Photo credit: nj.com
Liam is a 4 year old little boy who wanted to have his birthday party at a gymnastics studio in New Jersey. When his mom went to sign the contract, she noticed that there’s a “Special Needs clause.”
It reads: “Special Needs children: Please indicate if your child or any children attending the party have any mental or physical disabilties/special needs. (Surgent’s Elite is not certified in special needs instruction and reserves the right to deny party and gymnastics instruction.)”
Liam’s mom asked about the clause, while mentioning that her son has Down syndrome. Consequently, the gym turned her away.
This didn’t happen in 1954. This didn’t happen in 1994. This didn’t happen in 2004.
This happened YESTERDAY.
You can read about the story here:
And you can read the contract here:
(***Update: The contract appears to have been taken down. However, you can see it if you click on the link to the story and scroll to the second image:
I’ve been upset about this since it happened. I assumed that this was a misunderstanding. And then, when I realized that it WASN’T a misunderstanding, I figured that the gym would quickly apologize and give Liam a free party. On the contrary, they doubled-down on their decision.
Their policy is that no children with special needs are allowed at this gym. Not for parties. And not for classes. Again, this happened YESTERDAY — not 50 years ago.
What the owner of this gym doesn’t understand is that Liam is just like every other child. I don’t even know him, but I know he laughs, cries, likes to have fun, and loves birthday parties — especially his own. How do I know this? Because he’s just like me. He’s just like you too.
People with special needs are human! They’re not meant to be segregated by our society. They’re not meant to be excluded from activities. They’re not meant to be pointed out and sent packing.
Imagine if this was you. Imagine if you wanted to have a birthday party at a particular place and the owner said, “You’re not allowed here.” Imagine how that would feel.
Or imagine if you were a guest at a birthday party, and you showed up in your best outfit, only to be turned away at the door. “Didn’t you see our clause? You’re not allowed here.”
Now imagine that this wasn’t you…but that this was your child. Your child showed up for a birthday party and was turned away at the door.
Just imagine that tear-streaked face. “Why don’t they want me here?”
Imagine telling your child why he or she is not allowed at this birthday party.
“It’s because you’re different, honey…”
“I am? How?”
People have left comments on the news story supporting the gym. They say things like, “Well, what about medical issues? I can see where the gym is coming from…”
So where does it stop? Pretty soon, people with special needs and/or medical issues can’t go to gyms, can’t go to parties, can’t go to parks, can’t go to malls, can’t ride in cars…
Everything is a liability, right?
I have a better idea. How about we treat people with special needs as if they’re just like us. We’re allowed to go to gyms, parties, parks, malls… We’re allowed to experience all aspects of life. That’s called being human. Everyone is afforded the same rights.
I know that my daughter loves birthday parties. LOVES THEM. I’m imagining her getting all ready for a party, cheering in the car when we drive up, and then getting banished at the door because “Didn’t you see our Special Needs clause?”
I’m imagining her turning towards me with that tear-streaked face and saying, “Why?”
And what would I tell her? That people with special needs aren’t allowed to go to birthday parties? Really??
I can’t do it. I can’t tell her that. She deserves MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better than that. She’s an incredible kid.
And if you met her, you would see that she’s just like me — and just like you too.