Gym won't take 'kids like that'

2012-12-07 11:21

Cape Town - A Pinelands mother is furious after a Virgin Active branch said it couldn’t allow her autistic son to join a class for children.

“Unfortunately, we don’t take children like that,” the Claremont branch told her when she tried to enrol him in a gym class, reported the Cape Argus.

Shannon Gukelberger was livid as her son Luc, 14, is considered to be high-functioning on the autism spectrum.

A Virgin Active spokesperson apologised on behalf of the gym and said the wrong choice of words had been used.

Gukelberger tweeted about the incident and was later informed by the gym manager that they did accept children with special needs, but that her son was already too old for the supervised class for children between the ages of 8 and 13.

She has since cancelled her gym contract. 

“As a mother of a child like this - you spend your whole life fighting for your child to have a normal life,” she said.

Virgin Active said it would try to find a solution.

  • typersa.baddy - 2012-12-07 11:25

    O boy, Virgin Active at it again!! You guys are really starting to irritate me. Maybe I should also cancel my subscription with you..

      jono.qmann - 2012-12-07 11:36

      its not just Virgin, Planet Fitness is worse! why cant there be a gym in RSA, that doesnt give 2 cents about you...all you do is fill this form in that says if you hurt yourself you a clown and we dont cover any cost. if a machine breaks and you hurt yourself we will pay. simple and easy!

      ryan.holland.395454 - 2012-12-07 11:55

      Unfortunately, that's not the way the law works. An indemnity like that will be over turned in a court of law in two seconds if the gym was found to be negligent. They should have been more diplomatic and the mother should return with a doctors note. The gym is not in a position to judge the severity of his autism. Put yourself in a courtroom after a hypothetical incident and you will see why I say these things.

      Citroes - 2012-12-07 12:14

      Not actually surprised that a screw up like this happened. Have you seen the caliber of people they employ? Either meatheads or people with standard 2.

      Citroes - 2012-12-07 12:15

      Not actually surprised that something as idiotic as this happened at Virgin. They're not renowned for the high caliber of personnel they employ. "Can you put weights away?" - "Yes" - "OK, you're hired."

  • silenta.solly - 2012-12-07 11:31

    Say what????? Virgin Active again

  • theMichaelHawthorne - 2012-12-07 11:35

    Sis on you Virgin Active

  • ryan.holland.395454 - 2012-12-07 11:41

    "As a mother of a child like this....", that's a bit hypocritical of her don't you think. Maybe she was being ironic.

      tigra.aeris - 2012-12-07 12:13

      I'm high-functioning autistic. My mother always tried to push me in where I didn't fit in too - trying to pretend I was normal by making me do what other 'normal' kids do. The scars are still healing...

      JMaritz - 2012-12-07 12:20

      I do think its called sarcasm.

      ryan.holland.395454 - 2012-12-07 13:03

      Well it's not clear from the limited context here. But, as I said, it might be an ironic statement. I left it up to the reader to assume the obvious sarcastic implication.

  • denise.wilshire - 2012-12-07 11:43

    Yep! Let's go international with that one and see how fast Richard Branson gets busy with this story. Posting this on all the overseas news chat rooms as we speak! Idiots!

  • Lilitjie - 2012-12-07 11:50

    14 is too old for a 8 to 13 class? Nice try Virgin Active.

      Billy - 2012-12-07 12:28

      ? the classes are for ages 8 to 13 the boy is 14. move on please. why is that so difficult?

  • andrew.selous - 2012-12-07 11:50

    and i just joined them and my son has special needs

      tigra.aeris - 2012-12-07 12:25

      The situation was handled terribly by Virgin Active BUT they cannot be expected to cater for children with special needs. They simply do not have the specially trained staff required to handle handicapped/disabled kids. And I firmly believe in not pushing kids into a group when they cannot fit in...

  • helen.fleetwood - 2012-12-07 11:54

    Good on you for cancelling your contract. You probably don't want to expose your son to badly trained staff anyway.

  • marnus.lamprecht - 2012-12-07 12:00

    Autistic children have special needs and needs personal attention so I doubt it strongly that a child with autism would function in a class set-up. Also what training does a normal gym instructor have in working with autistic children. Maybe the mom must realize that her child can't live a life the way other kids do. Instead of making a big fuss why not act in a constructive manner and work with the gym to get a class for her child and other with the same condition?

      brian.connell.18 - 2012-12-07 12:09

      She probably would have if the gym staff didn't say what they did. I can imagine the tone of voice as well! Virgin Active - 0; Mother - 1

      Ntutu Dlova - 2012-12-07 13:02

      well said

  • Jeremy - 2012-12-07 12:04

    I think everyone here is being a bit hard on Virgin. Yes, someone made a slightly unfornuate comment, but they susequently apologised and said they'd try to find a solution. I guess the question is - would the boy be disruptive to a class or not? If "yes" then, as far as I'm concerned, Virgin had every right to exclude him. If not, then why raise the question of his autism in the first place....?

  • Jason Robson - 2012-12-07 12:09

    I agree the wrong type of wording was used, was the child allowed to join the class and something had happened to that child in the class the attendant teaching the class would have been in trouble. these attendant have not been trained how to teach and approach children with special needs.

      Billy - 2012-12-07 12:26

      yea i also thought so at first, but i read again, he was a year too old, you know, move on then.

  • Billy - 2012-12-07 12:25

    huh? classes are for ages 8 - 13. the boy is aged 14. can this woman not accept it? what is with this playing the victim all the time??

  • chantel.rall - 2012-12-07 13:02

    2012.12.07 Official statement from Virgin Active SA: Virgin Active met with Shannon Gukelberger and her son Luc today and apologised for the lack of sensitivity showed by Virgin Active SA. Together we have decided on a fitness regime that would suit the family. Les Aupiais, spokesperson for Virgin Active said: “After spending quality time with Luc and learning what he would like to achieve as a Virgin Active member, we all agreed that providing him with a dedicated trainer twice a week, rather than play time in Club V Max, which is specifically created for children under the age of 13, would help him with the goals he shared with us. Luc said he wanted to improve his upper body strength and his leg muscles so that he can run faster and for longer distances.” While his mother Shannon trains in the pool to help heal her ankle injury, Luc will be trained by one of our experienced Virgin Active Biokineticist who will help him with his routine. “We are really pleased that by interviewing both Shannon and Luc, we will be able to design a special workout that addresses his needs.” Luc starts his training at Virgin Active Claremont next week (December 12).

  • Paul Smit - 2012-12-07 13:15

    Very sad to hear....... She should go see the friendly family at Dragon Power,now in Paarden Eiland

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