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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Autism, Safety, and ADA

In the past year, however, there has been a significant increase in ADA issues where the case involved a family with a child with autism.
Children with autism can be “runners,” where they slip out of sight in a split second. Protecting a child on the autism spectrum from “running” is, for a parent, a vital safety concern and can be a matter of life and death. In my small nonprofit that provides gymnastics classes to children with special needs, we assign volunteers specifically to catch students who run from the group because the gymnastics floor is spotted with dangerous equipment, cheese pits (large holes filled with foam cubes), and in-ground trampolines.

A second matter invokes more of the Fair Housing Act with elements of the ADA present. Some housing communities, or homeowners' associations, prohibit certain structures or modifications, often for aesthetic reasons and to ensure uniformity. Conflicts arise when fencing is prohibited, yet is needed to keep a child with autism from running out of the yard and into the road. Prohibiting the fence would violate the law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, along with the Fair Housing Act, protect children and adults on the autism spectrum. For some children and adults, protecting their rights can be a matter of safety.