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Resort slammed for insensitive treatment to autistic child

A recent incident at a Cebu resort that absolved itself of any wrongdoing for its handling of a mother and her autistic child should give focus on the need for disability sensitivity training in various establishments, according to Autism Society Philippines. 

Mai Pages, mother of a child with special needs, posted on TripAdvisor her experience at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Cebu. 

Pages wrote that she and her child were called out by lifeguards because her son was “squealing with delight” at the water. Pages slammed the resort as “discriminating” and “not an ideal place for a child with special needs.” 

The nonprofit organization Autism Society Philippines (ASP) criticized Plantation Bay for its response to Pages’ social media post. “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,” ASP said in a statement. 

Plantation Bay, through a shareholder named Manny Gonzalez, responded to the Trip Advisor post, accusing the mother of lying, claiming that “uncontrolled shouting is not a symptom of autism.” 

“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,” Gonzalez wrote. 

“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,” added Gonzalez 

“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,” the ASP said. 

According to the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities (R.A. 7277): 

No disabled person shall be discriminated on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases, or operates a place of public accommodation. The following constitute acts of discrimination: denying a disabled person, directly or through contractual, licensing, or other arrangement, the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of an entity by reason of his disability; 

Section 4(f) of the Magna Carta also states: “Social barriers include negative attitudes which tend to single out and exclude disabled persons and which distort roles and inter-personal relationships.” 

Gonzales further wrote: “Every customer must be respected, not just one parent and one child. Most of our guests fully understand and agree with this idea: it is not a resort for noise-makers, regardless of their reason. To demand that all the customers just shut up while one child just screams his head off? That’s not our idea of fairness.” 

Broadcast journalist Karen Davila also slammed Plantation Bay’s non-apology to the mother. “Shame on you Manny Gonzales of Plantation Bay for trying to school a parent of a child with autism on what the symptoms are. You are a disgrace to the tourism industry. Your words & heartlessness do not belong in the world today that seeks to include all persons with needs,” Karen said. 

Gonzalez has since issued a secondary apology for the incident, but not before highlighting that the hotel’s policy at “keeping noise levels down in the pool” was geared towards the safety and relaxation for all guests. “We try to apply this policy even-handedly. As a result of that policy, in almost 25 years we have never had a child die here. A mother’s pride is important, but more important are the lives of the children who come here,” he wrote. 

ASP added, “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.” 

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