British children with autism 'targeted by government's anti-social behaviour orders'|
LONDON, UK: British children with autism and other serious psychological conditions are being targeted by the government's anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos), mental health charities and professionals have found.
In the South West of England, a 15-year-old boy with Asperger's syndrome was given an Asbo which stated he was not to stare over his neighbours' fence into their garden. The young man concerned had no previous criminal convictions, but if he breached the order by "continuing to stare'," he faced a custodial sentence.
His case has been taken up by the British Institute for Brain Injured Children (BIBIC), who have iddentified similar abuses across the country where Asbos have been used against autistic children.
One of the characteristics of Asperger's is obsessional behaviour and a tendency towards repetitive routines which can seem peculiar and even disturbing to people not familiar with the condition. People with the disorder can have a normal IQ, but find it difficult to read emotions and the effect their actions have on other people.
BIBIC discovered that an Asbo had been given to a 15-year-old with Tourette's syndrome, which can involve an inability to stop shouting out profanities. The order banned the teenager from swearing in public, something made impossible because of his disorder.
In a case in the Midlands, the authorities applied for an Asbo against a 12-year-old girl with Asperger's who had been swearing in the street. It later emerged that she had heard her parents arguing with neighbours and had simply mimicked them.
The cases have come to light after the charity launched a campaign earlier this year to promote tolerance of children with behavioural difficulties.
Parents have told of the mistreatment by the education and criminal justice systems.
A BIBIC spokeswoman, Pam Knight, said: "It appeared that the popular phrase 'zero tolerance' was being taken literally and affecting their children unfairly. This is zero tolerance gone potty."
Britain's National Autistic Society has called on the Home Office to record all cases when people with serious mental disorders have been given Asbos. Campaigners believe the definition of anti-social behaviour in the legislation, the 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act, is too vague. They argue that "behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress" could describe the behaviour of many autistic people.
The social model of disability states that it is social and environmental factors which disable people - not our illness or impairment. A wheelchair user is unable to enter the bus only because of the poor design of the bus; someone with partial sight may be unable to read a report only because it is printed in small type. Disability is therefore a particular form of social oppression.
(Source: Disabilities.AFreePress.com, May 31, 2005)