Wednesday July 23, 2008
By day, Coy Barefoot is a radio host.
By night, he's the father of six-year old twins, one of whom is autistic.
"One day," Barefoot told his audience Wednesday on 1070 WINA's 'Charlottesville Right Now' program, "[my son Whitman] stopped looking at us, he stopped playing and he got very, very quiet."
Barefoot is a part of the same station that, until Wednesday, carried the Michael Savage show; a syndicated program broadcast on more than 300 stations across the country.
This is what listeners heard last week from Savage:
"I'll tell you what Autism is - in 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out...What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them 'don't act like a moron.'"
Those who work with autistic kids say they and their parents have enough obstacles to overcome without being doubted.
"The parents are really hurt by those kinds of comments," explains Michael McKee, Executive Director of the Virginia Institute of Autism. "In some cases, parents may have a child who's non-verbal, unable to communicate, may present with really challenging behavior and it's really a tough road for people and it's life-long."
But for the Coy Barefoots of the world, it's a life-long fight they won't give up.
"It is an awful tragedy that I would never wish on any child," he told listeners Wednesday, while fighting back tears, "and we have dealt with it the best that we can, but, in many ways, everyday is like treading water."
WINA Program Director Rick Daniels says station management decided Wednesday to end their affiliation with Savage because he refused to apologize for his comments, instead standing by them.
There is a silver lining to this whole thing; at the Virginia Institute of Autism they say they expect Savage's comments and all the attention they've drawn, to help their cause by generating awareness to the plight of autistic children.