An upsetting incident has been reported by Amanda Broadfoot over at Life
is a Spectrum.
According to her blog, an incident occurred this past New Year’s Eve while on a trip to Orlando, Florida when her and her family were dining at the ABC Commissary restaurant in Hollywood Studios (part of the Walt Disney World Resort). Broadfoot claims that while eating at the restaurant, a group of "aggressive, rude and possibly drunk teenagers" began blowing noisemakers directly at her 4-year-old child with autism, causing him to repeatedly hit himself in the head. Apparently, the teens found this reaction amusing and continued their actions to the point where they "targeted" her child. When the boy’s uncle asked them to stop, stating that they were "torturing an autistic boy," one of the teens responded, "That’s not my problem." Broadfoot said the incident was a classic case of bullying.
When a manager was called over to intervene, she too was unsuccessful at getting the rowdy teens to stop and then stated there was nothing else she could do.
There are a couple of troubling elements to this story. The first involves the actual incident itself and the other involves Disney’s response once they learned of the ordeal.
Assuming everything happened as Broadfoot claims, the restaurant manager should have immediately escalated the incident to security when the teens were defiant of the requests to stop their actions. However, it appears as if the manager didn’t want to be inconvenienced by escalating the situation and that is totally unacceptable.
But the most concerning part of this incident came after it occurred, when Broadfoot communicated with a Disney guest communications service representative through telephone, then email. Upon learning the details of her story, the Disney rep emailed her the following:
"…I am very sorry for the disappointment you experienced during your family’s New Year’s Eve celebration at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Park.
I wanted to personally assure you that your feedback has been considered taken seriously [sic]. The safety and well-being of our guests are of the utmost importance to us in all aspects of our operation. Our Cast Members are instructed to assist Guests requiring assistance and their families to our First Aid stations located in each of our four theme parks. These locations are established areas where your family can seek comfort during experiences like the one you encountered from the actions of other Guests…."
So if a child with special needs (or anyone else for that
matter) is being harassed by other guests at Disney World, it is the family’s responsibility
to flee to a first aid station for "comfort?"
Even if Broadfoot had been instructed by the restaurant manager to do so, the family would’ve had to uproot themselves in the middle of a meal — all because they were unfortunate enough to sit next to some obnoxious teens.
Whatever happened to the concept of security?
In response to the Disney email, Broadfoot followed up on her blog with the following:
Disney World has always been a pleasant place for our family to visit. The parks do an excellent job at accommodating our son with autism and ensuring we have a great time. However, it appears from this incident that Disney needs to review how they handle these types of incidents in future, both when they occur and after they’ve happened.
"The idea that we should have to take our dinner to the first aid station, one of the "safe havens," in order to ensure our children weren’t bullied, is nothing short of ridiculous."
The burden should not be placed on the guests (particularly those of special needs children) to seek a first aid station when they are being harassed or bullied.
Many children with autism endure bullying on a regular basis and we need to do a much better job, regardless of where that may be, to ensure our kids our protected by those who get amusement by preying upon the weak and vulnerable.