OREM, Utah – An Orem mother says she tried to get her autistic son to leave an all-abilities park when police officers asked them to go, but, the boy wouldn’t listen and she ended up getting cited.
Weeks before the All-Together Playground opened to the public, the city of Orem handled several vandalism and trespassing cases. People still weren’t getting the message, so they were cited.
There was a lot of excitement building up to the October 15th opening of Orem’s first all-abilities playground.
“It had been talked about for 9 months," Orem City Spokesman Steven Downs said. "It was fundraised with a half million dollars, built by 4,000 volunteers. Everybody knew it was coming."
City leaders say while it was under construction, some people just couldn’t wait.
“It hadn't passed final inspection, the ground wasn't ready to be played on yet, so we had placed signs throughout the park saying the park was closed,” Downs said.
A neighbor called police telling them a group of people with their children were using the playground. Emily Uasila’a was there with her daughter and son, Tali.
“He told everyone to move out and of course everyone took off except for me because Tali doesn't listen,” Uasila’a said.
Eight-year-old Tali has autism.
“Autistic kids, they walk to their own beat of the drum,” Uasila’a said.
Emily pointed out his limitations to the officer.
“He was asking my son to get off the swing, and he was ignoring him, and I was like, 'Stop talking to him, he's autistic. He's not gonna listen to you,'" Uasila'a recalls.
The officer cited Emily and two other people who didn’t leave. She received a summons to appear in the Orem Justice Court.
“I didn't learn that until yesterday that they were charging me with criminal trespassing, and I was just trying to get my son out of the park,” Uasila’a said.
A park, ironically, Emily says is designed for children like Tali.
Orem City says they’re trying to protect all children from getting hurt.
“We never mean to put anybody who is in a difficult situation in a more difficult situation,” Downs said. “We can't subjectively enforce certain laws and choose not to enforce other laws. There's a lot at stake with this playground and with the safety of the children, and we want to respect the safety of those kids.”
Emily will have an opportunity to share her story with a judge in January.