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While some people comply with wearing masks with a degree of resignation, others are angry and frustrated when required to wear them, as the controversy about the need to wear them drags on. But for some families, mask-wearing is especially difficult for certain children with autism. I suspect that other conditions also create emotional and physical difficulties when wearing masks. In particular, the Ross family with a seven-year old daughter with sensory processing disorder as a result of her autism traveled to Disney World.
Understanding a little more about sensory processing disorder might be helpful. The condition and its manifestations can vary from child to child, and includes (but isn’t limited to) not wanting to be touched, eating only certain foods, wearing only particular clothes or cutting the tags out of their clothes, or having meltdowns in crowded public places. As an example, a balloon popped when the Ross family were at a local fair and the daughter was triggered and ran into a four-lane highway nearby. The potential for this extreme behavior requires ongoing management.
Originally the family planned to go to Disney World in September 2019, but Richard Ross was in an industrial accident and they rescheduled for this summer. They had acquired medical exemptions to the wearing of a mask for their daughter and assumed the exemptions would be accepted.
They were wrong.
Their daughter was denied access to restaurants at the Disney Resort and into the Magic Kingdom. The workers insisted that everyone had to wear a mask and there were no exceptions. Mr. Ross asked if they were refusing to follow the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the worker stated it wasn’t the issue. Mr. Ross tried to appeal to various managers at the restaurants, at their hotel and near the parks, and employees insisted that they were working on the problem. By Saturday, the family made the decision to return home. (They had arrived late Thursday night.) The incident raises the question: who was to blame?
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There is plenty of blame to go around. Let’s start with the governments’ pressures to comply with mask-wearing. Cities, counties, states, and the federal government all have different and constantly changing rules. Then we can ask whether Disney should have been better prepared for those people who have difficulty wearing masks. (Disney has tried to accommodate children with emotional difficulties in the past, but canceled the effort after people tried to pass their children off as having those conditions.) Or should people simply be denied access (like at any other business) due to the strict mask-wearing rules? Finally, we can ask whether Mr. Ross should have done a better job of checking out roadblocks and requirements, given his daughter’s condition, and confirmed whether the medical exemptions would have been adequate.
There are also people with other conditions that might compromise their ability to wear a mask. What about them?
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Whom do I hold responsible? Everyone. We have a power-hungry government that, at the very least, has gone overboard in making mask-wearing demands. We also live in a society that expects to be accommodated when they have limitations they have to cope with, rather than their taking responsibility for the limitations they may encounter. And we also have businesses that are desperate to accommodate customers but also want to be responsible for their requirements of them.
What can we do to find our way out of this madness?Published in