Child With Autism Bullied at Disney World
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
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.
happened to the concept of security?
In response to the Disney email, Broadfoot followed up on her blog with the following:
"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."
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 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
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.