The Autism Society Philippines (ASP) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of persons on the autism spectrum disorder. We envision a society where Filipinos on the spectrum become the best of their potentials -- self-reliant, independent, productive, socially-accepted citizens of an Autism-OK Philippines.

08 December 2020

Resort responds harshly to a mom of a child with autism

An incident at Plantation Bay Resort And Spa in Cebu, circulating on line, has sparked outrage among families living with autism.  All this, as the nation celebrates National Human Rights Consciousness Week.

A heartbroken mother writes on TripAdvisor (https://bit.ly/2VQrR9d)

It could’ve been the perfect getaway for Fin, my child with special needs. When something excites him or when he is happy, he makes it known by squealing with delight. Fin is happy! That is what I always tell him every time he does that.  I thought that was okay until we were told from afar (a lifeguard). As a mother, your initial action would be directed to your child. So I told him not to squeal because it wasn’t allowed. Quite frankly it was a difficult moment. Another lifeguard came and told us the same thing. I had to explain that he is a child with needs.

Every time Fin jumps in the water he’d be so happy that he’d laugh and squeals again. I tried hushing him and at one point tried to cover his mouth. But then I realized this is so wrong? This isn’t right at all!


The plan to swim the whole morning came to a halt. I asked Fin if we could go back to the room because we weren’t allowed to squeal and be merry the special way.


It’s a discriminating experience. We often get this a lot. When normal people who are ignorant of people with special needs, give us that stare of please control your child.


My Fin is a happy child. He has autism. He is special. Very special! I will never consider staying here ever again. No luxury of this proportion can make this experience okay because that is not what we need.


We need a friendly and empathetic environment for kids and families with special needs.


Via TripAdvisor

For the record, for many families who live with autism, we are hyper-aware our children\"s challenges.  All too often, we are overly apologetic for their lapses; and are quick to retreat after seeing the familiar look of judgement in the eyes of the public. It is never our intention to infringe on the rights of others to experience what we want our children to enjoy -- be it a day at the pool or a movie in a mall. Genuine disability inclusion ensures access to enriching opportunities and experiences. We commend Mommy Mai for fighting for her child and for speaking out!


A disability-compassionate and sympathetic hospitality organization would have gone the extra mile to understand their customer\"s perspective. Instead, the resort went the other direction.  


Before deep-diving into resort rules, relegated to fine print, Mr. Efren Belarmino, General Manager at Plantation Bay Resort And Spa, in behalf of Mr. Manny Gonzalez, the Resident Shareholder, began their response to this Tripvisor review by assuming the worst of their guest and her child with a disability. The first part of the response is ignorant of what the autism spectrum is — even going as far as to shame the parent and question the veracity of the child’s diagnosis. 

For your information, uncontrolled shouting is not a symptom of autism. On the contrary, autistic children tend to be silent, non-verbal, and overwhelmed and withdrawn when faced with strangers. In fact, it is regrettably true that an autistic child will not be happy in any public situation where they are faced with many unfamiliar people and surroundings. Google "Autism" and verify this for yourself. Therefore this parent is most likely deliberately lying, or has been given an incorrect diagnosis of autism, when what the child more likely has is a lack of discipline due to simple parental neglect. Children scream because they hope to attract the attention of parents who customarily ignore them, or because they hear screaming between their parents at home. If their parents would pay attention to them, and would refrain from screaming at each other, there would be no need for the child to scream. In our experience, one word from a responsible parent is enough to make a child quiet down.

UPDATE: Here is the resort\"s original response. It was taken down from Tripvisor on 8 December 2020 at approximately 2pm.

Via Tripvisor

This sad event is an opportunity for disability sensitivity training; and a review of the resort’s policies and procedures for compliance to RA 7277, the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability.  Beyond the public relations mess that this is (driven by an ill-crafted response), the noble men and women who serve to please their customers at the Plantation Bay Resort And Spa in Cebu can do better.  Even the best-intentioned organizations can always use additional knowledge and improvements in areas they are not properly trained in.  The Department of Tourism, the National Council on Disability Affairs and the Autism Society Philippines can help facilitate education in "invisible" and often misunderstood disabilities.

For parents who find themselves in this situation, know that the law is on your side.  Escalating the matter to top management is the best way to amicably resolve your issues and to teach the organization what accommodations are needed by guests who manifest their disability uniquely.  Very often, top management responds with kindness and compassion.

If the issue is not resolved, you may file a civil case in court or with the Commission on Human Rights for violations of the RA 7277, the Magna Carta for Persons with Disability. Please take note of names, places, events, dates, times and screenshots, to complete documentation of the incident. You may also fill out the form below to reach out to the Autism Society Philippines.




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