Last Tuesday the 20th of August, I along with my son and his BT (behavioral technician or TSS) went to the Carlisle YMCA for some recreational swimming. Well it seems there are issues with JR going into the ladies changing room with me since he is aging. Of which I completely understand. What I don’t understand is how anyone can consider a bathroom a “family changing room.” Below is my letter to the director of the Carlisle Y terminating our membership. I wanted to make this issue public to the local autism community in case you contribute money via United Way or have a membership with the Y in the event that this offends you as much as it does me.
To: Marcia Drozdowski
Executive Director YMCA
Carlisle PA 17013
My family and I are terminating our membership with the Carlisle YMCA. I believe you have a right to know why. Initially it was lack of use and cost. However, after the events of 20AUG08 there is another reason to add to this list, discrimination.
On the 20th my son, his TSS and myself came to swim (around noon) during the recreational swim time. As it turns out while we were getting ready to leave a gentleman (slim build, 5’8″ reddish short hair) informed me that I can no longer take my son into the ladies changing room, due to the uncomfortable nature of the situation. Of which I do understand, however the “family changing room” that the YMCA has is a bathroom pure and simple and no amount of superficial surface modification to a bathroom is going to turn it magically into a family changing room. Furthermore, it is insulting to think that modifying a bathroom would somehow make it ok. It doesn’t.
Now, I will admit I should have sent my son in the men’s changing room with his male TSS, however typically when we do come to the Y it is usually my son and I and frankly I didn’t even think to ask his TSS if he would take him into the men’s changing room. My son cannot go into a boys changing room alone as he has autism and he is non-verbal. Being non-verbal makes him an easy mark for any pervert who may have a membership to the Y.
In my opinion what the YMCA, under your direction is practicing is nothing short of discrimination. According to dictionary.com one definition of discrimination is: “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.” Your condoning; even encouraging, of the policy of the YMCA falls under the “category” (a disability; i.e. autism) of discrimination.
Enclosed with this letter is the form required by the YMCA to terminate our membership. In addition I am enclosing an article that was in Saturday, August 23rd‘s Sentinel is a piece on autism and discrimination.
As a parent of a child who has autism, I have been dealing with this sort of thing since he was first diagnosed at the age of 3. Frankly, I am tired of it and refuse to abide by societies narrow-minded attitudes when it comes to the autistic community. Our children are unique and intelligent (and no, most are not mentally impaired) individuals, however they have issues that make it difficult for them to process sensations the way you and I do. Everything comes into their brains at one time and they have difficulties separating sight from sound, from touch, from smell.
I will be informing, via my on-line group, the on-line group of the Harrisburg chapter of the Autism Society of America and my blog that families in the area who have a child with autism may want to reconsider their financial contributions and their memberships to the Y as well.
So is this discrimination or am I being overly sensitive to the situation? If you care to express your opinion to the Carlisle YMCA please go here. Also the excutive director’s e-mail address is included in the tags below.