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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Suit Against Autism Speaks

Disability Scoop reports that the Simone Greggs, the mother of an ASD teen, is suing Autism Speaks:
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this month, Greggs said that she was supposed to start her new job as a walk events manager at Autism Speaks’ Washington, D.C. office in early May after successfully completing five different interviews, a pre-employment background check and a drug test.
But Greggs said everything changed after she asked her new employer if they would accommodate an alternate work schedule or allow her to work from home on Wednesdays when her son’s school let out early.
Greggs was told that such accommodation would not be possible. She then made other arrangements for her son, but was subsequently informed by Autism Speaks managers that they were “rescinding the employment offer because they did not want to make any accommodations for the care of her autistic child,” the court filing says.
Balancing work with caregiving obligations is often a struggle for parents of those with autism. A 2009 study found that moms of children on the spectrum were interrupted at work one out of every four days compared to less than one in 10 days for other moms. Another study, published this spring, found that moms of children with autism earn an average of 56 percent less than parents of typically developing kids. Accordingly, several researchers have cited workplace flexibility as a top need for parents raising children with special needs.
Kristina Chew writes:
A Pediatrics study published in March found that we mothers of children on the autism spectrum earn less earn less. We earn 35% ($7189) less than the mothers of children with other health issues and 56% ($14, 755) less than mothers of children without health issues and disabilities.
I’ve been able to work full-time for most of my son Charlie‘s life because I’ve been a professor at a number of smaller colleges and universities where teaching has been my primary responsibility. I’ve been able to set up my work hours so I can see Charlie off to school, get home before the school bus arrives and drop everything when the school nurse or principal calls to say: “You need to pick him up now.” My husband Jim Fisher is also a professor and has flexible work others. Otherwise, I have no idea how we could take care of Charlie (we have no other caregivers for him). As Jim often says, “we have no margin for error.”
Taking care of Charlie has completely affected our careers. We can teach and work from home but are unable to travel to professional meetings and undertake extensive research that would involve visiting archives and distant libraries. I feel very lucky to have a job that allows for accommodating Charlie’s needs and love all the time we spend with him, but taking care of him has meant cutting corners in my academic scholarship and limiting certain kinds of professional advancement.