Niko Boskovic Denied Prize Trip Because He Is on the Autism Spectrum, Family Says
After winning an essay contest sponsored by the Odd Fellows – a national fraternal organization – Niko Boskovic, a 15-year-old on the autism spectrum, has had his prize withdrawn. According to his family, the prize – a trip to the United Nations – was rescinded after officials learned Boskovic is autistic.
After winning the essay contest for the Portland, Oregon region, Boskovic’s mother, Loreta Boskovic, emailed Charles Cloud, the Odd Fellows jurisdictional chairman for Oregon, the Oregonian reports. In addition to the information requested by Cloud, Boskovic’s mother added a note saying she would be accompanying her son on the trip. Boskovic is nonverbal and requires a letter board to communicate, Loreta explained.
After failing to hear back from Cloud regarding her emails, Loreta pressed further and was told that despite winning the competition, it was not guaranteed that Boskovic would be allowed on the trip.
“I kind of worked up the courage and called the Board Chair of the UN program and asked him what’s going on with this,” Loreta told FOX 12. “[I] was basically told ‘we can’t support people with disabilities, we’ve had people in wheelchairs before, we’ve turned them away too.'”
Loreta offered to pay $1,600 out-of-pocket so she and her son could both attend the trip and was told chaperones were prohibited – despite the fact that Loreta would be functioning as an interpreter for her son.
David Scheer, the secretary of the local lodge which awarded Boskovic the top prize, called the national office asking for an explanation.“We were told they don’t have the staff and knowledge to be accountable for someone with a disability,” he told The Oregonian.
The Portland-based Odd Fellows lodge which named Boskovic the winner said they will not be participating in the competition again until the rules are changed to include people with disabilities.
“I wanted to go to educate people about autism…. I have very little patience with people who dismiss me because of my disability,” Boskovic told FOX 12 through his letter board. “Someday I want to study science and hopefully times will change and this type of nonsense will stop.”
The Mighty reached out to Odd Fellows’ national office and has yet to hear back.