Franklin Becker, famed chef and father of a son with autism, recently posted to Facebook the details of his very upsetting visit to the Six Flags Hurricane Harbor waterpark in New Jersey. Becker is a fervent supporter of autism-related causes as well the co-chair of the Autism Speaks Celebrity Chef Gala in New York City. Below is his Facebook post followed by the response from Six Flags:
For those of you who know me, I am a tireless advocate for autism. I need to share a terrible story about my day at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. On Memorial Day I purchased season passes at Six Flags New England. I was informed that the passes were good for all Six Flag properties. I informed them that my eldest son has autism and cannot wait on lines ‘cause it is too much to handle. They told me that would not be an issue and that I could go to guest relations at each park and be issued a special pass. When I arrived yesterday, I was told the passes did not apply to Hurricane Harbor but they would extend me a discount. $10 per person. Ok. I paid and was then told there were no special needs passes at the park but I could go to the fast pass entrances and I will be accommodated. We get inside the park and settle in to have a fun day.
We go on several rides and all is going well. I arrive on line and a young lady, Elise denies me access. I explain to her the situation and she still says no. I ask to speak to her supervisor. A young lady, Gaby comes over. I tell her the situation and that my son has autism. I told her what guest relations said to do. She denied me access. She then rudely told me to get in line like everyone else. Mind you, at this point there is maybe 5 people on line but I am livid at the treatment I am receiving so out of principle I refuse and ask to see her supervisor. Another young lady arrives. Chelsea listens to my story and once again denies us access. Who on earth trains these young people today? Who teaches them etiquette? I am mortified to know that such insensitivity towards those with special needs exists today. The young manager Gaby and the girl, Elise begin to chuckle at my expense. The rules and regulations at theme parks need to be changed. These young ladies need to be taught right from wrong. If I can get enough likes, showing solidarity amongst ourselves, I will take this as high as it can go. They cannot get away with such prejudice towards our young people. "The Rules Must change" please help me help our children. They deserve better...
Autism Speaks reached out to Six Flags for comment. Communications manager Kristin Siebeneicher said this behavior did not follow Six Flags policies. She also said the organization plans to implement a new program of sensitivity training for all its workers and the organization was in the process of reviewing its access policy for people with autism. Six Flags is working with Parents of Autistic Children to develop new guidelines. She offered Autism Speaks an opportunity to be part of that discussion and we will keep you updated on that progress.