The Riverview Park and Zoo in Peterborough says it wants to offer a private tour for a Belleville boy with autism who was allegedly accosted during a visit last weekend.
A Facebook post by the boy’s mother Ashley Wright went viral on Sunday, after she and her two children visited the Peterborough zoo. Wright says shortly after their arrival, 13-year-old Logan began to show signs of stress.
Wright says she thought a man was going to ask if she needed assistance. Instead, she claims the man publicly shamed Logan, who has severe autism, marked by communication and social interaction challenges.
“I originally thought he was going to see if everything was okay,” said Wright.
“Then he proceeded to yell at me, asking why I would take a child like that out in public because they ruined society.”
Wright avoided a confrontation with the man and instead led her son and daughter to Logan’s favourite exhibit: the camels.
Her long Facebook post has been shared more than 8,300 times. Her story also caught the attention of zoo staff.
“We were all really saddened and concerned when we found out that this had happened,” said Jim Moloney, the zoo’s director and head curator.
Moloney says there have been past incidents, but most of the 250,000 annual visitors are respectful.
“I have a great respect for people who have children with challenges, and certainly somebody who has autism, especially the more severe forms of autism,” he said. “What people in those situations need is our compassion and our support.”
Moloney says the zoo prides itself on being accessible and open to all. He’s sent an invitation to Logan to return for a private encounter with the camels.
“Anything that we could do to try share the message that this behaviour is not acceptable, it’s not what’s needed — we’re committed to doing that,” said Moloney.
Wright says she hopes the man has seen her post. If given the opportunity to speak to him, she would say: “I hope that you’ve learned what you said was wrong and that it hurt people and that you realize that everybody deserves a chance to go have fun at the zoo.”