Thursday, September 9, 2010

Screaming About Discrimination (SAD)

The Olde Salty restaurant in Carolina Beach, North Carolina has announced a new policy: No screaming children allowed.

One might think it would go without saying for almost any public place. And owner Brenda Armes says that the policy has attracted more customers than it's repelled.

A few parents and others don't like it, and even claim it's illegal. You see, autistic children are more likely to scream and even go into meltdowns, so (by this line of reasoning) a policy banning screaming in effect discriminates against the disabled.

Yes, autistic children may scream, for example, due to a sensory overload that's no fault of their own. And people should understand and not jump to conclusions about children necessarily just having temper tantrums, or say that autistic children shouldn't be brought out in public.

Does that mean that any issue causing problems for others has to be someone's fault before an establishment may take action? Suppose someone loudly coughs and sneezes many times in a restaurant. Of course it's probably not her fault she's sick. So the management has to stand by while she disturbs everyone and maybe infects some people?

Of course not. The original idea of combating discrimination is that people can't treat others differently based on illegitimate criteria. For example, if a black person wants to eat at a restaurant, the management can't bar him based on a dislike of black people, because someone's being black does not harm the business or any individual.

However, screaming in a public place definitely disturbs others and harms the business, and management has every right to eject screamers. Even if they include some autistic children who don't mean to scream and are suffering meltdowns, not pulling ordinary temper tantrums.

We need to help autistic children learn to minimize and finally eliminate their meltdowns, not demand that everyone else put up with disturbances.

What do you think?


xine said...

I can see it both ways.

I bring my client out to restaurants regularly, and I always tell people "It's not just for him, its for the patrons, too."

He would tantrum quite a bit when I first began taking him out. He hated sitting in a chair and waiting, and his ambitious tantrums would often include screaming, throwing things, and rolling on the floor. I typically took him to restaurants where I knew the staff (favoring the one my husband worked at) and tried to pick times when they weren't busy.

Within a few months, his behavior went from typically nightmarish to relatively indistinguishable from that of other children.

However, once in a while we'll be having a great day but something will happen at the restaurant, either triggering a meltdown or just causing him to whine a lot. This is when I think the other patrons should be learning to deal: neither he or I could have predicted the problem, so quit staring and eat your damn food.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello xine,

Thank you very much for writing in.

I'm just a little confused. You mentioned a client - what kind of services do you provide? Also, what in particular is for both your client and the patrons?

Also, what do you think enabled that child's behavior to improve?

You certainly have a point in that other patrons, who don't know the child or you from Adam, should not jump to conclusions about why the child is acting up.

At the same time, IMHO (and that of the vast majority, judging from the poll* at the above-linked article) it doesn't matter so much why a child is screaming as what it's causing and what needs to happen next.

[*] As of right now, 72,997 - almost 73,000 - out of 78,643 voting said that restaurants should indeed have a right to ban screaming children - presumably regardless of whether said screaming is the child's "fault".

Welcome to my blogroll, btw. Please pass the cream cheese!

Jeff Deutsch

Texan99 said...

Any restaurants that expects its patrons to "learn to deal" with an outrageously loud customer is not going to stay in business long. I feel for the out-of-control kid, but not enough to be willing to pay money to eat next to him. When children scream, they have to be taken away from the public place, whether it's a church, a grocery store, or a restaurant.