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Mom feels IKEA policy discriminated against her son who has autism

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MERRIAM, Kan. – All kids are welcome. Well, almost. A playground policy at Ikea left a metro mom and her special needs son feeling isolated and discriminated against.

Tuesday night, that mom had planned to reward her boy at the end of their shopping trip by stopping at the playground on the way out. Nine-year-old Drake suffers from autism, which requires him to have a caregiver. Ikea says that’s the reason he had to find somewhere else to play.

The global home store giant said there are three parts to its playground policy: height restrictions, potty-training, and no adults allowed. It was the last part that kept Toni Donahue’s son from playing with other kids on Tuesday night. She said management told her a caregiver could not go inside.

She said she did offer to let him go in alone but said an employee told her “no” since she’d already described his disability. Ikea denies that claim. Donahue said it took three managers and about an hour of back and forth before she eventually just left. She called the policy “prehistoric” and said her son cried the whole ride home.

“It's unbelievable in this day and age when we have so many freedoms and rights that a company policy actually denies the child a right to play with other children,” Donahue said.

Annie Crandall, an Ikea media spokesperson, responded by saying: “There are certain pieces that we need to hold in place for the safety of all the kids that come, which is just that we need to make sure that they’re potty trained, they’re within those height restrictions, and that no outside adults are allowed in with them.”

Donahue called the Merriam Police Department, which sent an officer to Ikea Tuesday night. Fox 4 spoke with an officer briefly and was told the department wouldn’t let him comment on what happened. Ikea says it does not have a policy specific to kids with special needs.