Update- I have received a response from Sea Life. There is a comment on this post from Sea Life. They have apologized and talked with the lady who treated Adrian in this way. I will write more later but wanted to write a quick update about this situation. Thank you so much to those of you who supported me in this. It resulted in a quick response thanks to all of you and you have my gratitude.
On September 16th Glen and I took the kids to a Sea Life Aquarium. We were looking forward to it and so were the kids. Unfortunately the day didn’t go as planned. We walked through a couple rooms, the first had fish that were under a black light, the next room had various fish on a tank close to the floor so the kids could easily see them. Shortly after we got there we came upon the touch tank, an exhibit I was looking forward to the kids checking out.
If you don’t know what a touch tank is, it’s just a tank that the kids can stick their hands in and touch the starfish. Of course this has to be done gently so as not to hurt the animals.
When we approached the tank there were many many other families standing around the tank. In fact we had to wait a bit to get close enough to the tank for our children to be able to touch the animals. It was as to be expected being that it was a Saturday and Sea Life was very busy.
As we got to the tank with the 50 or so other people gathered around a lady behind the display started explaining to the children how to touch the starfish. She explained that you must use a “two finger touch” so you don’t hurt the animals. Glen had our boys and they were well under control quietly looking into the tank. We were well aware, and had already talked about, the fact that our boys would need help to touch the animals gently and that we would use hand over hand to help them touch the animals. This worker made eye contact with Adrian and says “Are you listening?” Adrian says nothing of course because his verbal communication is so limited and he rarely answers questions. I figured she’d move on when he didn’t answer but no, she then says “HELLO!!” and waves her hand in front of his face. You’d think that would be enough humiliation for my little guy. But no she then gets this exasperated look on her face, rolls her eyes dramatically, “Ok anyway!” and goes on with her demonstration.
When this happened I was kind of in shock. I said nothing but the second we walked away from the exhibit I felt a lump in my throat and tears coming to my eyes. I gave Glen a look and he knew what I was upset about and said “She didn’t know.” I was not wanting this incident to ruin our whole day so I just forgot about it for the moment but of course not for long.
I stewed about it all night long. I told my mom about it and she couldn’t believe how badly Adrian was treated. I decided I needed to write an email to the company who owns Sea Life, the company is called Merlin Entertainments and they also own Lego Land among other children’s entertainment parks/places. I wrote them a brief email about what happened,stated that I would appreciate it if someone could talk to this woman about how she treats the children, and that I would like a response back from them. After I sent the email I got an automatic response saying that a ticket had been opened and I would receive a response from them within 10 days. I have yet to receive a response and it’s been 17 days.
(Note: This email address was the only thing listed on their “contact us” page other than a physical address to send them a snail mail letter)
In a second attempt to receive a response from Sea Life I wrote this on their facebook page on September 24, 2012:
My son who has autism was treated badly at your establishment by one of the workers. I emailed your head office at Merlin Entertainments and have not received a response. Maybe there is someone else you can direct me to as far as getting this issue resolved? I was going to share about the incident on my blog and see if I could get some help from the autism community on getting a response but figured I would try this avenue first. Thanks so much for your time.
In response to this note on their public facebook page the representative from Sea Life said:
We sincerely apologize for the treatment of your son. We are going to pass your message along to our management team here at SEA LIFE Kansas City. If you could, please call or e-mail us so we can respond to you directly. Our email address is email@example.com or call 816-471-4386. We will make sure to watch for your name and contact you as soon as we can.
This communication is the only response I have received from anyone at Sea Life. While I appreciate the promptness and politeness of this response it far from resolved my issue and I was definitely under the impression that I would then get a response from their management.
I have yet to receive a response after I sent a follow up email to the new email address I received. I sent it minutes after my communication on their facebook page on September 24, 2012.
After I sent that email I reached out a fourth and final time on their facebook page on September 28, 2012:
I haven’t received a response from your management. It’s shocking to me that they are ignoring this issue. I will give them until Thursday of next week and then I will pursue this as far as humanly possible. I will not have my son treated badly by adults who should know better because he has a disability and anything I can do to prevent this from happening at your establishment again I will do. My email address is joyATjoysautismblogDOTcom in case some nonsense is said about not getting my email.
There was no response from either their social media person or their management to this fourth attempt at communication.
You would think with 1 in 88 children having autism these days that companies that cater to children would have some kind of sensitivity training on autism and other special needs.
While Adrian does have autism, even if he didn’t, was the way this lady treated him a way to treat any child? I don’t think so.
So then I thought, what would be the purpose of even writing about this? What do I even want out of this? Well, what I would like to see happen with this company who deals with thousands and thousands of children annually and no doubt hundreds and probably thousands of children with special needs annually is to have them start some sensitivity training for their workers about autism and other special needs.
They may ignore my attempts to inform them about this issue but can you help me make this issue unavoidable to them? I can’t make them listen by myself (they have made that painfully obvious with not even a generic apology coming my way), I’ll need some help. You can help by sending them an email at firstname.lastname@example.org (the second email address that ignored my complaint) or make a statement on their facebook page and sharing it with your friends and family or on your blogs, facebook, and twitter so that other people can try to get these companies to do the right thing. Help me let them know that we expect our children who have special needs to be treated with dignity and respect when we come into their establishments and spend our hard earned money.