Most of you who know me are aware that I have a pretty long fuse. I am almost always happy to add to someone’s autism awareness. Well, that did not quite happen today.
Dental visits are hard for many of us, autistic or not. My family has a wonderful dentist, Dr. Haggerman, on Minnehaha Ave in St Paul. He has seen Robert and me for years and recently Mouse started seeing him, too. I asked him how he would feel about treating Boo Bear and he agreed to see him, saying he would not force him to do anything against his will. This morning, Boo Bear and I paid him an 8:00 am visit. His dental hygienist, Marcia, was absolutely wonderful with Boo. He was not happy about getting his teeth cleaned, but he let her do it. Later, Dr. Haggerman took a look at his teeth and determined that Boo has a few cavities. We agreed that Boo would have to be under a general in order to get these teeth filled and he referred me to a classmate of his, Dr. Benke. After dropping Boo off at school and fortifying myself with a stiff cup of coffee, I called Dr. Benke’s office. The reception, to say the least, was chilly. I told her I had a referral from Dr. Haggerman for my son who is autistic. She immediately cut me off. “I don’t think so, we just don’t serve people like that.” I didn’t even let her say anything further, I thanked her and hung up. It’s been a long time since I have run into this type of blatant discrimination. I called Dr. Haggerman’s office back and explained the situation to Kris, his receptionist. She said that the doctor would call me as soon as he got a break and sounded outraged on my behalf. So, I did what any spurned customer would do; I looked him up on social media. Ah ha! His website asked me to submit a testimonial, and I did, without mincing words. The website also asked me text the office, so I did, leaving a scathing review. This did not even begin to mollify me.
So, here is what I would like that snooty receptionist to know: I am one of THOSE people. So is my husband, so is my other child. We are autistic, or if you prefer, neurodiverse. We are well educated, well spoken, and have the means to fend for ourselves. My son may not have words to speak, but that does not in the least diminish his value as a human being. He can love deeply, laugh heartily, find his way out of the toughest maze, express what he wants and needs through sign and his iPad. He is bright, funny, loving and has a wicked sense of humor. But, Mrs. Snooty receptionist, you will never get the pleasure of knowing this because your office does not serve people like him. Well, I can tell you, your office will never serve me, my family or my friends, either.
Discrimination comes in all shapes and forms. People are discriminated against because of the color of their skin, how they talk (of don’t talk) where they come from, how educated they are. The list goes on and on. I want to thank my friends online and in real time who reached out to me today to offer their support and recommend their dentists for Boo Bear. I want to thank all those people who educate themselves about autism, who are able to step out of their preconceived comfort zone and confront something new. I want to thank everyone who keeps Boo Bear and his sister in their thoughts and prayers. Thank you you, and as my dear friend A says, “Be good people.”