Doug Ford and Special Needs Teens

I made a terrible mistake last night. Right before bed I read the story that Doug Ford had commented on how a home for special needs teens was ruining a neighbourhood. As a father of two autistic children (one a teen and another almost there) in group homes, I was very angry.

You can find Doug Ford’s position here.

First of all, as a politician Ford should have realized that it is unwise to be critical of those with special needs. It is just not a smart thing to do and it is possible that his career may not recover. Of course there are people who still tolerate his brother’s actions.

Secondly, Ford spoke from ignorance. He looked to a time when there were large group homes on the outskirts with acreage that would allow for a wide variety of outdoor activity. He complained that the Griffin Centre is just a house in a neighbourhood and the teens leave the house and thus cause discomfort for the local residents.

What Ford needs to know is that this is not a unique situation. All the large group homes have or will be closing. It has been decided that it is better for those with special needs to live in smaller homes with four or five people, placed within a community where they can interact with them.

Both Logan and Abby live in homes that were once private residences. The houses are in average neighbourhoods. They do not have big yards. Their activities take place in the community with “normal” people. Sorry to tell you Mr. Ford, but my children yell, scream and hit in public places. They probably make some people uncomfortable. But it is far better than having them hidden away, far from disrupting the tranquility of the rich and comfortable.

People (including Ford and the people he represents) need to understand that special needs young people do not destroy neighbourhoods, they enhance them. Instead of complaining of how their real estate value is dropping, maybe they should consider how they can make a positive impact on these young people. Would that be comfortable? Of course not. Would it be rewarding? Far more than they can imagine.

It is time for some perspective. Let these teens become a part of the community. Give them and the organization that cares for them a chance. There is the potential for something great to happen.

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