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,

Mike

Here is the email I received today from Change.org

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 Change.org 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.

One Year Anniversary for Pathways In Autism! Goal Setting Time!

I want to wish you all a happy and successful 2012!!!

I can’t believe it has been a year since my first post on this blog. It is my hope that something that was written was helpful to someone who is caring for, parenting, loves or knows someone who lives with Autism.

I plan on sharing much of the same type of content throughout 2012!

Also, my wife and I are collaborating on an exciting new project that we will announce as well in the weeks ahead! ;-)

Well, with a new year comes a new set of goals for 2012 as it relates to this blog! With any endeavor in life, if you don’t have written, realistic goals then you don’t have a plan for success. There is no way to keep yourself directed, honest and on track without having a road map for where you want your project to be at the end of the year.

Here are the goals I have for my autism advocacy efforts in 2012:

1) Continue to post content on this blog that is relevant to the blogs mission of providing “information, encouragement, support and guidance” to those families who are living with autism.

2) To take more of an active part in the larger military autism community through posts on this blog, national endeavors of opportunity as well as local hands-on efforts in the southeast.

3) To actively engage the local community through public speaking engagements in order to raise awareness, understanding and advocacy for those living with autism.

4) Begin fund-raising endeavors to provide direct monetary assistance that will be used for a variety of reasons to the needy families who live with autism.

5) To educate myself even further in information relevant to assisting others in their walk on the Pathways In Autism.

It is my hope and prayer that you are as excited about 2012 as me and my family are. Every year has been a year of growth, development and success for my family as we walk the pathways and I believe that 2012 will be that way for more families in our community. Make this year the breakout year that you serve more, love more, learn more and enjoy more of the eccentricities and little peccadilloes that your auttie brings to your life!

In Advocacy,

Mike

New Website Added to Blogroll – “Welcome To Stimcity”

I have been reading and searching into my fellow bloggers who share similar family situations and outlooks on life in regard to the affects of autism. Here is a very dedicated blog to that end and yet another family fighting the good fight in awareness and advocacy for military families living with autism!

Please visit them by clicking here at: http://stimcity.wordpress.com/, or by clicking on the link in the Blogroll to the right.

In Advocacy,

Mike

Are Changes To Tricare Benefits For Autism On The Way?

It is such a tough time for the DoD to consider changes to benefits packages for service members right now, but there are legislators right now that are trying anyway. Here is a link to an article of two legislatures who are pushing for autistic benefits for retirees and increasing the cap on benefits.

Rising health care costs are on everyone’s mind right now. Health care is going to, yet again, be front and center during next year presidential campaigns. Health care costs are rising dramatically, and the cost of service to treat the military’s autistic dependents is already high. I wish I had actual figures to know what the cost is for the tens of thousands of dependents receiving services such as ABA and other costly treatments, but I know at $36,0000 annually doing the math is not very difficult.

I want to reiterate, especially as an actively serving officer in the Army, that I am pleased to a large degree with the services that Tricare provides. There certainly is MUCH that can be improved on and there are many shortfalls in the administrative areas of Tricare, EFMP, ECHO, Respite and others. I am thankful and appreciative. BUT, the limits currently set by Tricare just aren’t enough to provide the appropriate amount of private care autistic kids need. Don’t get me wrong $36,000 annually is a lot of money. This figure also appears to be the financial benefit benchmark that is being mirrored in those states whose legislatures are passing autism insurance mandates. I would personnaly like to see the cap increased to provide more costly private services like ABA, but I know that Tricare and the government can’t be wholly responsible for all that care. At least, not under the current confines of IDEA and the problems it creates for military families, and ultimately where responsibility for the growing epidemic called autism belongs. My children belong to me. So, ultimately, responsibility for their care, education and development belongs to me as well. I appreciate the care that Tricare provides for private services for all of my boys. But, I also appreciate that some of the fight resides with us navigating the public education system and IDEA to fight for the services my boys need from them as well. I wrote a series of posts a few months ago about Tricare and autism benefits that you can read here.

I am a supporter of these legislative efforts. More money invested into legitimate, plausible autistic treatment methodologies like ABA into early and intensive treatments will only decrease the long term cost on our ever-increasingly fragile systems of Social Security and Medicaid if intensive and early treatment isn’t provided in the early stage of the life cycle. If the government does not pay more now for early intervention through increased caps in benefits, they will certainly pay more later as those autistic dependents grow and mature and require much more from the Tricare system and then the government.

In advocacy,

Mike