Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It's Autism Awareness Month! We'll be on TV!

Today, we had an opportunity to share our journey to more people as SolarTV has invited us to be featured on their show "MedTalk" in celebration of the Autism Awareness Month. We are so excited when we received the call yesterday as this has always been our family's advocacy. It's amazing how they were able to contact us as they only saw this blog and was inspired and had to reach us. They called my husband, Robert's previous office in DTI to have our contact information. I was a bit nervous at first and wasn't sure if I can do this. But as I talked to them, I knew that this will be a great opportunity for us. This is for Patricia, for other angels and for fellow parents. We were excited. The world will see how proud we are of our angel and that her diagnosis is not the end of the world but just a beginning of a challenging and rewarding journey.

Please don't mind our messy house, we didn't have time to clean as we were just told the day before. I hope I was able to answer the questions well, we weren't given the questions beforehand and was asked impromptu. They also followed Patricia in her Speech Therapy.

I hope that we'll reach out to more people through this and inspire more parents. Just believe that there's a light at the end of the dark tunnel. Don't ever give up.

Watch us in MedTalk in SolarTv, April 23, 10-10:30pm.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Gymboree's Answer to Our Letter

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Dulay,

We received your letter today about your experience yesterday at Gymboree Magnolia.
We were saddened to hear that this incident bothered your family.  At Gymboree, we hold children in the highest regard and the mere thought of disappointing a child is very sad for us.

We are in agreement about the Gymboree philosophy and understand that we provide a positive environment for all young children that we always strive to achieve in our centers.  We train our teachers and staff and have the highest standards of behavior for everyone associated with our brand. It appears that we missed the mark this day, and for that I can only sincerely apologize for the experience that your family had at our site.

The Gymboree playscape is meant only for little children and for the safety of all children, we do try to cap the age of our playscape at the maximum of 60 months, whether a child has disability or not, since our playscape is not designed for kids above this age.  We usually (and as you mentioned did) offer the ArtsPlay experience in our classrooms which is an alternative we do offer for kids 5 and above.

We also sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding of our website regarding the age range of 0-5 year old for the playfloor which is actually up to 60 months old, and not beyond.  We will take immediate steps to ensure this is more clearly stated.

Once again, we are very sorry for the experience and we, ourselves, wish we could allow older children, too. We cannot take away her disappointment so please accept our small token of apology for your daughter and also as a token of thanks for bringing your child to Gymboree from an early age.  Our Bubble oodles will hopefully help her continue to experience Gymboree at your home.  Please let us know where we can deliver this for Patricia.

Please forgive us and know that we are moving forward to ensure that we show more compassion and empathy for disappointed children, and your child’s happiness is all that I can hope for.   Thank you for taking the time in providing prompt feedback.

Gymboree Philippines Management

This was sent to us by Ann Tan at 8:26pm tonight. We are glad that they read our letter and replied. We forgive them, but that's not enough. We just want them to re-train their staff and discuss Autism and what they'll do if this happens again. This doesn't happen everyday anyway.

This week is coincidentally the National Autism Awareness Week, and I hope that establishments especially those catering to kids be aware of the condition and be trained to be compassionate and understanding to kids with special needs and their families. That's all we were asking, nothing more.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

An Open Letter to Gymboree Philippines

Dear Gymboree,

Yesterday was a horrible experience for our family. We went to Gymboree Robinson's Magnolia branch to celebrate a nephew's 2nd birthday. The whole family went there, 4 kids, 6 adults and 3 yayas. One of the kids is my daughter, Patricia, she's 5 years old and she has special needs, she has autism.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are characterized by social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors. (http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/symptoms) You and your staff might not be aware of what autism is and what parents go through everyday. As parents. we have to stick to routines, bring her to therapies and places that can help her develop skills (social and motor skills especially). Bringing her to Gymboree to play with her cousins would've been perfect. We had to mind set her the whole morning and on our way there, we had to be as animated as we can to excite her, and it worked.

We went there at around 3pm. Not too many children in the playground, we saw 2 or 3. My daughter was already smiling, jumping up and down as she saw the playground. And as we were about to pay, we were informed that the play area is only for kids up to 4 years old (your website says 5?) We were requesting if they can let her play with her cousins since she has special needs and it's her cousin's bday celebration. They still said NO. They were insisting that she can only use the art room because she's 5 already. She has autism and arts won't interest her, besides, her cousin will be outside playing while she's inside a room forced to do arts alone with me? I'm homeschooling her and we do that everyday. It's her cousin's birthday, for God's sake. She wants to play! FYI, that's a milestone for kids with autism.

I know that you have rules, but this is not too much to ask. We even begged them to please let her play even for just a short time. We won't be there the whole day. We're paying for the 1 hour of playtime, we don't even know if my daughter will stay that long. We asked them to let her be with her cousins even for just 30 mins or less, still a NO. What's wrong with you people, don't you have a heart? Can't you see my angel's face? She's smiling, and jumping and flapping (it means she's happy. FYI), and you shooed her away. It's heartbreaking to see that smile fade from her face. It's painful to know that we can't give her that simple joy because of the ignorance of some people. She's 5 years old, not 8 or 10. It's the first time we heard of this rule and we've been playing in Gymboree since she was diagnosed at 1yr and 9m. They should've let her play for this one last time. It's sad that Occupational Therapists even recommend you to our children, and you'll treat our angels that way. All we were asking is some consideration. Some "SPECIAL" treatment for our "SPECIAL" children. (FYI, some playgrounds and establishments even give freebies for them, Active Fun won't let adults pay to accompany their special child, and they also give our kids "SPECIAL" attention inside the grounds. And we pay 1/3 of your hourly rate.)

We're helping you know more about Autism and how to treat children with special needs. I want parents to be informed too that there's an age limit in your playground so they won't bring their special kids there and ruin their days, and ours too. I'll let parents know too that you're not considerate to kids like ours. That even if they throw the biggest tantrums, you wouldn't care.

Please train your staff to be more empathetic and compassionate. They weren't even apologetic which made the situation worse. They just didn't care.

Good luck.

Luanne and Robert Dulay
Autism Advocates
SEO and SMM Specialist