Cabrillo Aquarium Apologized. And Wants to Make Things Right.

by Jo on February 25, 2018

If you’re reading this blog post, chances are you’ve read this one, got super fired up, and now you’re here for an update.

First of all, I want to thank everyone who supported Andrew and our family. Many of you took the time to make phone calls to the aquarium, send messages via social media, leave reviews, and connect with us personally, and your efforts paid off.

After playing phone tag throughout the day, Ed Mastro, the Director of Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro was finally able to connect with me this evening. We spent an hour on the phone and the conversation began with a heartfelt, genuine apology from him on behalf of the entire establishment. Ed made it very clear that while the aquarium has always worked hard to be an inclusive place for everyone, this incident highlighted the fact that more needs to be done. He admitted he has very little knowledge about autism and realizes staff training in this area is imperative. He has graciously asked for my help and I have enthusiastically agreed to assist in their commitment to learning more about our kids and how they can make families like ours feel welcome, safe, and accommodated.

Ed also made sure to let me know they will be paying to fix Andrew’s iPad. He actually offered to buy a new one, but that’s not necessary as the screen is cracked and can be fixed. We have an amazing place we use so we’ll be sending the bill to Ed and he’ll make sure to get that all sorted out.

The aquarium will also be inviting Andrew’s school to enjoy the facility and get a more personalized tour of the exhibits. Apparently they even have beach-friendly wheelchairs on hand that can go in the water, so students with physical limitations can experience the ocean during their visit. I have a feeling Andrew will want to try one of those out next time. Actually, I’m pretty sure he’ll request to be parked in the same exact spot he was in the other day so he can flap and squeal as the water rushes into the tank. Over, and over, and over again.

Finally, Ed has asked for my assistance in planning a very special autism event at Cabrillo. The details will be announced in the coming weeks, and I’ll be sharing those here and via Facebook and Instagram. Suffice it to say, I believe this event will go a long way in turning this incident with Andrew into an opportunity for the aquarium and our community to cultivate a long-lasting and meaningful relationship that benefits everyone.

Advocacy is hard. It’s often very messy, and almost always comes on the heels of a painful, humiliating experience. Those of us who advocate for our kids know very well the heartache that comes with our loved ones being discriminated against and mistreated. Rarely is an issue responded to quickly, and with a genuine desire to rectify the situation, but Cabrillo has managed to surpass my expectations and I truly believe they are more than sorry. They are committed to getting to know our kids and making sure my son and your sons and daughters feel comfortable and happy and welcome at their aquarium. Just the way they are.

As a result, I’d like to kindly request that if you left a negative review or comment on Cabrillo’s Facebook page or Yelp, you take a few seconds to remove it. I think it’s just as important to respond to their efforts to make things right as it was when things went south. I promise to call on you if I ever need help in the future. You guys mean business!

I’m so pleasantly surprised at the way things have turned out. I was so upset yesterday and most of today, but tonight my faith in humanity has been restored, and that’s thanks to all of you who got involved, and to the folks at Cabrillo who were determined to make things right.

I’m glad I waited to speak with Ed before returning the media inquiries I received. Now instead of doing a pissed off interview, I’ll likely be doing a story with a local news station on the power of community and second chances. With all the bad news in the world, a story with a happy ending is something I can get behind.

Stay tuned for the details of Cabrillo’s special autism event; I can’t wait to share them with you.

And if you ever need someone to speak up for your kid, you know where to find me.

We’re in this together. You guys reminded me of that today.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer Lundy February 25, 2018 at 7:29 am



Lynn Cain February 25, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Thank you for the update. I had read the first blog and could not believe that people could be so cruel ( there but by the grace of God go I ). I was glad to hear that they are going to make things right and go beyond. I have a great- nephew who has a form of Autism but thankfully not too sever. God bless you and your family.


Tania February 25, 2018 at 3:20 pm

I’m so happy to read this update. I was hurt and angry yesterday. Good job Mom!!!!!! Big hugs for Andrew and your family. I have a son with Autism and his name is also Andrew


Kate Kosman February 25, 2018 at 3:21 pm

I’m so glad this was resolved. It was so different than my experiences in the aquarium with my youngest daughter, who is also on the spectrum, and can, at times, become non verbal and flap or windmill when excited. She had, as a child, even volunteered with some events (like the grunion run, since her older sister was working the event at the time) and we made a point of taking her to every festival and event in the time we lived there.

As a parent of a child with autism, I know how terrible it is for our kids (and ourselves!) to feel unwelcome or treated with a lack of compassion in public spaces, so this whole thing was especially painful for me to read about. My youngest and I have had more than our share of unhappy experiences.

I’m glad Ed made good; I was confident the CMA would. The place has been such a refuge for both me and my children (the eldest of which is now a PhD marine biologist candidate), that I am now a docent there. CMA has long been my “happy place”, and I hope it will become the same for you and Andrew!


Jo February 25, 2018 at 4:00 pm

I truly feel Ed and his team were mortified by what happened and want to ensure it never happens again. After speaking with him last night, I felt like I had just met a new ally for our community, and that is more than I could have hoped for. I am looking forward to Andrew experiencing joy in this aquarium for years to come!


Sara Sitton February 25, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Just wanted to say Thank You! I’m in tears because my 18 year old son would have been right there with Andrew! We get looks at first, but most people are kind and understanding once they realize he has autism. I am constantly on guard, acting as a buffer. He is 6’2”, so you can imagine his arm span! He has also recently developed a neck tic accompanied by a grunt, so it has been a little bit more of a challenge lately. He loves shopping for books, movies, and video games, so we try to go out 3 or 4 times a week. I don’t know what I’d do if put in your situation? I’m glad you can work with the aquarium to make sure this never happens again and educate the staff! Our kids deserve to experience life to the fullest!


Marianne Gallagher February 25, 2018 at 8:50 pm

So so happy to see this! Educating the world. one incident at a time.


Britton Minor February 26, 2018 at 1:42 pm

Lots of tears this morning, Jo, happy ones.


Charlotte February 27, 2018 at 7:17 pm

I’m glad to hear that the director reached out to you and is going to learn more about autism and is interested in making things better for individuals with special needs. We have a son with autism. We have a wonderful community and church and so many caring people but we’ve still had bad experiences with public outings on several occasions. I was outraged when I read about your son’s experience, especially when I saw the video of what he was doing and how it wasn’t harming anyone! I don’t usually respond on social media to these incidents but had to in this case. Now that they are making efforts to improve things I will be happy to change my post on their site.


Joey February 28, 2018 at 1:17 am

You are absolutely right. Advocating for our kids is hard. And ugly. And leads to a lot of messy tears. But, when it all comes down, we are the best advocates for our children. I did leave a review, and I did tweet, and I will be happy to send a response in support of the aquarium. We will be visiting the area soon. I hope to see more inclusion. Thank you for what you’ve done to help make the aquarium more friendly to kids of all needs.


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