Mom: Autistic child kicked off tour, Forbidden Caverns responds
In a now viral Facebook post, one woman claims that
, a popular local destination, kicked her family off the tour because of her autistic child.
Melissa Beebe claims that she visited the tourist attraction with her daughter, Stella, who is autistic. In the post Beebe says, "I wish I could recommend this place to anyone in the Gatlinburg, TN area vacationing, but I can't because I was asked to leave as soon as the tour started because Stella was excited, laughing and clapping."
She said the tour guide said he wanted to ask her a question.
In the post, Beebe wrote "I knew what he was about to ask, so I just answered 'she's autistic and just excited.'"
Beebe said that at that point the tour guide told her the family can "leave and go get a refund for the tour."
Bebee wrote "I started crying because I've never experienced blatant discrimination or been kicked out of anywhere."
Beebe's post has been shared over 20,000 times and has over 4,600 comments.
Forbidden Caverns responded to the claims on Facebook, saying "We are a family attraction and take accusations of this nature to heart and truly want to be an experience that all can enjoy."
WVLT spoke to the owner of the attraction, Bob Hounshell, on Thursday afternoon. Hounshell said they have received a barrage of calls and comments on their social media page.
He said that the tour guide mentioned in Beebe's post "would be the last person to ever, ever point out someone with special needs."
"I feel sorry for the lady," he said. "This is a family operation and we take what happened personally. He said that they have never had any policies on children with special needs or disabilities.
"That is not a policy of ours," Hounshell said. "The business wouldn't isolate or point out or discourage...special needs kids."
Hounshell said the incident occurred as the tour guide was attempting to give instructions and safety information to those in the tour.
According to the business, the child was "screaming in terror" and was not "clapping or laughing."
The tour guide talked to Beebe and said, "If you decide to leave, we'll give you a full refund."
When asked about her claims, Hounshell said, "Anybody that's been here or that knows us, knows this isn't true."
WVLT reached out to Beebe for comment.