“Abrupt And Callous”: Man With Autism Told He Wasn’t Welcome At Public Library’s Children’s Room

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A 31-year-old man with dual developmental disabilities, autism and Prader-Willi Syndrome, was informed that he could not be in the children’s area of the West Harrison Library.

During a visit to the children’s room at West Harrison, New York, a librarian approached Matt Maillet’s supporter, Kayla Brown, and told her that Matt would need to go to the adult section. They also informed Kayla that the library would provide children’s books for Matt to browse there.

“I called the director and explained the issues,” Daniel Maillet, Matt’s father, said before adding that the librarian didn’t care about his request. “It was abrupt, and it was callous.”

Image credits: Usa today

According to the Harrison Public Library’s website, children’s room regulations specify that the room and programs are for children ages 12 and under and those accompanying a child. 

Additionally, the space is intended for patrons accessing material only available in the children’s room or people developing curricula and researching children’s literature.

“All other patrons must only use the other areas of the Library,” the site reads.

It further states: “However, children (whether with a caregiver or not) who are deemed too disruptive by the Library staff will be warned that if they do not settle down, they will be asked to leave the Library. 

“Extreme or repetitive disruptive behavior, in the sole judgment of the Library staff, may result in immediate expulsion from the Library.”

Matt Maillet loves picture books, but he was told that he needed to go to the adult section because of his age

Image credits: Usa today

Daniel believes that the library shouldn’t focus exclusively on chronological age when deciding who gets to enjoy their colorful picture books.

“It’s not their physical age, it’s their mental age. As long as they have aides with them,” Matt’s dad explained.

Matt is nonverbal and has limited communication skills. In the past, he has attended various children’s programs at his church, St. Barnabas Episcopal in Irvington.

One of his favorite characters is Elmo, and he is particularly fond of picture books.

“It was abrupt, and it was callous,” Matt’s father, Daniel, said of the incident

Image credits: Pexels/Pixabay

Kayla, his supporter and former nanny, says library visits help keep Matt entertained, especially during the colder months when outdoor activities are scarce. 

She describes Matt as “such a sweet guy,” and she says she didn’t hear any families complaining about his presence in the children’s room.

In a conversation with a neighbor of the Maillets, Harrison Library Director Galina Chernykh said that the library offers adult programs that are designed to be inclusive and accessible.

“Your understanding in this matter is greatly appreciated as we navigate the delicate balance between inclusivity and adherence to policy,” Chernykh wrote on Tuesday (March 5) in an email.

According to the library’s website, children’s room regulations specify that the room and programs are for children ages 12 and under and those accompanying a child

Image credits: West Harrison Library

The issue isn’t one that pertains to the law but rather the social tact in regards to those with a disability, Peter Zummo, a retired lawyer in Erie County and a parent of a 25-year-old with autism, points out.

“Segregating by age is not inherently illegal. But it’s not a good look,” Zummo, who serves on the executive committee of the New York Alliance for the Developmentally Disabled, told USA Today.

Age-restriction issues of this kind could affect other people in a similar situation to Matt. One out of 36 children and 1 in 45 adults in the U.S. has autism, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kayla set up a change.org petition titled “Discrimination against special needs adults West Harrison NY Library” to seek support for Matt and other adults with disabilities and spread awareness about the incident.

Kayla Brown, Matt’s supporter and former nanny, set up a petition to seek support for Matt and other adults with disabilities

“Hi all, I care for a 31 year old autistic male who is nonverbal and also has Prader-Willi syndrome,” she describes. 

“He has the mentality of a 5 year old. He enjoys watching Barney and loves to read Clifford and Thomas the Train books. Books are his absolute favorite thing.”

“We feel that the rules should be carefully changed to allow IDD disabled individuals with close monitoring by an aide to be able to participate,” the petition states.

“IDD” stands for intellectual or developmental disability. While intellectual disability refers to differences in the ability to learn, reason, and problem solve, as well as everyday social and life skills, developmental disability is a broader term that describes often lifelong challenges that can be intellectual, physical, or both.

Matt’s dad may not be optimistic about the library’s policies changing anytime soon, but he hopes his case will shed light on the needs of those with developmental disabilities and the importance of inclusion.

“I’ve been advocating for 30 years,” Daniel Maillet said. “If something’s not right, I call it out.”


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