Please Sign Petition For Sensitivity Training At Whole Foods

Michael GoldmanUnfortunately, we are only going to see more of this as a growing and aging autism population works to find acceptance in a culture that is much indifferent, apathetic and ignorant of autism. Please join me and Pathways In Autism in signing this petition for change to help motivate Whole Foods stores to really be more “inclusive” of ALL of their customers.

In Advocacy,


Here is the email I received today from

Whole Foods states that its “inclusive” stores treat customers with “courtesy and respect,” but actions by their employees and contractors show that training is needed before they begin to include persons with disabilities.

I recently went shopping with my brother Michael, a 26-year-old with autism, at a Milwaukee Whole Foods store. After walking away from my side my brother took some food from the hot bar. He is sometimes confused by the order of payment and shopping etiquette, plus he may have been confused by the samples. My brother doesn’t speak — it’s part of his autism — so couldn’t explain himself when he was confronted by two Whole Foods security guards.

The two Whole Foods security guards then escorted my brother to the exit of the store. When I found out what happened I explained my brother’s situation and offered to pay for the food. The Whole Foods security personnel responded that my brother would never be allowed back unless he was on a leash like a dog. They told me that they had never spoken to my parents about my brother – so this was their first response. When my mother complained to the assistant manager about how my brother had been treated, the assistant store manager apologized for the specific use of the word “leash” – but he clearly was not pleased with having my brother in his store.

After I collected hundreds of signatures on a petition, and brought more attention through Twitter, the store manager called my mother. The store manager said that one of the security guards had been removed from the store. He defended the actions of the other guard. With urging, he agreed to provide some sort of sensitivity training in that store, but refused to provide specifics and refused to work with the local autism society.

After more than 500 people signed on to this petition, the national office of Whole Foods got involved. The store contacted our local autism society to set up a training, but has not held such a training with our local autism society or with any other third party. We are hopeful that they will live up to their promise and actually conduct it. In the meantime, they said that they had their own in-house trainer speak with the staff, but we do not have many specifics (details below).

I am thrilled by this pledge to provide quality training locally, but I want to ensure that it occurs, and I think that preventative training is needed in other stores so that everyone who works in Whole Foods is prepared to treat people with disabilities with courtesy and respect.

What happened to my brother is not an isolated incident.

In Dallas in 2011, a 28-year-old man with autism was arrested for trespassing while he was shopping in a Whole Foods store. Police were told to come because the man was “acting odd.” The man stated that he had autism and the information was simply disregarded. Whole Foods never formally apologized. We do not know how many other cases go unreported, either because they are less flagrant, or because families do not publicize their experiences.

Whole Foods website touts their extensive staff training and highlights their values including:

Our stores are “inclusive.” Everyone is welcome…

Customers are fellow human beings with feelings and emotions like our own; they are equals to be treated with courtesy and respect at all times.

I am asking the Whole Foods corporation to live up to their stated values by implementing formal, quality training for everyone who works in their stores on how to interact with customers who have disabilities.

We — the family, friends, and supporters of persons with disabilities — urge Whole Foods to become a store that shares our commitment to human dignity.

Expect Spin With Autism Mandates

This is to be expected as mandates across the states now start to take effect. “Creative” maneuvering by the insurance companies is going to delay, defer, or deny coverage for ABA as much as possible due to the effect on their bottom line. ABA costs money. A lot of money. Most families in states who have recently passes autism mandates already know this and are going broke providing ABA and other interventions to their children with autism.

This article is not surprising though. Insurance points at the schools and says, “This is a governmental, educational problem.” The schools point at insurance providers and say, “This a medical problem and the insurance companies are responsible.” Unfortunately, parents are left in the lurch.

Gamesmanship will be played full swing as the statistics of autism increase, mandates are put to the continued observance and execution test and providers try to manipulate their insured with lunatic requirements that realistically can’t be met – such as is the case in Michigan.

Having lived in Michigan, I can attest to the shortage of providers and the long waiting lists for services. I can’t imagine how families who qualify for the mandate will jump through the hoops that insurance providers are creating. It is sad as well as disconcerting, and I hope that some semblance of enforcement of plausible terms can be created.

Please click here to read the entire story...

“A state law requiring insurance companies and health plans to pay for treatments for children with autism goes into effect today, but autism advocates and parents say that while the new measure is a significant step, many families may get little, if any, help from the new statute anytime soon.

Michigan has far too few medical professionals who offer the specialized therapy autistic children require, they say, and some insurers appear to be setting conditions that could make autistic children and their families wait many months for help — if they get it at all.

In the meantime, families with autistic children either go without the treatment that can help their sons and daughters learn to function, or teeter on the brink of financial ruin…”

In Advocacy,


The Berge Family Victory For ABA for All Retirees!

We are so proud of this family who fought the good fight and won! What a precedent they have set. We have yet to see, ultimately, how Tricare will respond, but suffice to say that RETIREES NOW GET ABA COVERAGE FOR AUTISM!!

Please take a look here and Google on the internet to learn more, especially with AMFAS Facebook page for updates!

In Advocacy,


Ernie Els a Hero For Autism

I greatly appreciate those celebrities who take the time to advance the cause of autism awareness and advocacy. I think their “star power” really makes a difference in our growing community.

Not discounting other celebrities and professional, well-known athletes who give their time and resources to advance the cause I am particularly enamored by professional golfer and champion of this year’s British Open, Mr. Ernie Els. Having a child with autism as well as being a supporter of the autism community is a large endeavor, and one that warrants praise!

Thank you Els family for the awareness and impact you are making in the autism community! I am truly glad to share the great state of Florida with you and your family!

Please take a look at this short article from about Ernie Els.

In Advocacy,