Safety for People with Autism and Other Hidden Disabilities

Red Medical Cross Picture with White Medical Symbols Inside It

Attribution given;  <a href=””>Background vector designed by Olga_spb –</a>

I missed a week of blogging due to the difficulty I’ve been having with my Dysautonomia and my ASD (Aspergers) and the effects of the trauma from what has happened at Emory. I’ve experienced several full-on meltdowns due to all the stress and the barriers I’m encountering in trying to get my healthcare back on track.  


I’ve been having fitful sleep interrupted by nightmares which are clearly due to the bullying I’ve suffered. The theme is always some sort of sabotage. In the nightmares I’m trying to achieve some goal and somebody comes along and destroys whatever I’m doing and I end up in some sort of danger as a result.

In one such bad dream I had lit a match in order to relight the pilot light on a stove and someone came up behind me and knocked the match out of my hand.

Closeup of a business man with his hands behind his back and fin

Closeup of a business man with his hands behind his back and fingers crossed. Torso and hands only, man is unrecognizable.

It fell from my hand and behind a dresser. I tried pushing the dresser aside but it was too heavy. Meanwhile the room quickly burst into flames as the fire spread from the carpet to the drapes and soon everything was engulfed. I then found that I couldn’t move to escape it no matter what I did. Just as I was about to be burned alive I woke up in a panic. It took quite awhile before I could fully come out of it and realize it wasn’t really happening.

Burning Up

In another dream  I was getting ready to mail a very important letter and I was in some sort of cabin in the wilderness that was at the edge of a steep canyon. In order to mail the letter I had to climb down somehow on the edge. There was a crack in the wall handmade from plywood overlooking the drop below and the letter got stuck in that crevice. I tried to pull it out and was relieved when I could do it, but as soon as I did, along came somebody from behind me who swiftly pulled it from my grasp and shoved it through the crack in the wooden wall. The letter fell and was gone hundreds of feet below, never to be retrieved again.

House at Edge of Cliff

Alot of times the sabouteur comes from behind me and I don’t see their face. I can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman because they never say anything and I wake up before I can turn around and look.

In addition to the element of danger in these dreams there is alot of uncertainty.


All this got me thinking about just how crucial it is to build a plan for safety. People with Autism and other hidden or misunderstood conditions are especially vulnerable to abuse and neglect in a number of settings; for instance, police officers often mistake people with epilepsy for being publicly intoxicated,

Glowing brain

and many people with such conditions as Autism, Dystonia, and Dysautonomia as well as other poorly publicised conditions are mistreated in healthcare settings just as I was.

This is something that is not spoken about nearly enough in the news or in other public forums but doing so may very well save lives.

Here are some things you can do to help prevent falling victim to those who might abuse, neglect, or exploit you thinking you’re an easy target because you’re in a wheelchair, you’re frail, have communication or cognitive difficulties, or have other disadvantages which may leave you in a compromising position.

Safety First Life Preserver

1) Wear a medical alert bracelet;

Try to get as much pertinent information on it as possible that people would need to know in an emergency and/or if you are misinterpreted in the workplace, school, by medical personnel, or law enforcement, or in any other public place.

If you can, list a contact person you know who is willing to be contacted and can advocate for you to explain your needs. Nowadays there are many types of bracelets on the market that you can buy. Some of them are even nice looking! See some medical alert bracelets on Etsy .

2) Carry a medical alert card at all times;

You may be able to fit even more information on the card than you can the bracelet but you should try to have both since somebody may not think yo look in your wallet if you are unable to tell them to do so. This organization came up with some Autism Alert Cards you can customize. This company located in the UK sells bracelets that include cards with them.

3) Carry an official diagnosis document at all times;

this can be any official letter you have which proves your diagnosis (if you have this documentation). If not, you should speak with someone about obtaining one. This can be a testing report, a letter from a doctor or therapist written to whom it may concern, or if neither are available, something from your medical record with your official diagnosis on it.

Taking notes

Ideally you should have something not only listing your diagnosis but specifying what your limitations and special needs are, any medications or treatments which need to be given, etc. If you have a supportive doctor or other medical professional, his/her name and contact number should be on this paperwork if at all possible.

4) Bring a buddy with you to the hospital;

In the ER

If you have some advance notice that you’re going to the ER or checking into the hospital on direct-admission try to arrange for somebody to come with you.

Emotional Support

It should be someone whom you have spoken with in advance about your needs and limitations; preferably somebody assertive who will not have a problem speaking up to authority figures in your defense while still remaining calm and rational.

This person can keep an eye out for you and can also act as a witness in case anything goes wrong. If they have a cellphone they can also videotape if somebody is mistreating you.

On Cellphone

If you don’t have anyone in your life to fulfill that role be sure to contact one or two people before leaving and let them know which hospital you’re going to (and if possible give them the phone number so they can call and check on you). Bring your laptop or some other mobile device that has internet access. That way you can give them updates.

Making Plans

One of the things I learned as a patient advocate years ago is that people who have someone actively checking on them are less likely to be abused or neglected because it’s more difficult for perpetrators to get away with it and the likelihood is that they’ll get caught. This is often enough of a deterrant and they won’t even attempt it. (I’m pretty sure that if I had had somebody willing to go with me or meet me at the hospital in December that my incident wouldn’t have ever happened).

Taking these steps can’t guarantee you will never be victimized but they can make it much less likely.

If you do find yourself in a situation in which you’re abused, neglected, or exploited, be sure to document as much as you can about exactly what happened. Take down names, times, dates, what they did that they shouldn’t have, and/or what they didn’t do that they should have, etc.

Then I would recommend contacting The Dept. of Health and Human Services and filing an Office of Civil Rights Complaint.

Filing with State regulatory agencies in my experience is often a complete waste of time, as usually doctors are automatically believed carte blanche by such decision-making bodies and therefore it is not a level playing field. Usually such investigations consist of review of the records to see if anything “not meeting the standard of care” is documented (and of course doctors aren’t going to rat on themselves or each other in a patient’s record), they write up the perpetrator’s side of the story, and send it to the patient.

In some of the more progressive states filing a complaint with the state medical licensing board might yield results if the malfeasance was committed by a doctor, but often doctors are reluctant to discipline their peers (the medical boards utilize doctors to investigate the claims and determine the outcome, if any). Generally they have the option of making any action taken either public or private. If they take private action they might keep that secret and not even let you know they are doing anything about it at all.

How You Can Help Now;

You can also send letters now to HHS asking that they make Institutional Bullying of medical patients/people with disabilities an added Civil Rights violation in the same way it’s interpreted in statutes for Institutional Racism. Please also ask that clear-cut consequences be specified in any new legislation and/or amendments.


Given that this is an election year this is the perfect time for you to send your letters! The more of us who write and make our voices heard the sooner we can make this type of abuse a thing of the past and prevent others from having to endure these atrocities in the future.


Sylvia Burwell 1250x650

 HHS HeadQuarters                                                                        

US Dept. of Health & Human Services                                

Attn: Secretary Sylvia Burwell                                                  

200 Independence Ave., S.W.                                

Washington, D.C 20201

Phone (Toll Free); 1 (877) 696-6775

Go here to file your official grievance if you have been discriminated against because of your condition and/or not given reasonable accommodations for your special needs. You can file by snail mail, email, fax, or via their online webform. (All communication options and requirements are explained on their website on the paged linked-to above).

Safe place .svg

Although this is covered under current law there are still many people who unfairly make allowances for it when this happens to people who are ill and/or disabled in a way they would not with other minority groups. There should be a zero tolerance policy for this type of discrimination and a recognition by all that this is every bit as heinous (in many instances even  more so because this population is at a greater disadvantage than most other minority groups)

And now for a good protest song;

This Land Is Our Land



Medicare Home Infusion Site of Care Act of 2015; S275 HR 605 – Your Support is Crucial

As we speak new legislation is being proposed which would help many people obtain IV Saline infusions at home; the Medicare Home Infusion Site Care Act of 2015 .

Bettemarie Bond, a patient with Dysautonomia including a malfunctioning GI tract, and Mitochondrial Disease, once able to obtain these helpful infusions, suddenly found herself unemployed and on Disability and at the mercy of the Medicare system for all her medical needs. No longer covered by her previous employer’s private insurance, the stark reality hit her full in the face as she realized that she was unable to obtain them.  

Her self-advocacy led to the launching of a grass roots effort in her hometown in Philadelphia to get Medicare to cover home infusions. Little did anybody know that her online petition would gain such traction on a Federal level and interest some key legislators!

Kendall Van Pool, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the National Home Infusion Association,  wrote an article here which goes into more detail about this ground-breaking piece of legislation and a few other related bills.

The original bill, HR 2581 contained verbiage which would not have allowed infusion at home, as it would contain a change in method of reimbursement referred to as Average Sales Pricing (otherwise known as ASP). This is a reimbursement method that applies to physician reimbursement (and in particular applies to delivery in an “outpatient hospital” department). Falling short of true access by patients who are often homebound, several legislators were concerned that such legislation as the first version was too restrictive in not allowing patients the choice to be treated at home with this modality.

Next came HR 6, the 21st Century Cures Act. Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is hopeful that this version passes in the Senate.

To contact Kendall Van Poole you can call;

(703) 838-2664 or e-mail him at  

An election year; 2016 could be just the right time for Congress, and thus Medicare, to fully embrace this option if enough patients, families, and healthcare professionals come out in strong support of this exciting new legislation to give patients more choice and flexibility in their treatment and in what setting it’s delivered.

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that this is something that has helped me when I was hospitalized in November and that my struggle continues to obtain regular IV Saline infusions at home for my Dysautonomia. As my gastrointestinal difficulties continue to increase I am finding it difficult to add any more pills to the growing number I must take by mouth. My GI tract really can’t tolerate anymore by mouth, so for people like myself and Bettemarie Bond, going the IV route makes better sense than to try to force more pills down one’s throat into a stomach which is already compromised and most likely not absorbing what it takes in.

For those who can get it IV Saline can make a notable difference and allow one to enjoy life despite one’s chronic illness, while those who cannot get it often suffer a long and agonizing medical decline and de-morale as they continue to find these infusions always just out of reach and at best short-lived while only receiving them in an infusion center or within an inpatient setting (insurance or money permitting).

Notice in her video clip above that Bettemarie says she had her heart rate drop during a procedure. This just happened to me today as I was having a Colonoscopy. I had a really rough time even before going under mild anesthesia; suffering chills, dehydration, and changes in heart rate, as well as Myoclonus triggered by the body’s inability to keep me warm enough.

Ironically the nurse who had hooked up my IV saline before I was taken to the room where I had my procedure had in her haste not secured the tubing to the IV and another nurse found me bleeding all over the bed and the Saline half empty leaking on the sheets. Having gone through drinking the prep (which invariably strips one of electrolytes) and then not drinking my usual 24/7 ice water in the few hours prior to the Colonoscopy left me all the more in need of all the Saline I could get. I had to fight to get the nurse to wait in recovery for the last bag to finish because she was in such a rush to hurry me out the door and to fill the bed with another patient. It was as though I were a car at the local Jiffy Lube rather than a human being in need of care after coming out of the Propofol.

It didn’t seem to matter how many times I reminded them of the fact that I am Dysautonomic. It was as though their biggest concern was for their employer and the dictates of the facility, not so much for my best interest. I found it crass that they were more invested in meeting a quota of patients served per day than in serving the individual patient with the dignity and care that all human beings deserve. (I will say that the one man in anesthesiology who mentioned my heart rate dropping was an exception to the otherwise high-volume/low quality workplace. He did go out of his way to make me as comfortable as possible given my complex medical fragility, and for that I am thankful).

Let’s all work together to make this legislation the law of the land. Leave a comment, share, write your representatives in Congress, and/or CMS and HHS, and sign the petition so that the Medicare Home Infusion Site Care Act can improve the lives of Medicare patients who need/benefit from home infusion. Although not a cure, these infusions can make life more meaningful and reduce suffering until cures can be found.

Call To Action: Wronged at Emory? Contact Me

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If you have been discriminated against in your healthcare at Emory I would be very interested to hear your story, especially if you have had a bad experience in the ER there.

There is a particular practice referred to as “gaslighting” or “psych-shaming”; in effect calling you crazy and undermining your credibility which is particularly damaging to one’s reputation and it can have the effect of slowing down or stopping your testing and/or treatment for your very real medical condition! When this is entered in your chart (even if it is not an official diagnosis but implied) it can cast a shadow of doubt like a black cloud above your head anytime a doctor in or out of that system requests your records.

To those of you just tuning into this blog I’ll recap briefly; this happened to me at Emory’s main Campus’s ER on Clifton Rd. on December 3, 2015.

I was medically neglected for most of 9 hours while in the ER, then abused physically and psychologically by an on-call neurologist, Dr. P. R. M., and then defamatory verbiage was charted implying that I had some sort of mental illness and/or was “feigning” my condition. His resident a few minutes after leaving the room came back and plopped her butt down on my weaker left foot. (See my archived post The Dark Man to read the whole story).

This atrocity was a malicious form of organized bullying and exploitation and I strongly believe violates Federal anti-discrimination laws; Federal Hate Crime statutes, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and The Protection & Advocacy Act of 1986.

Just yesterday the “patient advocate” T. J.” who actually is internal (employed and paid by Emory) made a harassing call to my home in an attempt to shut me up. She informed me repeatedly that “no one will be calling you back” and implied during the call that she has been tampering and interfering with my right to seek redress from her superiors and others within administration to get the complaint properly resolved.

This too is a violation of Federal law. Retaliation and intimidation against a patient for filing a complaint is strictly prohibited and is an added violation. If she were a true advocate she would know that.

I was instrumental in writing the 5-organization contract in Georgia when the P&A Act was first passed and have had extensive training in both individual and systems advocacy, have worked alongside attorneys, and used to be paid to investigate abuse and neglect complaints from patients in a whole range of facilities.

My agency Alternative/Atlanta; Center for Patient Advocacy covered the metro-Atlanta area. Due to funding cuts the original contract was taken over entirely by the organization whose job it was to manage the funding and disburse it to the 5 organizations.

Advocacy is not like it used to be anymore, and sadly patients have suffered because the demand far exceeds the supply of good advocates. This was my line of work before I became too ill to do it fulltime and before Georgia lost most of its funding.

When I did this officially I advocated for my clients as though they were family. I worked late to make sure they got what they needed, was on call nights and weekends, and it was not uncommon to see me show up at a hospital to meet a patient who had been placed in restraints or who had been physically, emotionally, or even sometimes sexually abused by staff.

I understood that in order to properly advocate for a patient one has to look deeper than “he said, she said” and deciding whom to believe. There was never any question as to whose side I was on; the patients’! There were no divided loyalties or conflicts-of-interest and I pursued the course of action and outcome the patient wanted.

I also participated in annual reviews of all advocates nationwide by an independent evaluating agency, and my charting was deemed best in the country of all advocates employed by this Federal Protection and Advocacy system.

I had hoped to one day make a good living at it, as it has always been my passion to help those who need someone to stand up for them to level the playing field. I have a saying;

Old Advocates Never Die;

They Just Lose Their Funding!

Since my funding was cut I have continued to advocate wherever I saw a need, lending my skills on a volunteer basis to a variety of worthy causes. I believe I have been called to do this and that my life experience is in a sense a test-case which has led me to understand many different populations and their needs.

There is nothing more devastating than fighting for ones’ rights alone, but every cause worth fighting for has its true allies. One just needs to find where they are. I believe that very rarely is anything just an “isolated incident”. Most incidents are a microcosm dictated by pattern, and if you look beneath the surface you find what the pattern is and usually the motive as well.

For every complaint you officially get there are likely many more that never reached the official grievance stage for one reason or another. Patients are often too ill or too busy, or they are too upset by what has happened to them to go through all that’s involved in filing an official complaint, compiling the evidence, and following up (sometimes numerous times) to obtain the outcome. If the complaint is denied, then they are required to complete numerous other formal procedures, fill out forms, call and leave messages, and keep documentation of names, dates, places, and other events relevant to their grievance.

This is precisely why good advocates are needed, especially in instances in which the victim/survivor’s credibility is under attack.

All the self-advocacy in the world will not save you if at the very core those you go to for help do not believe you.

When authorities see one patient with a complaint they might not take it as seriously as when there are 5, 10, 50 or 100 such incidents because now we are talking about a pattern of conduct that raises the antennae of state and federal regulators on multiple levels.

Remember that even when things feel hopeless and you feel like the only one, most likely it’s not and you aren’t. There are people floating around, maybe closer than you realize who have been through something very similar. You just need to locate them, come together, and organize to affect social change!

Maybe you have had an experience at Emory in which you have been discriminated against in your healthcare because someone didn’t believe your symptoms were real, you may have been accused of “feigning” or making them up, “exaggerating”, being “dramatic”, being a “hypochondriac”. 

A doctor may have called your condition “functional”, “psychogenic”, “emotional”, “psychological”, “psychiatric”, or “Hysterical Conversion”, “Factitious Disorder”, “Somatoform Disorder” (see my earlier post The Dark Man).

Then you noticed a lack of concern from your treating professionals, their treating you as if you were a minor child and not respecting your boundaries or wishes (see Bull in a China Shop General Neurologist), irritation directed at you, your symptoms ignored or directly disregarded, and ultimately a slowdown or stoppage of care. (For examples of this see my blog post Not Being Believed).

The above terms are buzzwords that are designed with maximum shock value to sabotage a patient’s credibility and an implicit warning to doctors to steer clear.

Let’s just be honest; there is nothing helpful in charting such things about a patient and this can only indicate malicious intent. It is fear-mongering of the highest order and one of the most vindictive acts a doctor can level against a patient because its effects follow the patient long after the doctor is gone. Any seasoned investigator will recognize this immediately and people who work in the ER (if they are honest with you will know the subtext they imply).

If any of this sounds familiar to you please get in touch with me by posting on this blog in the comment box below and I will give you some ways that you can submit a signed statement to me about your experience. If you can also get the statement notarized then that’s even better than just your signature alone.

In my post Educating Doctors of the Future; Affliction as Strength you will read some cogent points arguing against the assertion made by doctors that a patient’s condition is “functional” or “psychogenic”.

I’ve included some links to articles written in peer reviewed medical journals that suggest that patients given this label even when it is given as an official diagnosis do in fact have a real neurological problem.

These citations will help you make your case should you decide to take legal action or even if all you want to do is to get your doctor to stop viewing you and treating you in this stigmatizing way. The post A Few Lateral Moves, but an Ace In The Hole provides you several avenues by which you can file external grievances such as with the Office of Civil Rights and Health And Human Services’ Secretary Silvia Burwell. These are the branches of government most powerful in righting these types of wrongs committed in healthcare settings.

If you are a news reporter and are interested in doing a print of TV story on this or an expose on a longer show, feel free to get in touch with me. I am ready and willing to do interviews and as time goes on there most likely will be others who would speak publicly about their similar experiences.

As Emory has been consistently refusing to take responsibility and to correct this problem I feel it’s imperative now to use all available platforms to exert pressure on the corporation to ensure that they put the best interest of patients first and to stop these unprofessional and corrupt practices. I will be drafting a press release shortly.

–> You can make a statement to The Powers That Be now <—to have legislation drafted that would stop and prevent this from happening to patients on a national level! Several of us organized and have created a petition which will address Institutional Bullying in Healthcare Settings as a unique and enforceable unlawful act treated as particularly heinous because of the extreme power differential between medical professionals and patients and the inherent vulnerability of those of us chronically ill/disabled.

We must rely on doctors to look out for our best interest when we’re ill at a time when we’re at our most vulnerable, and when they don’t they must be held accountable.

It’s only fair, so please sign the petition and add your personal account detailing what abusive/neglectful/reckless, or malicious behavior healthcare professionals and/or healthcare administrators have done to you where it says “Reasons for signing” below the body of the petition on, and be as precise as possible. Each signature and letter will be auto-forwarded by the site to Secretary Burwell for consideration by her committee and Congress as a whole.

Don’t let these unscrupulous people get away with this type of cruelty any longer! It’s time for the patients to rise up and insist that we be treated as valued customers with the authority to choose what happens to our own bodies, not treated as minor children, the “village idiot”, trouble-makers, nor common criminals for exercising that right!