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Oceanarium Says Autistic Kids “Disappoint” Other Visitors

Oceanarium Says Autistic Kids “Disappoint” Other Visitors

A group of autistic children has recently been barred from accessing the Moscow Oceanarium. The staff of a school for autistic students contacted the ocean park to bring several children on a tour. But even after a teacher had explained about what autism is, the Oceanarium still informed the school that their request was “refused” on the grounds that other visitors would not wish to see autistic children. Said the message:

“Visitors do not like to see the disabled, it disappoints them. It is not acceptable.

An oceanarium administrator also suggested that the children visit the facility on a cleaning day, when it is closed to the public.

Hundreds have been expressing their outrage on Facebook and in other social media fora. As one Russian blogger wrote,

“If there had been a group of people using wheelchairs, then we could have explained the Oceanarium’s reluctance to let them in on a weekend … but a visit on a cleanup day is beyond understanding.”

I would further argue that it is not right to suggest that any group visit only on days when the Oceanarium is closed for cleaning.  According to, the Oceanarium’s press service claims it does not know about the incident and that

“…people with disabilities visiting the Oceanarium are normally offered visits on days with less traffic “for their own convenience, and if this incident really has taken place, the staff member will be punished.”

The question is about whose “convenience” is being prioritized, that of individuals with disabilities or of the Oceanarium?

Rather than individuals with disabilities being short-changed, the Oceanarium should devise strategies and accommodations so that those with difficulties with mobility or other disabilities can visit. The Oceanarium says that it is indeed “testing a special program for people with disabilities, currently running on cleanup days” and says that it has selected cleaning days so those with disabilities do not have to wait in “long lines and crowds.” But the message sent to the autism school suggests that people with disabilities are being encouraged to visit on cleaning days because their presence might bother other visitors.

For children with disabilities and their parents, going out into public can be a very big deal. Not only might an autistic child struggle with crowds and sensory issues such as a grocery store’s fluorescent lights and a myriad of smells and sights. Because many autistic children have no visible physical traits identifying their disability, people may mistake behaviors such as crying or repetitive speech as a child “being bad” or “acting weird.”

In the time since my son Charlie was diagnosed with autism in 1999, there have been more and more efforts to include autistic children and children with disabilities in public events, from special screenings of popular movies to special performances of Broadway productions to restaurants to amusement parks. The Moscow Oceanarium is taking several steps backwards to say that autistic children should not be seen by other visitors, as if to suggest that autistic children and those with disabilities should neither be seen nor heard by the general public.


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Photo of an Oceanarium in Lisbon, Portugal by sheilaellen

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9:17AM PDT on May 25, 2012

That's just a shame.

12:06AM PDT on May 9, 2012

You know, getting back on the actual TOPIC, which I've yet to read an observation or opinion from you, Nyack...............

............the fact that autistic children tend to be less observant or less sensitive to their environment has been proven absolutely wrong. They actually ARE more sensitive, just don't display their emotions the same way as most of us do. They appear distant and "somewhere else" often. Facts are, however, that they tend to be more "in tune" with other species, other living things. For example, one can use Dr. Temple Grandin to illustrate such sensitivities. She is autistic, yet can "read" animals far more than most of us. Autistic children often come out of their "shells" when around animals. There have been stories here on Care.2 about such children. Why would it not make sense to have these kids visit the oceanarium and view the marine life displayed? It not only could benefit them immensely, but who knows, maybe other visitors. The KIDS wouldn't have been on display, so to say they'd "disappoint" other visitors is highly judgmental and presumtive. They hadn't even been there yet.

12:01AM PDT on May 9, 2012

Sorry for the typos...........I do hope you, Nyack, aren't going to make a big deal out of those as well?

11:59PM PDT on May 8, 2012

Nyack, your observations are way off. There's a vast difference between saying an article is silly, or I disagree with someone or that I disagree, and saying a belief in "blah, blah" is not anywhere NEAR calling an individual the same. I've never called an individual "stupid", nor "ignorant". To do so would be highly against Care.2's C.O.C., but of course, that doesn't seem to stop you from doingit to me, does it? No, I did NOT call Sandry either "Ignorant" nor "stupid". I said one could say that the opinions expressed could be because of one or the other. You really do need to learn to comprehend better what is stated, and as for quotes, you're very good at taking them out of context to suit yourself. Why do you do that? Again, I'm asking you what it is about ME, personally, since you don't know me at all, that causes you to be on such a crusade? Others have made the same comments I have, and sometimes in a much more blunt and "crude" (or rude) way, yet I seem to be the one you single out for the personal attacks. Sometimes, my comments are even of the same opinions as yours. You still go after me to bash and it needs to stop.

4:02AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Nope, not hardly, Sandra, but you are entitled to whatever opinion you may want to have. I'm sure you are referring to the very obviously rude, disrespectful and insulting comment by Nyack. If you want to look up the definition of "troll", it fits somebody who lurks and waits for "hot" topics to just come in and disrupt....certainly not what I do. I have every right to comment to whatever discussion Care.2 puts out there, and my opinions are as valuable as hers or yours. If you bothered reading most, they seem to agree with mine, actually.

BTW, to Nyack......with all due respect, just what is it that makes you so determined to attack me without any cause in every discussion where you happen to see my username? I've never attacked you or called you any names, nor accused you of the behavior you seem so eager to throw at me. You haven't even bothered to post a comment on the topic here, so if anyone is a "troll", well????????? I didn't insult you in this discussion, nor in any others. I disagree with you sometimes, and actually have agreed with you in other cases, but you've never bothered taking notice of those. WHY are you on such a crusade to call me names and be so insulting?

3:55AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Diane, I've already been warned by others that you're just a troll. Happy trolling bubye

3:50AM PDT on May 8, 2012

Sandra, it isn't impossible for ANYONE to comment out of ignorance, so that is somewhat of a silly comment to make on a site such as this, since nobody here, including myself knows you or your personal situation. You gave your two autistic children over to be handled by others, so it would seem they have issues even you couldn't deal with, but most are simply lacking the ability to focus or make eye contact. I think you may have also missed the fact this is in MOSCOW? This is a public aquarium/oceanarium. It should be a place to provide a learning experience for everyone. To say these kids would "disappoint" others is ridiculous. Yes, I'm disappointed in the behavior of many people, but the law says unless they are endanging me, then it's my problem and I have to deal with it. I don't like being "exposed" to people with "rug rats" in stores, period, and yes, they've often been screaming, disruptive and yet nobody tells Mom to leave. I dislike being in a check line with people yapping in cell phones, but there again, nothing illegal about that, either. They let people with animals in stores, and all they have to do is say the animal is a "service" pet. Yeah, right, somebody with an unkempt, never saw a brush in it's life, yapping Snoodle sitting INSIDE the cart is using that dog for assistance?

6:16AM PDT on May 7, 2012

I can see both sides of this issue. Having raised a learning disabled child, I came in contact with autistic classmates on a regular basis. As a performer, I know how disruptive it can be when you are on stage and a loud shout erupts from the audience. As a parent, I want them to enjoy as much of life as I do. There are no good answers.

10:56PM PDT on May 6, 2012

Diane, it would be impossible for me to suffer from ignorance when it comes to autism because I have two children on the spectrum that I raised for 8 agonizing years. One is severe, the other PDD-NOS. I read autism information extensively and joined groups, visited their classes, etc. I can attest that the vast majority of autistic children I've met have behavior problems, sometimes severely. So let's suppose that a group of 20 children are coming to my aquarium. 14 have behavior issues, 6 are high functioning and/or do not have behavior issues. As a business owner why would I take that chance? I risk losing hundreds of customers over those 16 kids. Even in the unlikely event that most are well behaved, there is still a good chance that at least a few will act out severely, unless the group is only Aspergers. In addition, an aquarium is a private business. By law, they can restrict acess to whom they wish. Don't believe me? Ask an attorney. I did so back when I got kicked out of a store with my son. It took me years to realize that society did not have to bend over backwards to accomodate my son, but rather he needed to be in a place where his behaviors could be better managed. Having the children visit during cleaning days is a reasonable offer. In fact, the kids might be better off that way because they will avoid overstimulation and tantrums while waiting in lines. The parents are also better off agreeing to the offer because if they decide to take any legal

10:28PM PDT on May 6, 2012

Sandra, there is a difference between stupidity and ignorance, and I'll give you the benefit of a doubt and say you suffer from the latter. Autistic children generally don't raise a ruckus and grab things, not anymore than any other kids. Unless they actually did display disruptive behavior, then it's presumptuous to not allow them to go to the facility just "in case" they might. So could any other kids!

Yes, the oceanarium is a business, but it's also a public facility..........where they DISPLAY marine life. It's not a private club. Your comments come across like the prejudices against Blacks from the 1800's, or against Native Americans..........because someone saw a Native American who wore "war paint" and held a tomahawk, then ALL "Injuns" must be savages, and ALL Blacks are ignorant, blah, blah. What century are you from?

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