Mom’s ‘Autistic Child in Area’ Sign Defaced, Changed to Something Else

May 31, 2019 Updated: May 31, 2019

A neighborhood sign in Garden City, Michigan, warning about an autistic child was controversially defaced.

The original sign read, “Autistic child in area,” and it’s designed for motorists to be aware of Austin Sharon, 6, who was diagnosed with autism as a toddler. Yahoo News reported that the boy began running out the front door without his parents’ permission.

“You can imagine that even using quickly the bathroom is stressful,” mother Maggie Sharon told Yahoo.

They installed the warning sign and implemented other safety measures last year.

However, in recent days, Sharon said that one of the signs was covered with yellow tape and now reads, “Child with Autism In Area.” Apparently, according to the Yahoo report, some people find “autistic child” to be offensive.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network says, “Many parents of autistic people and professionals who work with autistic people prefer terminology such as ‘person with autism,’ ‘people with autism,’ or ‘individual with ASD” because they do not consider autism to be part of an individual’s identity … They want ‘person-first language,’ that puts ‘person’ before any identifier such as ‘autism,’ in order to emphasize the humanity of their children.”

Sharon, however, just wanted the sign to be concise for drivers. She said the tape is of a poor quality, and drivers can’t see the sign in the evening.

The mother said she ripped off the tape and hopes the stranger doesn’t deface her property in the future.

“My instincts say whoever changed the sign doesn’t have a child with autism,” Maggie stated to Yahoo. “But it could also be a parent dealing with a new diagnosis—which is a scary and touchy time. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it and I respect the person’s opinion.”

Sharon also issued a statement to the person who defaced her sign.

“I get your point,” she told Fox2 Detroit, “but please for the safety of my child, leave the sign alone.”

“Autism is something that currently doesn’t have a cure and it is something you never grow out of,” she added. “To a lot of people, it is part of who they are. It’s not only what they are, but it is part of who they are.”

In the comments section of Yahoo, people agreed with the mother, saying road signs should be concise. “I understand people-first language, but it’s not reasonable for a road sign. It needs to be concise to get the point across quickly,” one person stated.

“I have a child with Autism and the fighting between autism and autistic makes no sense to me. Someone is always offended by something and the amount of name calling and blame is also part of the community,” one wrote.

Another woman wrote in the Fox2 Facebook comments section: “As a mom of an autistic child. LEAVE THE SIGN ALONE! My daughter is an autistic person and that’s how she refers to herself. Do not go by autism Speaks it’s a scam. Please advocate for the children who want to be heard that they are autistic and autism doesn’t define who they are.”