Friday, August 19, 2005

The laughter police

I mentioned a few entries ago that I went a little crazy running interference for my son at a science museum, and wondered whether, if I had just let him be his own exuberant self, everything would have been okay. I was second-guessing myself big time, but today I read a news story that made me think I was probably right to be absurdly protective of the rights of other people not to be annoyed by him. I'm talking about the tale of the boy with autism and cerebral palsy who was ejected from a New York movie theater for laughing too loud. Now, this wasn't the case of a family bringing a child into a dialog-heavy adult picture and expecting everyone to just live with the distraction. This was a midday showing of "March of the Penguins," the popular kid-friendly nature documentary. The theater refunded the family's money, and has apologized now that a bit of a furor has been raised. On the one hand, I have a hard time imagining how this kid could have raised enough of a ruckus to deserve ejection from a kiddie show, and I think it's worth asking whether he was unfairly targeted because he was in a wheelchair. On the other hand, all the heartfelt comments people have made to the effect of "these poor little handicapped kids suffer so much they should be allowed to have these small chances at happiness" rub me the wrong way, too. A kid in a theater is a kid in a theater. If your kid's being disruptive, you should try to minimize it. If you're making an effort, the ushers should be understanding. At some point, you may just need to get your kid out of there, whether it's a crying baby or a chatty six-year-old or a child who can't control the exuberance of his laughter. I'm probably too quick to get to that point. And maybe the management at this theater was too quick to get there in this instance. But the point does exist, doesn't it? For everyone? Or should kids with disabilities get a free pass?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the child was unfairly targeted because he was in a wheelchair. Children with disabilities do suffer, as do their families, in a way that people like you could not possibly understand. You should be grateful that your kids are "normal" and be more sensitive to the needs of others.