A mom and her six-year-old son were refused service at a store in Australia because an employee said the little boy was “being rude.”
As many families with autism can attest, shopping can be an adventure on any given day because of the immense amount of sensory stimulation.
For Jenkins and her son, navigating the store became a bit trickier when her son started feeling overloaded and restless.
“Because of the time of day, as well as how busy it was, he became overwhelmed,” Jenkins told the Herald Sun.
Trying to find ways to calm himself and self-soothe, the young boy started moving around — a perfectly natural thing for him to do.
One female staff member noticed the boy’s movements, though, and didn’t understand his behavior. And because she leapt to conclusions, she decided she wasn’t going to serve them.
Jenkins explained that her son has autism, but that didn’t do anything to change the employee’s mind.
“She said she refused service because he was being rude,” Jenkins said.
Both Jenkins and her son were greatly affected by the incident and the way they were treated. Jenkins felt shamed by the woman’s actions, and her son is traumatized to the point that he now feels uncomfortable even walking past the store.
“No mother should be shamed the way I was,” Jenkins said.
The store manager apologized to Jenkins after hearing about the incident, and invited them to come back to the store one day in the morning, before the store even opened, so that her son could get comfortable in the store again.
A Big W spokesperson said that they “sincerely regret the way the family was treated” at the store and that the issue was “being addressed with the team members involved directly.”
“At Big W, we put families at the heart of all we do and want everyone to feel comfortable shopping in our stores,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve also reiterated the need to treat all our customers with patience and respect during busy trading times to all team members nationwide.”
The incident has spurred Jenkins to call upon all of Australia’s chain stores to educate their employees on autism and other disabilities.
“We make up a big portion of the population and deserve to be treated respectfully,” she said.Whizzco