Disney World Addresses Autism Bullying Incident

Last week, we
reported about an incident involving blogger Amanda Broadfoot
while she was
on vacation with her family at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. While eating at
a restaurant on New Year’s Eve, Broadfoot’s 4-year-old son with autism was harassed
and bullied by a group of teens, causing the youngster to become visibly upset
and repeatedly hit his head. The situation escalated, but a manager eventually
claimed there was nothing else that could be done to help the family.

When circumstances of the event began to circulate through Facebook, Twitter and
the blogosphere, families of special needs children became outraged at both the
incident itself and Disney World’s response in the aftermath.

Earlier this week, on her
blog
, Broadfoot reported that a Disney World representative finally followed
up with her and clarified the correct procedures in dealing with these types
of incidents. The Disney rep or "cast member" as they are called,
apologized to her and acknowledged that proper protocol was in fact not followed
during her ordeal. She also assured Broadfoot that steps would be taken in the
future to ensure all Disney cast members are reinforced with existing policies
on how to handle belligerent and harassing guests.

The Disney representative invited Broadfoot and her family back to Disney World
with complimentary tickets, and she is now completely satisfied with how the
matter was resolved.

While incidents like these are rare in family-friendly environments such as Disney World, they are a great reminder that
children with autism are frequently susceptible to bullying, regardless of where
that may be. And as parents, it is our job to continue fighting and advocating
on their behalf so these situations become less and less frequent in the future.

As unfortunate as this was for Broadfoot and her family, it does have a silver
lining. It will give Disney World an opportunity to review its policies with staff on how to deal with unruly guests, as well as better equip them to further
protect visitors in the future, including those with autism and other special
needs.