Autism Advocate Says Woman Did Nothing Wrong, Teen Should Have Been Controlled
Boca Raton’s Woodfield Country Club Investigating, Reviewing Incident
BY: ANDREW COLTON | Editor and Publisher
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — A woman using a treadmill in the Woodfield Country Club gym asked a teenager living with Autism, on another treadmill, to stop spitting in her direction. When the teen’s therapist offered no assistance, the woman called on Woodfield’s gym managers to take action. That woman, Alana Shevak, is now the subject of bullying online and in-person.
“I feel like it’s a gang of people who know the other side and don’t know me,” said Shevak. “They are shunning me. They are personally attacking me and my character.”
Woodfield Country Club General Manager Eban Molloy confirmed the incident to BocaNewsNow.com.
“The Club doesn’t comment on pending matters” he said. “The Club is aware of the incident and is still gathering all facts.”
Shevak, in an exclusive interview with BocaNewsNow.com, says she appreciates that she acted aggressively, but that spitting in the midst of COVID isn’t okay. She said she never intended to hurt the teen’s feelings. She suggested, however, that the family’s response seemed a bit prepared.
“The therapist must have texted the father who came flying out of another room. He was screaming and personally insulting me,” said Shevak. “The trainer must have texted him. He said ‘I find you rude. Go get another mani-pedi.’ When I left the father was threatening me.”
The father, Bill Karger, responded to text messages sent on Sunday from BocaNewsNow.com requesting a phone interview. He originally said yes, but then didn’t respond on Monday. Karger texted this statement on Sunday:
“It’s unacceptable,” he wrote. “It was horrific and my son is still having emotional issues because of this woman.”
But Shevak says Karger saw nothing and knew nothing of the incident until his son’s therapist alerted him to the situation.
Within hours, Shevak said she became the subject of online harassment, received threatening phone calls from at least one of the teen’s family members, and continues to be bullied in the community. Shevak says she has a nephew with Autism and is shocked by the response in Woodfield.
“The teen was coughing and spitting,” said Shevak. “Now in this new world we’re all in a panic with germs. Doctors have said time and time again if someone is coughing and spitting, you need to go a different way.”
The incident highlights the challenging environment facing country clubs and homeowners associations in Palm Beach County. There are no COVID-19 restrictions on gym use, but there is an expectation that gym patrons are going to behave in a manner that doesn’t put others at risk.
Gail Field, who owns We Rock The Spectrum — a play center for children with Autism in Boca Raton — says the teen’s therapist should have removed the teen from the Woodfield Country Club gym.
“If it was my child,” said Field, who has a child with Autism, “I would try to schedule a time for him to come in on his own. And I’m going to tell you right now that the therapist should be fired. I can’t imagine a therapist who would allow spitting, COVID or not. That’s on the therapist.”
Field says Woodfield did nothing wrong, but offers a suggestion.
“Woodfield management should say that they understand the teen is having a hard time right now and they’d love to offer him an hour to enjoy the gym by himself,” she said. “Inclusion is important but so is safety. If the therapist can’t control (the teen), then the therapist should have removed the teen from the gym until he is ready to act in a more appropriate way.”
Shevak said she can live with the teen’s frequent screaming and outbursts in the gym, but the spitting is just too much.
“Woodfield is constantly cleaning, wiping, doing everything it possibly can. But there’s nothing you can do if someone is spitting.”
Spitting aside, Shevak said she believes the teen is “a very sweet boy,” and she would like to move forward.
“I feel it was a total overreaction from everyone,” she said. “I’d be willing to apologize if they can apologize. We can all go our separate ways.”
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