challenge where I have to submit a blogpost every day in the month of November.