Our Border Experience: A Need For Autism Training

Kya pointingfeat

“Why would you bring her?”

Those five words sent chills down my spine.

My daughter Kya is 13 and on the autism spectrum. Sometimes the simplest of things can be hard for her. And things that most take for granted like waiting, sleep, and language.

Last weekend I took Kya to the States to buy the Gerber yoghurt melts that she loves. We live in Canada, and we only have a certain kind, and she loves the ones that are available in the States.

On our way home going through the border my daughter was exhausted and that led to a meltdown. Screaming crying and a little SIB thrown in. She was just so tired. As we pulled up, we were greeted by a scowling face and a demanding border agent.

Give me your passports she said, I nervously handed her the target receipt because I was flustered and crying. The border agent was less than kind. She snapped back. I said your passports. And she insisted that Kya look at her, and I quickly snapped back.

She will not look at you!

This lady clearly had no understanding of autism and sent us in to be inspected.

Two border agents came to our vehicle to inspect it. They were very kind. The one lady understood autism, I could tell by her sympathy. The young man was also very kind, but he made the comment “why would you bring her” and as I gasped, his partner looked at him and said it’s ok almost as if she was telling him to be quiet.

He told me Kya needed to get out of the car. It was a full rip my car apart check under the hood kind of inspection. He was very nice about it. I was uncontrollably sobbing. I was scared. I was terrified they were going to separate us, but they didn’t, and they allowed us to sit on a bench and didn’t make Kya go inside the building. I was thankful but also fuming by the second.

Once the search was over (and they were quick) they chatted with me briefly and tried explaining why they thought we were pulled over.

I made my feelings very clear about the unkind agent.

But those five words stuck with me. “Why would you bring her?” Why not? Did he think my daughter didn’t deserve to get something that she enjoys? Why because she struggles? Because she is autistic?

It’s taken me a week to absorb this and think about how far we’ve come with autism understanding yet how far we still have to go.

This is the second border agent we have encountered that was unfamiliar with autism, and I cannot believe in 2024 people are not trained or have any understanding. Or at the very least have some human kindness.

I pulled away from the border that day, feeling defeated, and could not understand how the total lack of knowledge was still happening. Our children have so much to offer this world. They just need kindness and understanding and a little patience.

My daughter is showing me the world and I’m here to follow her lead.

On We Go.
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Jennifer Dunn

Jennifer Dunn Jennifer Dunn is the mother to her thirteen year old daughter, Kya Alexandra. They reside in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada. Outside of her corporate job Jennifer writes and advocate for her daughter on her blog Keeping up with Kya. She also cohosts and Co. produces the Table For Five, No Reservations Podcast. You can follow her on Facebook at Keeping up with Kya and contact her at keepingupwithkya@gmail.com.

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