I last featured Lydia Brown to talk about her petition to release a video of a boy being harshly treated at the Judge Rotenberg Center. This week, both National Public Radio and Georgetown, the university Lydia attends, have done great stories featuring her.
"The sheriff's department was standing there, served me papers and wanted to serve Emily papers until I told them that, you know, she was a child with autism that was nonverbal with a mental capacity of about a 2- to 3-year-old," said Emily's mother, Jenny Holcomb.
When Holcomb's friend found out about the incident, she posted it on Facebook.
"And from Facebook it spread," said Holcomb. "That's when Lydia Brown contacted me and asked me, you know, if she could do a petition to have charges and stuff dropped."
Brown, 18, a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., blogs about her own autism but had never written a petition.
At first, Brown said, "I was kind of like, I don't know how I should do this. I don't know if there's a template anywhere."
Then, some of Brown's friends suggested she use Change.org.
Georgetown discusses many of Lydia's accomplishments:
Brown’s advocacy work is wide-ranging. She convinced members of the legislature in her native Massachusetts to propose a bill requiring that law enforcement officers learn about autism while she was still in high school.
She has created an online resource and advocacy website called the Autism Education Project, and established an online petition to protest a Kentucky school aide’s placement of an autistic boy in a bag to “control his autistic behavior.” To date, the petition has more than 190,000 signatures.
The first-year student also serves as an intern with the Washington, D.C.-based Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, has spoken at one autism conference and will speak at two or three others this year.
Brown is also a member of the National Youth Leadership Network’s Outreach and Awareness Committee. And she will serve as a member of a consumer advisory council for the Georgetown University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at Georgetown’s Center for Child and Human Development for the next five years.
Last week, I wrote about Emily Holcomb, a 14-year-old autistic girl who was charged with felony assault after slapping her teacher. Fortunately, the charges against Emily have been dropped and she will now be allowed to return to school. However, there are serious concerns regarding her education.
I urge you to read and sign the petition that Lydia has created to help Emily:
The teacher who restrained Emily for nearly an hour has only a week of training about autism. While now allowed to return to school, as the charges were dropped on Friday 9 December 2011, her mother rightfully fears returning Emily to the same environment with the same teacher whose lack of training taught her that it was okay to physically restrain an Autistic person instead of educating her.
The Marion County School District in Alabama has filed felony assault charges against Emily Holcomb, a 14-year-old nonverbal, autistic girl, for hitting her special education teacher:
During the alleged assault on October 26, the teacher reported Emily hit and pushed her resulting in a 'mild injury'. In the complaint, Superintendent Hollingsworth noted its happened on more than one occasion.
Emily's mother says it was a violent act but just Emily's way of expressing frustration. "You have think about it -- she's trapped inside that body. And when people can't understand her it gets frustrating."
Emily's mother and her attorney -- James Gallini question the timing of the charge. Gallini says they had just settled an agreement with the school system to provide Emily's teachers a professional aide "for training, dealing with her level of autism," said Gallini. He believes the charge was an effort to get out of and circumvent the costly agreement. "At that point, it took it out of the special ed into the juvenile system."
Lydia at Autistic Hoya urges us to take action:
Why do school systems feel the need to criminalize autism? This blog tends to focus on issue and philosophy centered articles related to autism and advocacy, but this horrific, tragic turns of events is only more evidence of the deeply-rooted systemic problems in the way our country looks at differently-abled or disabled people, especially Autistic people. And something needs to be done. And something can be done -- by you and I, sitting here and reading this post. In fact, I've already created a Facebook group where you can read about the case and see updates.But for now, what can you actually do to help? You can write, email, or call the school's superintendent who filed the complaint, the district attorney of Marion County, and the deputy district attorney who seems to be handling the case, asking them to drop the case and any charges. Emily needs help, and she needs help now. This isn't some fancy theorizing or overly intellectual model of some idea -- this is the life of an actual person whom someone is trying to destroy.