Author Topic: How to handle a mentally challenged person.  (Read 4529 times)

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circlekiller

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How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« on: February 22, 2012, 02:59:40 PM »
Let me start off by saying yes, I feel horrible having to post this but I'm at my wit's end and not sure how to handle.  I've been a member of a gym going on 3 years now.  There is an adult, mentally-challenged (or whatever the PC term is for it) 40+ year old woman whose parents drop her off at the beginning of the day and pick her up around 8:00 at night.

When I first started attending the gym, she would come over as soon as I walked in (not just me but as each person comes into the door) and want to talk to you.  Not having a problem with that, I would always say hello then go about my way.  However, it has escalated to the point that whenever someone walks in, she starts yelling hi from across the gym.  Doesn't matter if you are on the phone, talking to someone else, have on ear phones, if you don't hear and acknowledge her, she has what I can only describe as a meltdown.  Foot stomping, huffing and puffing, she makes quite the production.

When we are lining up during a class, or getting our equipment out, she's walking around the room trying to talk to everyone.  I wouldn't mind that but she'll take it up a notch if you talk to her back.  She'll start grabbing and hugging on you, she tried to kiss another lady member on the mouth, walking around pulling down her pants or pulling up her shirt to show off if she's wearing a new bra or panties.  She's disrupting the classes when they are in session, yelling out, trying to talk to people that may have come in late.  One instructor got so fed up she forbade her from coming into the class area.

Well that set off WWIII with her parents, who marched up to the gym, spouting the ADA act and made such a fuss that the gym told the instructor that she couldn't not let her in the class.  Consequently, the instructor in question (who was there for five years) quit.  Please note, she is not participating in the classes, there are other challenged individuals who do attend the class and actually participate, but this is not the case with this person.  When she's not interrupting, she stands up front by the mirror staring at herself and playing with her hair.  There was one incident she grabbed the clock off the wall and smashed it on the floor.

Again, please don't think I'm a big meanie, I do have sympathy for people like her.  That being said though, the gym is not an adult daycare facility.  I'm kinda an introvert and DO NOT like to be touched or having her in my face every time I walk in the door.  I come straight from work and if it's been a really bad day, I just want to come in and work out.  Not only that, she's disrupting the class and someone is going to get distracted and get hurt.  I am not the only person feeling like this.  She kept interrupted the class last night and the instructor was visibly irritated and had to keep telling her to quit talking.  Other members have stated they are uncomfortable with her as well. 

I'd like to send an email or write something to the managers of the gym.  I don't feel she should be banned but I do feel that she should be escorted by her parents since they feel so strongly about her being able to attend the class.  How do I phrase a letter given the delicate nature of her disability without sounding like a big mentally-challenged hater?

gemma156

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2012, 03:09:17 PM »
You address the managers of the gym and cc the owners, of their duty of care to all their clients and then list how they are not meeting them in regard to the harassment of this client's behaviour to you.  The smashing of the clock is the perfect example of how safety was compromised for the rest of the clients attending the gym that day. 

WillyNilly

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2012, 03:10:05 PM »
I think all your issues are valid.  my suggestion for writing the letter would be to leave out the part about her being mentally challenged.  Its actually besides the point.  Her mental capacity isn't the problem.  Her behavior is.  It really doesn't matter why she's being disruptive, it only matters that she is harassing and molesting people (unwanted touching is molestation - might not be sexual molestation which where most people's minds go to when they hear that word, but it is straight up non-sexual molestation... although the kisses, exposing herself and hugs might actually fall under sexual molestation or harassment, I'm not well versed on the particulars).

ADA means the gym can't deny her from being there for being mentally challenged, but ADA doesn't mean they have to allow someone in who touches people against their will or who disrupts classes or who destroys gym property willfully (the clock incident).

BeagleMommy

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2012, 03:14:10 PM »
The ADA was created to ensure that people with disabilities are given fair and equal treatment.  If someone who was not challenged was acting this way they would be made to leave.  This woman obviously needs someone to supervise her.  I think the best way to do this is to either speak directly with, or email, the management of the gym.  May something like:

Dear Manager:

There has been an ongoing issue concerning the behavior of Member Susie.  I understand she has mental health issues, but she is continually disruptive in the gym.  List examples and dates if possible.  I am also concerned that her behavior could cause injury to herself or another member.  She has already caused one instructor to quit.  Please try to speak with her guardians about providing a companion to assist her while she is at the gym.

The gym is not an adult day care and her parents are abusing the privilege and hiding behind the ADA.

MrTango

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012, 03:18:44 PM »
I would complain to the management about her.  I would give her one warning to leave me alone and not touch me.

I would go so far as to call the police* if she continued acting in a harassing manner or touching me without my consent.

*ETA: I would call myself, rather than asking management to call for me.

Sabbyfrog2

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2012, 03:26:02 PM »
So, the parents are dumping their daughter who they obviously can't handle using the gym as an adult with special needs day care facility and no one has called them them on it because.... ??? That's not acceptable, in the slightest. Shame on those parents. I have no doubt that they've used her condition all her life as an excuse for rudeness. Dumping her at the gym and trying to hide behind the ADA as only confirms that. That's entitlement at best and neglect at worst. I'd not only be writing a letter to gym management, but I'd also be contacting someone at the state agencies to see if there is anything to be done as far as the parents are concerned but that's getting into legal territory...

Point blank, as she still obviously has the mind of a child, it is dangerous for that woman to be there unsupervised. Besides the fact that she is obviously not capable of properly using the equipment, she could also try to hug on the wrong person who could either 1) take great offense and react violently or 2) be a predator of some kind and take her hug as an invitation for more.
She's also a danger to you all if she has more violent outbursts like she did with the clock.

Write the letter or email. Let them know that she isn't actually participating in classes but is instead actually causing an interuption and most importantly, there is a safety issue with her being left unattended. The safety issue alone should be enough to get someones attention. I'd also encourage the gym managers to start video on the main entrance and public areas of the gym, as well as keeping tabs on her membership card swipes if you have those at your gym. Those could be useful as evidence later should the parents try to come after the gym for discrimination.

As far as dealing with her, I'd say use the ol' ehell approved. "No. Please do not touch me." and put your arm out. Keep repeating. Either she will learn (because despite some peoples beliefs she probably is very capable of learning) or she will walk away and cry every time. Either way, she isn't your problem.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 03:30:50 PM by Sabbyfrog2 »

rashea

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2012, 03:29:59 PM »
The current term is person with a developmental disability.

I'd write:

Dear Manager:

There has been an ongoing issue concerning the behavior of Member Susie.  I understand she has a developmental disability, but she is continually disruptive in the gym.  Her behavior is causing me to feel unsafe and frustrated in the gym. A few examples of behavior that makes me uncomfortable:
She'll start grabbing and hugging on you
she tried to kiss another lady member on the mouth
walking around pulling down her pants or pulling up her shirt to show off if she's wearing a new bra or panties
she grabbed the clock off the wall and smashed it on the floor

I am also concerned that her behavior could cause injury to herself or another member. I would appreciate your attention to this matter.



In other words, don't make it about the disability, make it about the behavior. I'd avoid any mention of her guardians, because she's an adult, and regardless of disability should be treated as one to the extent possible. That means banning her if she can't behave.
"Manners change, principles don't. It's about treating people with consideration, respect and honesty." Peter Post

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weeblewobble

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2012, 03:30:45 PM »
Absolutely contact the management/owners  Her behavior is not appropriate. This woman could be very easily injured by using gym equipment incorrectly or unwittingly getting in the way when other people are playing sports or using weight equipment.  Not to mention she's vulnerable if a random gym member decides to take advantage of her.

The bottom line is that her presence/behavior is making it difficult to use and enjoy the gym.

When you contact the management, do not emphasize her disability.  Emphasize the disruption.

"Dear Gym Management,

I have been a member of your gym for three years.  Lately, the behavior of Gym Member X has seriously interfered with my ability to use and enjoy the facilities.  On a regular basis, X has

*Exposed herself to other members
*Inappropriately touched and kissed other members
*Disrupted exercise classes
*Destroyed gym equipment (a clock)

Attempts to talk to X about this behavior has become pointless and she throws tantrum and disrupts use of the gym when she doesn't get enough attention.  I request that X be supervised by her parents or an adult care provider when she uses the gym.  If this does not happen within 90 days, I let my membership lapse at the first opportunity and find another gym. 

I do not want to leave Globo Gym.  I have genuinely enjoyed my time at the facility.  However, I can not continue to use Globo Gym under these conditions.

If you have any questions, please contact me at XXX-XXXX.

Sincerely
Circle Killer
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 03:32:51 PM by weeblewobble »

Twik

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2012, 03:32:13 PM »
Honestly? I would not stay a member in that gym.

WHen the owners allowed her to molest other members, destroy property and force a valued employee to quit, they were tellling everyone "We are too afraid of this woman's parents to do anything about this. Our terror of a lawsuit is more important than any desire to make the gym pleasant for anyone else." They won't do anything. I'd vote with my feet, and find somewhere that I could exercise in peace.
My cousin's memoir of love and loneliness while raising a child with multiple disabilities will be out on Amazon soon! Know the Night, by Maria Mutch, has been called "full of hope, light, and companionship for surviving the small hours of the night."

Animala

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2012, 03:34:05 PM »
Ugh.  I don't have any letter writing suggestions and I realize this might be considered an over reaction, but I would consider placing an anonymous call to adult protective services.  I say this because she is not being provided adequate supervision and there are people who prey on those types of opportunities. 

I don't think you are the least bit unreasonable or horrible.  You should be able to enjoy the services that you pay for without being disturbed.  They are really doing a disservice to their daughter and I can't believe you've put up for it this long.

JenJay

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2012, 03:41:11 PM »
I feel for you, OP, that would be horrible. I also feel for her - she probably doesn't want to be left at the gym all stinking day and gets very bored and lonely (I'm not allowed to post the words I'd like to use to describe her parents!). I also feel for the owners/managers because being threatened with an ADA lawsuit would be very intimidating. I wonder if it would help to approach them and offer to write a letter on their behalf citing why, as a member of the gym, you feel the situation is out of control and the lady is endangering herself and other members?

rashea

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2012, 03:48:28 PM »
Ugh.  I don't have any letter writing suggestions and I realize this might be considered an over reaction, but I would consider placing an anonymous call to adult protective services.  I say this because she is not being provided adequate supervision and there are people who prey on those types of opportunities. 

There is just no way they are able to handle this in most states. Right now, most states are only able to handle cases that involve threat to life or limb.
"Manners change, principles don't. It's about treating people with consideration, respect and honesty." Peter Post

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Twik

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2012, 03:56:41 PM »
I'm afraid that I don't see any point in contacting the gym, other than to let them know that they have lost a customer. The gym knows this woman is there all day, and that she's even driven an employee to quit. They know there is a problem. However, it's not a problem they are interested in solving, or they would have done so before now.
My cousin's memoir of love and loneliness while raising a child with multiple disabilities will be out on Amazon soon! Know the Night, by Maria Mutch, has been called "full of hope, light, and companionship for surviving the small hours of the night."

Cami

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2012, 04:00:16 PM »
I think the management has shown that they are more interested in foolishly caving into Susie's parents than in servicing the other members AND protecting their own business. (It is certainly not in their best interests to allow someone to engage in this behavior and drive other members away. Also sooner or later, someone is going to get hurt and they bear a meaure of liability for knowingly allowing this behavior to go on.)

At this point, I'd probably write a letter to management telling them that I was resigning and insisting upon a return of any monies owed me/release from a contract. If you are unable to participate in the gym activities due to the behavior of another member which they refuse to handle, then they have broken their side of the bargain.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2012, 04:06:01 PM by Cami »

GlassHalfFull

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Re: How to handle a mentally challenged person.
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2012, 04:03:29 PM »
POD to other posters who suggested contacting management via a letter.  Perhaps check the rules of conduct statement that the gym likely has and site specific rules that this member has violated.  Also, while her behavior is definitely the main issue, I wonder at the policy of the gym to accept youth members, and have them at the gym unsupervised? Even though this member is chronologically an adult, her mental capability may technically require a guardian present for her safety, regardless of whether her behavior were perfectly pleasant or not.  I can't imagine how getting dropped off for entire days in a gym is beneficial for this poor woman....shame on her parents.