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
http://www.autism-angel.blogspot.com

18 comments:

  1. I'm really sad to hear about what your daughter went through at Gymboree. It makes me realize more and more how Autism awareness and acceptance is lacking (and at times practically non-existent!) in our country. What makes this even sadder is that it is National Autism Awareness Week right now! Sadly, We have a long, long, long way to go as a nation and as a community.

    Keep fighting and advocating for your daughter! I pray that we may one day have a country - and a world - that is a more loving and more accepting of one another.

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    1. I totally agree with you. We just realized that we still have so much to do to raise awareness. I know that if the people from Gymboree knew about autism, they would've done things differently. They looked at us like they have no idea what it is. I hope that this will be an eye-opener for them and start re-training their staff and learn about the condition which is very prevalent already. We will never stop advocating for our daughter who's the source of all our strength and happiness. Thanks.

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  2. Would it have been ok if she didn't have autism? Don't think this is a 'be more sensitive to autism' issue as much as a 'be more flexible with the rules' issue. If the employee was too afraid to not follow the rules they could have at least pleaded the case with their manager, especially if the website says 5 is ok.

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    1. It's sad that the staff have no idea what autism is. We begged them to let her enter even for a few minutes. If they are "more sensitive and knowledgeable about autism" they would've been "more flexible with the rules" We were actually talking to the manager of the branch and everybody there. It was disheartening. =(

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    2. Hello Ms. Luanne and to you Mr./Ms. Anonymous!
      Ms. Luanne's angel is a kid, wether she has autism or not! staff and the mngt of gymboree doest have actually to know everything about children with special needs! you just simply have to have a heart! you dont have to be a parent or a mother ( better if u are ) to understand this. Would it also might have been ok if the kid's parents are celebrities????? c'mon! were in the Philippines! i mean, sometimes people are just so unfair and maybe nowadays, commonsense is not so common anymore. i know my comment is way way too late.. but at least i shared what i felt. to you anonymous.. are u working for gymboree? good for you, maybe u could tell your colleagues to be alil bit considerate.

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  3. My son has been clinically diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. He attends a special needs school in QC. By the way, his sister teaches at Gymboree Magnolia. But I guess you did not know that. Peace and God bless.

    DBA of QC

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    1. I hope his sister was there. I'm sure she'll understand that a promise made to a child with autism needs to be given or a major meltdown might occur. I know she'll treat us better and be more empathetic if she was there. =( God bless you and your special angel.

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  4. I came across this letter through facebook. While we understand and we emphatize with the concerns indicated here, does it really have to be an Open Letter? I wish the day will come when issues (public and private) will NOT be posted online and addressed directly to the concerned parties.

    Although the intent of this letter is noble, these sensationalization of issues shoo-away individuals, institutions or corporate entities who would like to extend assistance to advocacies fearing that they will also be subjected to something like this when something irregular comes up that may be or should have been resolved privately.

    Open Letters does not resolve everything. It is a mere outlet of ones emotion and trying to gang-up public sympathy.

    If the issue was address directly to Gymboree, am sure they will do something about it. After all they are in the business of child entertainment don't you think?

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    1. Hi! This letter was also sent to Gymboree Management and was replied to that same day (which we truly appreciate). I also posted their reply in this blog and on Facebook.

      We never intended to "shoo-away individuals, institutions or corporate entities" or "to gang-up public sympathy". As I mentioned in my letter, I wanted my fellow parents to know of their policies, age limits and how they treat people, to avoid this incident to happen again. We want them to be informed of what autism is and how different our kids are.

      When I shared what happened to us in my status, I didn't ask people to share it. I also want my fellow parents, family and friends to know what we felt. My husband and I were also surprised how 200 people shared it, how many parents like me experienced the same treatment, how many private messages I received and coincidentally, it was National Autism Awareness Week. My fellow special parents, friends, families and people we don't even know convinced us to take action.

      I'm sorry if you think this is wrong, but we're happy to make a small difference in our daughter's life and the lives of many angels and families out there by raising awareness about autism. Thanks.

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  5. Dear Luanne, I'm sorry to have read about how you were treated and I write to you because i've read your post in facebook from a shared link and I am still furious and hurt from our experience at GYMBOREE MAGNOLIA (yes, this particular franchise/branch). They are NOT kid friendly and they dont know what PR & customer relation is all about! I felt really bad & angry when my daughter begged and cried because she wanted to paint and the staff ignored her. There was still 5 minutes on the clock before our time ended and when confronted they said "kasi ALMOST time's up na!". We pay them by the hour/minute so technically, even if its the last minute, we are still entitled to do whatever we want to do there, right?! Ironically, the staff is familiar with my 3 kids because they were regular clients and it was their favorite place. This also happened on a thursday and we were the ONLY clients inside. The least they could have done was to ask me if i wanted to extend and pay!
    Had they been more sympathetic or courteous, another 5 minutes on their clock would have made a difference as we would probably feel happier right? Well, its their loss and can't blame management because the owner of this particular branch is the one manning it already :-(
    I swore never to go back to this branch ever again! -KIM NG

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    1. Aww. That's the biggest problem that branch has. They really lack PR, customer relations and compassion. That's exactly what I told my husband, if they allowed my daughter to enter even for just 10 minutes, it would have made a big difference. We would be very happy and write about how courteous and understanding they are of the situation.

      We've been going to Gymboree since she was 2, we were never informed of the age limit until that day. We were hoping that for one last time, they would allow my daughter. It's just sad this has to happen.

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    2. Given that they are very stict on age limit, should we lie to gymboree and backtrack the birth year of our child just to let them in?! I think they should give more consideration on height like what amusement parks do.. my twin daughter is diagnosed with Global Delay and her weight and height doesn't fit her age. Born very premature, i had a hard time feeding and nourishing her. My twins are 5 years old already but my girl looks more like 3-4 years of age only.

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  6. Before you whine and play the special needs trump card, think about this first: Did they refuse entry because your child has special needs? Did they refuse entry because of her age? If your answer to the first is no and yes to the next, what's the big deal? Next time, plan, check for age limits, height limits, weight limits, dress code: socks or no socks, do they play loud music, etc. so your 'efforts' on setting you child's mindset to go there will not be wasted. Don't get me wrong, I feel for you, but I think you're using your child's special needs as an all-areas-covered special pass.

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    1. I dont think you really FEEL for them. You have no idea how challenging it is to be a parent of a special needs child. It is not about a "special pass" but it is about having compassion and empathy which the gymboree staff lacked, and you probably too. It's people like you... Smh

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  7. I just read this now while doing research for classes for my toddler.

    I held my daughter's first birthday party at Gymboree in Robinson's Magnolia. I'm a bit shocked with your experience, though. One of my daughter's guests was a 5-year old, and another an 8-year old. Neither had special needs. Their parents were told though that they were allowed on the play floor during the activities (they had an hour's worth of play activities designed to "celebrate" the birthday celebrant), but after that, they were asked to get out of the play area and stay within the art/music rooms. They were a bit bummed (I mean, all the kids were in the play area, playing!), but rules are rules. The point is, though, that they were ALLOWED in the play area DURING the activities.

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  8. I also bump into situations when people are so mean. an example is when we are on board an airplane, my baby cried during the flight. The young couple in front of us gave their irritated gaze then looked away. They should've been more considerate. With special needs or not, inside Gymboree or not, people must always show compassion. I understand that for some who do not yet have their children, they are quite arrogant in terms of dealing with children although I hope that one day, there will come a time when they will have their own opportunity to experience the challenges of being a parent. As for the management of this establishment, they should've known and reflected on the type of business they have. This is for kids, it's then rightfully a must to employ people with patience and compassion and also COMMON SENSE.

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  9. I felt heartbroken. In behalf of all the teachers, we are sorry for the ignorance. We really need to be educated when it comes to children with special needs. They are God's unique creation and should not be shunned away. God bless!

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  10. I am intending or I was intending to enroll my grandson at the Eastwood branch thats why I searched for infos and feedback re this Gymboree. We were there yesterday for the 30min free play. First- I am a Reading Specialist. I do reading intervention before an reading disability becomes a learning disbility. I ran my own center so I now how to welcome parents who drop by to inquire... yesterday was my third time to inquire as the people there are too -maybe- shy??? Because, they seem to hold information ... seem like they dont want to brief me. I just want to know their programs. Well,of course, I did not tell them what I do. I just fired questions- one of the staff was actually surprised when I asked if they were putting my grandson in a vertical class. She was able to answer - no- only after a while. The staff are not so accomodating..most of them stare and do not encourage people to enroll. They are just wrapped with jackets with soulfull looks. I even asked my daughter- are they zombies? Cause they dont look like teachers...

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