Mother says park volunteer asked her, autistic son to leave - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Mother says park volunteer asked her, autistic son to leave

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A Dauphin County mother said she's outraged over the way she and her 5-year-old son with autism were treated by a volunteer on the Capital Area Greenbelt.

Nicole Kulczyckyj of Hummelstown told abc27 she was finishing up a family portrait session Tuesday morning at the "Five Senses Gardens" along the Greenbelt in Swatara Township, when a volunteer named Shirley approached her about her son Carter's loud behavior.

"He was saying 'I'm done, I'm done,' so we were on our way out," Kulczyckyj said. "I was wrapping up with the photographer and as he continued to say 'I'm done, I'm done,' the lady kept hammering at us and saying that we needed to leave and that we weren't welcome there are rules to this park."

Kulczyckyj said she told Shirley Carter has autism, but Shirley continued to insist they leave. When she got home, Kulczyckyj said she couldn't get the incident off her mind.

"I was up all night, sick to my stomach," she said.

So she wrote an email to the Capital Area Greenbelt Association (CAGA), explaining what happened and demanding an apology. She said when she didn't hear back, she decided to attend CAGA's regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday night.

"I just needed to be heard -- I'm his only advocate and it just stinks for him to be treated like that and I thought it was totally inappropriate," Kulczyckyj told the board.

Shirley responded, saying she never told them to leave -- only asked them to come back when Carter was "under control."

"I have every empathy and sympathy for you in the world," she said. "You have to go to bed at night knowing that there's very little help your son is going to be able to get -- that he does not have a normal childhood. And you wake up every morning wondering what kind of crisis is going to befall you."

Shirley, who founded Five Senses with her late husband nearly 20 years ago, went on to say it's her job to "police" the park. She said Carter was not walking on the trails, but through patches of the garden itself.

CAGA president Mike Barth said only the police can enforce rules along the Greenbelt, but couldn't say whether rules had been broken in this case.

"Ultimately, we are not the police -- we just try to encourage a nice environment there and keep the place beautiful for the community to enjoy," he said.

During the meeting, Barth apologized for what happened, saying Carter and his mom are always welcome on the Greenbelt and at the Five Senses Gardens.

Kulczyckyj said she will not be returning anytime soon.

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