Mom says family turned away from Utah pool because sons with autism can’t wear anti-drowning devices
Jun 16, 2023, 1:26 PM | Updated: 1:26 pm
CLEARFIELD, Utah — A community pool came under fire Thursday after a woman with two boys with autism said she was turned away because of her children’s inability to wear new “WAVE” anti-drowning devices that are required for younger swimmers.
Audrie Gleason said during a recent visit to the Clearfield Aquatic & Fitness Center, she asked multiple workers and the supervisor about the rules but was never offered accommodation for her kids.
“They said if you want to bring your kids here and have them swim, they have to wear this if they are 12 or under,” Gleason told KSL TV.
Gleason said she always stayed in the pool with her children and at arm’s length.
“My oldest is 10 (and) he’s non-verbal autistic, my youngest is 2 and he’s undiagnosed, but I’m quite sure he’s autistic as well,” Gleason explained. “My oldest son especially is not going to tolerate that.”
According to Clearfield City Community Services Director Eric Howes, the city implemented the WAVE system less than two months ago in hopes of improving safety at the community pool. Howes said the devices, usually worn as headsets or straps, alert lifeguards when swimmers are under the water for 20 seconds or more.
He said the city has a four-tiered system of “reasonable accommodation” for sensory issues. He said families should try a headset first, then the strap attached to goggles and then possibly the strap worn around the neck.
If none of those work, Howe said there was a fourth alternative.
“We would have them wear a wristband that says they should have it but don’t and they have to be within arm’s length of a parent,” Howes said.
Gleason said she was never given that final alternative and she doesn’t believe she is the only parent to have recently experienced an issue.
“I offered solutions, they didn’t seem interested in those,” Gleason said. “I offered solutions to the director himself, he also didn’t seem interested in those. In fact, he made a comment. He asked me if my son wore his seatbelt and I said, ‘Yes, but he’s been wearing his seatbelt his entire life — I can’t just introduce a device that he doesn’t have to wear anywhere else, at any other pool and expect him to wear it.’”
Howes said Gleason being turned away could have possibly been due to training issues and he apologized if anyone had been offended.
“I could see our staff in some ways making mistakes and turning people away when that’s not necessarily what we intended,” Howes said. “We’re human, we make mistakes and don’t do things exactly right.”
Gleason hoped something would change.
“They were adamant that there were no accommodations or exceptions,” Gleason said. “I’m the mom, I make those decisions for my children — not the Clearfield Aquatic Center.”