San Antonio, TX – A family was told their five-year-old-son who has autism was not allowed in the aviary exhibit. The incident took place when the family was spending the day at the San Antonio Aquarium when employee Alui Cleaver told the family that Jr. was not allowed to go to the aviary. Jr.’s Mother Ramona Vedia says they were denied entry to the exhibit because her son was wearing a t-shirt that said “I have autism, what’s your super power?”
Vedia told 22 News WWLP,
“After this experience I don’t want people to judge him because of the shirt,”
Cleaver contends the child was not allowed in because of his behavior, Cleaver added
“The child was not calm enough to go into an aviary where we have very small birds that can be easily hurt.”
The aquarium as a whole agrees with the decision adding that it had nothing to do with his learning difference, only his movements prior to trying enter the aviary. After being turned away the family decided to leave.
Experts of the autism learning difference claim that gestures such as clapping and hitting can be incorrectly misconstrued as hostile. Bernice De La Cruz of the Autism Community Network told 22 News,
“They see it as aggression or a tantrum and they see it as acting out.”
But to the people on the spectrum like Jr, whose non-verbal, gestures of that nature are their way of getting their parents attention and help.
The family is hesitant to go to the aquarium again. The aquarium says that they are willing to accommodate families with autism by opening early and staying open late.
Contributed by Audrey L. Hollingshead