Have you played the “A” card?

Parents of special-needs kids often have a lot to cope with: meltdowns, perseveration, echolalia, single-focusedness, sheer obliviousness. All this coping tends to drain away patience and sometimes even your ability to remain polite, especially when people who don’t understand get on your last nerve. Often at Wal-Mart.  I’m not sure why that is. Maybe they’ve got some sort of blue-light special on last straws.

Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin says that special-needs kids will have “a friend and advocate in the White House,” if the Republican ticket is successful. She says this, no doubt, based on the fact that she is the parent of a special-needs child. So, isn’t she using her Trig as an excuse to get special treatment, i.e. to get people to vote for her?

Is that wrong?

I stopped in mid-rant today to contemplate whether I’ve used my children’s condition as a crutch/excuse from time to time, and had to conclude that I had. For example, the time I was running late to take Captain Oblivious to the eye doctor, and they’d given up on us, ready to close up shop. When I explained I’d been picking up the children from camp, and I got held up because of an issue with a therapist, and dropped the “A” bomb–autism–suddenly they turned on the equipment and welcomed the boy with a warm smile.

I’ve frequently mentioned the different difficulties we deal with at home and school to clients, to show them I can have some understanding of what they’re going through with their own children. In a recent case I had, I ended up being an expert witness of sorts for my client because the judge and the other attorney had no idea what Asperger’s Syndrome was or what it meant for a child. By explaining what our family went through–playing that “A” card–I was able to help my client successfully conclude his case.

And sometimes you just drop it to make the complaining person feel like a heel. (We’ll add up the karma points later.)

Of course there’s the big one:  Disney World. By playing the “A” card at a Disney property, you get a magic pass that allows your whole family to go to the Fast Pass lane for many of the most popular rides. How does this help?  Well, here’s one example: We went on the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster ride, and our wait was as long as it took us to walk up to the gate. That was it. The next car came up, and we were allowed on. If we’d gone the regular route, we’d have had to wait an hour or more.

So is it wrong?

In this case, I think it’s not. The nature of the issues our children have is that if we’d had to wait an hour for the ride, our children would not have been able to have that experience at all.  We couldn’t have been patient that long without some sort of incident. On rides where it was clear it was only a 15-minute wait, we got in the regular line and took our turn.  That’s a life lesson kids need to learn. But if it was use the pass or miss the experience–we used the pass.

The changes we saw in the children as a result of being able to experience the Disney parks didn’t happen just in those five days, but continued to expand them (especially Little Miss) over the next several months. We are very grateful for the chance to let them participate, and glad we could use the “A” card to help them. Here the card was played for their benefit.

As for the way it’s been played in the election?  That one we’ll have to wait and see.

6 thoughts on “Have you played the “A” card?

  1. Hello Babs,

    I agree that on some occasions disclosing autism can be a good thing for all concerned.

    I have no doubt that you want your children to have a good time at Disney World. I am sorry to say that in this context I do not consider autism, insofar as it involves only an inability to wait as long as (well-brought-up) NT and other children, a good reason to, in effect, cut in front of others.

    (I have no doubt that your children, and most other Aspie and autistic children, are well brought up. My point is that NT status [or less severe AS or autism] is not enough; good upbringing is necessary and I believe that privileges like this one only undermine that [including the great efforts you’re making to ensure your children learn how to work well in the world.)

    Such things give ammunition to the Mike Savages and Denis Learys of this world. Accommodations to enable learning or working are necessary and good; accommodations simply to enable getting onto amusement park rides without waiting are not.

    I do not see enough information from your post to conclude that cutting ahead of other children for recreation is a reasonable accommodation for autism. If there is more to the story that you feel is relevant, please let me know.


    Jeff Deutsch

  2. I believe the key here is whether or not you use your “A card” responsibly or not. As I frequently tell my kids, “Use your powers for good, not for evil.”

    You could use a handicapped placard to park close to the front door just because you’re obese. You could use your race as a method to get you into a school despite your poor grades. You could use your gender as a method for getting others to carry your heavy things. But it’s really a question of motivation. If there are legitimate reasons for your use of your “A Card” and you’re not taking advantage of people in doing so, then you’re just fine.

    If, along the way, some other kids have to wait in line at Thunder Mountain five minutes longer than they otherwise would have, is it worth it for your kids to have that experience? I do.

  3. We live near a Six Flags and have been getting season passes the last few years. I don’t always, but usually I stop by Guest Relations to get the autism pass. We’ve never used it. I figure it’s a Get Out of Jail Free card in case Boy-o has a meltdown in the middle of a line. Fortunately, the rides we want (kiddie) and the days we go (weekdays) mean we rarely have to wait in lines for longer than he can handle. I always keep in mind (and remind the kids) that there are people in line who are here because this is their one vacation day at the park and who can’t come back tomorrow. If they use a pass, good for them. If they don’t, I’d rather not slip ahead in line because we *can* come back later. That might be a very different thing of we ever make it to Disney, but then, Boy-o might be better socialized by then.

    Shorter: you know your own kids and your own schedule. If you’ve only got one day, and your kids aren’t going to be able to enjoy it without the pass, it’s there.

    The issue with “playing the special needs card” in politics is that the candidate in question isn’t seeking a job in the Early Intervention program, or trying to get her child a placement in a class. She and her running mate are trying to use her child’s disability as their *own* qualification for positions that are traditionally very hard on NT families. It’s like using your grandmother’s placard to get a better parking space at the mall even though she’s not in the car by claiming that, while inside, you’re also thinking about picking up something for her.

  4. As I was listening to the debate the other night (and I am pretty sure this is what you are talking about) I heard McCain mention something like kids with Autism and Palin is a yah dah yah dah knowing more then most on this topic …. (and I immediately think of you and chuckle) Hold the phone … what did he just say? Because you have a child with special needs this makes you the top crusader of the special needs movement or the all knowing on every child with disabilities? She may have a bit of insight that I don’t since I have no children with special needs but it by no means makes her any more qualified to be a VP …. This, in my opinion, is an awful way to get votes .. shame on him

    btw, I probally misquoted to a certain extent being that I am neither nor there on any election info … 🙂

  5. We just got our ‘A’ card so I haven’t gotten a chance to use it, as yet. But throughout the wait for our evaluation hubby and I would joke that if we did get the autism diagnosis, we’d at least get to cut in line at disney! lol But more seriously, I make sure G has chewing gum as a sensory soother before we get in line at the grocery store or post office just to get through that experience. If we ever go to Disney, I will definitely use G’s card.

  6. Yes, yes, yes –
    I have used the A card when it has benefited my child. For sure. And especially at Disney. In fact, I think using it at Disney made the Disney experience a happy one for Foster because of the special needs pass. If he had to wait in lines, I think he would have been toast after the first ride.

    And yes, I use the A card with the school ALL THE TIME, because we must to get Foster what he needs in the classroom, and in the school experience.


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