Court Takes Action Against Rec Center That Banned Autistic Boy From Locker Room


After one mother’s 5-year-old son on the autism spectrum was banned from the women’s locker room at the Adams Butzel Recreation Center in Detroit, she sought help from the U.S. Attorneys office.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade confirmed to the Detroit Free Press on Monday that the rec center has now modified its rules, which prohibited children older than 18 months from using locker rooms designated for the opposite sex.

The mother, whose name was not mentioned in the statement, asked to bring her son into the women’s locker room because he needed help with his swimsuit. But the recreation center denied her request, telling her she either needed to bring a male relative to assist the child, allow a male staff member to help the child in the men’s locker room, or visit another club.

The woman declined these options because she wanted to help her son at the recreation center closest to her home, reported local news site ClickOnDetroit.com, and she then filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorneys office.

“Parents of children with disabilities work hard to make sure that their children have the same opportunities for recreation as children without disabilities,” McQuade said in a statement to the Detroit Free Press. “Our office is committed to supporting these families by working with them to bring down barriers that may be in their children’s way.”

McQuade added that the city agreed to implement a new policy “requiring reasonable modifications to the center’s locker room policies for children with disabilities.” Children accompanied by an adult member of the opposite sex will now be allowed to change in a curtained section of the locker room designated for members of the adult’s sex, and children accompanied by an adult will also be allowed to use the lifeguards’ locker room.

Staff at the Adams Butzel Recreation Center will receive training on the new policy and their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in public accommodation, employment and transportation, among other areas.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Virtual Google Tour Helps Autistic Kids Check Out Hospital Before They Visit

The Birmingham Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, England, recently teamed up with Google and Autism West Midlands to create an extensive virtual tour for patients with autism and their families. It’s just like Google street view — but with a glimpse inside every door and room of the hospital. “We know that children with autism really struggle [...]

Why I Believe It's Time to Ask for More Than Autism Awareness

I first heard about the movement to call April “Autism Acceptance Month” instead of “Autism Awareness Month” this year, in the last few days of March. Coincidentally, it was also the time that I truly began to accept my early struggles with peer acceptance as a child with undiagnosed autism. For many years, I held [...]

Disneyland Staffer Desperate to Find Autistic Guest Who Lost This Lanyard

Emily Gibby, an employee at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is trying to find an autistic patron who lost a lanyard near the park last week. One of Gibby’s colleagues found the lanyard at the Disneyland Hotel on March 24 and passed it on to Gibby, a Disney spokesperson told KTLA. The badge attached to the [...]

My Experience as a Young Person With Autism at the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day

My name is Tom. I am 16 years old and I have autism. I went to the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day 2016 because I wanted to learn more about global issues affecting autism. Being a part of World Autism Day at the United Nations was an excellent experience that changed my perspective about what [...]