On December 15, 2017, the Autism Society of America learned of child abuse allegations involving former Autism Society of Kalamazoo (Michigan) treasurer and board member, Danny Fielding, and her 16-year-old son with autism. As of January 1, 2018, the Autism Society Kalamazoo, current and former board members, volunteers, and staff are not sanctioned to operate as an Autism Society of America affiliate.
Below is a statement we issued to a local television affiliate upon learning of the horrific incident.
1. In October 2017, the Autism Society of America sent a disaffiliation notice letter to Autism Society of Kalamazoo, effective January 1, 2018. We were unaware of the alleged incident involving the former board member prior to issuing the disaffiliation notice. At the time of the alleged incident, and for the duration of the Autism Society affiliate agreement, the entity remained an independent, legal, and autonomous organization. The decision to disaffiliate resulted from the entity’s failure to meet required Autism Society affiliate compliance standards.
2. Upon receiving notice of the board member’s arrest, we immediately contacted Autism Society of Kalamazoo officials to inquire about the individual’s officer and board member status given reported events. Multiple attempts to reach Autism Society of Kalamazoo were unsuccessful. Had the Autism Society of America elected to retain Autism Kalamazoo as an affiliate, immediately upon learning of the incident, the entity faced possible suspension or other punitive measures until such time the entity imposed disciplinary action against the accused board member. Failure to respond the inquiry and to take action against the accused board member are also grounds for disaffiliation. The entity and the accused individual would be eligible for reinstatement upon conclusion of all legal proceedings, barring a conviction in the case.
3. The Autism Society of America continues to follow the matter closely. We recently expressed our desire for full prosecution of this case, and that if convicted, no less than the maximum punishment permitted under current law is acceptable. There is no justification for harming an individual with autism – under any circumstances. While we are mindful of the urgent need for an improved long-term care delivery system for autistic individuals and caregivers, a lack of services and supports is never a defense for assault or murder.