UPDATE (MAY 2, 2018, 10:59 A.M.): Jacqueline is making a difference after speaking out, claiming her son Nicholas "got kicked out" of the Franklin Lakes Public Library in New Jersey last month.
The RHONJ alum shared on Twitter that she and her husband Chris had a "wonderful" recent meeting with the mayor of Franklin Lakes, Frank Bivona. They also met with the library board "who was equally as wonderful and open for positive changes," Jacqueline tweeted.
Jacqueline is working hard to make Franklin Lakes a more inclusive place after the incident with her son. "Great things are coming soon to #FranklinLakes!" she also shared on Twitter. "Stay tuned! A plan is in action! I am SO excited!"
Jacqueline added in a post on Instagram that she will share more details "as things are finalized!" "Thank you all for your support and love!" she wrote.
The original story continues below.
Jacqueline Laurita has always been open about the challenges her family has faced in dealing with her son Nicholas' battle with autism. But The Real Housewives of New Jersey alum is now calling for greater understanding and inclusion after a recent incident with her son.
Jacqueline claimed that her 8-year-old son "got kicked out of one of his favorite spots (our PUBLIC library) this week," she shared on Instagram Sunday (April 8), along with a video that showed Nicholas tapping on DVDs at the Franklin Lakes Public Library in New Jersey. "My heart hurt so bad for the both of us after I got him out of there. The day before he had such a great experience there. I wish everyone understood #Autism. Time to go back and educate them! Time for inclusion."
When Jacqueline returned home, she shared that she felt motivated to stand up for her son and all those dealing with autism. "I am NOT ok with this! #TimeForChange! #TimeForInclusion #TimeToSpeak Up #TimeForAction Determined to make a difference! #ChrisAndJacFightBack," she said in another post showing Nicholas at the library.
Jacqueline's niece Lauren Manzo Scalia later shared that she called the library "and [calmly] tried to make them understand how this experience hurt @jaclaurita and Nicholas." Caroline Manzo also spoke out about the incident, saying that "we need to educate people."
The Franklin Lakes Public Library's Board of Trustees provided a statement about the incident to NJ.com Monday night. "Our policy of inclusion is demonstrated daily. Our staff has years of experience catering to patrons who are physically challenged, visual or hearing impaired, as well as special education students from our public school system, and developmentally delayed children and adults. No patron is ever asked to leave the library unless and until their actions are depriving other patrons of the ability to enjoy our services."
Jacqueline later reflected on her experience at the Franklin Lakes Public Library in a lengthy note published on Facebook Monday. "I first want to say that my husband and I are very overwhelmed and grateful for the amount of support our family has received after my social media post about the unfortunate incident that happened at the Franklin Lakes [Public] Library the day my son and I were asked to leave. Thank you for understanding that I needed some time to process what had happened," she said. "I do want to be clear that I do not feel that the actions of the one particular staff member reflects the Franklin Lakes [Public] Library as a whole. Although, I am very disappointed with how they decided to handle this situation publicly, as a whole, without taking any accountability, remorse, or declaration to make a change when they made their cold, blanket statement regarding this incident. That is both unfortunate and disturbing."
She also clarified "that there are other staff members at the Franklin Lakes [Public] Library that have been very kind and accepting of my [son's] ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder] idiosyncrasies upon previous visits." However, on that day, Jacqueline said that she felt "hurt" and "mortified" to be asked to leave one of Nicholas' "favorite safe and happy places" in front of others at the library that day.
But now, Jacqueline explained that she is using her "platform as a voice for all other parents who have been in similar situations and have felt the same way I felt." "My goal was never to attack the Franklin Lakes [Public] Library, but it IS certainly my goal to make enough noise using my platform to initiate a positive change in the education and training on ASD (& ALL disabilities), which should be included and required in ALL public facilities and staff, which includes libraries, throughout New Jersey and across the nation," she wrote. "In addition, I’d love to see all libraries and other public facilities provide a sensory inclusive environment and/or services for families with special needs. I have learned there is a definite need for this."
Jacqueline said that she and others in the ASD community are no longer just looking to raise awareness for autism but to achieve "acceptance and inclusion of our children." "The ability for them to be accepted and included in spite of the different way they see and sometimes react to the world. We as a community need compassion. The compassion to understand that all of us are different but yet long to be included," she said on Facebook. "Libraries are no different. They are spaces where everyone should be able to come and learn and be exposed to different knowledge. I’m simply trying to turn a negative experience into a positive situation. Our kids deserve the opportunity to enjoy life and what it has to offer just as much as anyone else."
Jacqueline's husband Chris Laurita also expressed his dissatisfaction with how the library handled the situation with his son in a post on Facebook Tuesday. "I’m just sitting here thinking about what’s transpired over the past couple of days with my son Nick and my wife @JacLaurita at the @FRLKLIBRARY and I just don’t understand why the library didn’t just respond to this incident with a simple apology," he wrote.
Chris detailed how upset both Jacqueline was when she called him and told him about the incident after she and Nicholas left the library. "As a family we came together. I hugged my wife and calmed her down and told her everything was going to be ok and she just needed to take a deep breath and relax. It was over and she needed to just lay down for a minute. My son CJ was hugging his brother Nick and telling him 'don’t worry buddy. It’s ok,'" Chris recalled. "As a father of a special needs child... this is called a 'bad day' because you’re seeing your family hurt... again. Hurt by someone who is ignorant and needs to be educated."
Chris ended the post by making a recommendation on how his family and the Franklin Lakes Public Library should move on from this situation. "Wake up and acknowledge that you made a mistake and should have handled the situation differently. Apologize and invite @JacLaurita and I to come in and show us your facility and the programs you have in place to accommodate our children who go there to learn and enjoy their time. Allow us to offer suggestions on how the program can be improved and set an example for other libraries all across the country. Turn this negative situation into a positive and be the example for change and acceptance," he said. "There are people all over the world who are watching you and waiting for you to do what’s right. That’s all we want. A place our kids can go to be accepted and feel safe. The ball is in your court. Let’s show the world we’re compassionate understanding, accepting and open to change for the better good."
See more of Jacqueline and her family, below.
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