Family with non-verbal child - thoughts?

I had an interesting situation this past week and I’d like to hear what other folks think is appropriate.

I don’t want anyone slamming the guests, please - they were great guests in many ways and I hope to stay in touch with them. They did what they did and you may think it in appropriate but that’s not the discussion here.

My guests share our home - they have their rooms on the lower level but come-and-go through the front door and have breakfast upstairs. Most guests use public transportation and in other ways want a lot of help navigating the many wonderful sights here in Washington DC.

OK - so I had a booking for a family of 4 for two nights. Said their daughter is 12 and son 16. Great. Said the daughter has a gluten-free diet. Cool - I do, too, so I used it as an occassion to buy some goodies for breakfast, like GF frozen waffles.

Well, the daughter is profoundly delayed. She is completely non-verbal but vocalizes non-stop while shaking her hands. She drools profusely, itches herself, wanders about touching things. Every night before bed she screams for about 20 minutes. She could not walk down the stairs alone (the guests sleep downstairs).

The guests were very friendly and ended up spending time upstairs visiting with us while the daughter ‘sang’ away underneath the dining room table.

We were OK with it - it was uncomfortable at times - annoying, too - the worst part was the screaming at night because they didn’t tell us until the next day that this is her pattern. However, various guests do things we don’t prefer; it goes with the business. I don’t have a strong territorial feeling - it wouldn’t have bothered me if she went into my room and dumped out my drawers - big deal. The parents were extremely attentive.

I was surprised they didn’t think to mention something to give me a clue. It seems like having a child like that, signing up to share a home - knowing how some people would be bothered -

What do you all think?

btw the worst part is she is NOT ‘gluten-free’ she is on a paleo type diet, prescribed by a specialist in Philadelphia they visit for therapy. So, no gluten-free waffles for her! Or any of the other foods I purchased.


I’m glad that they were nice people. It was probably a valuable experience for your own kids too. But the one mistake they made was not to let you know in advance, I think.

You are a super tolerant host but I think many others would have hated the screaming thing.


ekkk I don’t know how I would feel about this, but I would probably be slightly on edge having never dealt with any disability, ever.


The school where I worked had a unit of kids like this and while I didn’t have them in class (obviously they don’t go to regular classes) I am used to seeing them. It’s not just that it’s uncomfortable, it’s that it really is rude. She’s drooling and touching your things? Screaming for 20 minutes at a time? No. They need to rent an entire home. If they did tell me this beforehand I wouldn’t have rented to them and if they didn’t tell me then I would write a very comprehensive review. If they aren’t going to be considerate of those in whose homes they stay then the community depends on you to review them accurately.


Did they have any prior reviews?


How is it you thought the child was gluten free and then you find out she wasn’t? Which you say was the worst part.
I think they should have informed you that their child was special needs before they booked.


The dad (who booked the room) told me she was gluten-free, and I asked twice about special diet needs. Because I know it’s tough traveling when eating gluten-free, I delighted in splurging on some fun things for her - only to find out that the doesn’t eat anything with any kind of sugar, or any type of dairy.

1 Like

Apparently, if one is in the middle of the review process, you can’t see the reviews the person has. I can see reviews for all of my past guests except for the most recent two, for which the process is still open.

I really don’t know how to review them. It’s tough. They were fine, left everything clean - they got some marker on a pillow case but brought it right to me (love that). When they came home from their adventures they told me how their day was, and then, asked me how MY day was.

But if I don’t mention this other issue, I won’t feel like I’m being honest. But I can’t dodge the bullet - it’s something I have to figure out.

1 Like

Hey Nancy, I was really interested to read your post…it makes you wonder about having to ask families whether they or their children have any special requirements that us, as hosts, may need to take into account to “ensure they have a comfortable stay” or something along those lines. Although I suspect that these parents, and others in their situation avoid telling people for fear they will be turned away which is terribly sad. I teach children how to cook during school holidays and was recently faced with a similar (but not NEARLY as stressful) situation when a child came along who was clearly somewhere on the autistic spectrum. I didn’t mind at all but I did really wish the mother had told me when she made the booking so I could be prepared and also forewarn the other children (e.g… “you may find ‘X’ a little bit different to you, please be understanding”). I now say to new families ‘is there anything I need to know to make sure your child has the best possible day?’.
Regarding the gluten-free…argh! I stupidly asked one of my first ever guests whether he or his wife had any dietary requirements to be told “no lactose or gluten thank you very much”. Spent a small fortune stocking their breakfast tray with allergen-free foods…only for them to not touch any of it while they dined out every morning. It was spoiled by the time they checked out…now I just don’t ask and if people don’t eat my $1 per loaf bread, it’s no biggie!


I had a similar situation recently. A mother booked with two kids. All of her previous reviews with her partner has been great. We have a granny flat in the backyard so thankfully not in our house. They arrived and the younger child has Downs Syndrome. Not a problem. I’m also a teacher so can handle a lot. He ran straight into our house to look around, the older brother, about 12 years, followed to drag him out. Then the screaming started and did not stop for three hours. He was obviously non-verbal autistic. Even when they were in the pool having fun he screamed.

I locked our doors so he couldn’t get back in and rang Airbnb to find out what to do. I was sure the neighbours were going to complain. After three hours the screaming stopped.

They left early the next day. They left a good review and she apologised for the disruption and said ‘it happens sometimes’.

I didn’t review her as I couldn’t say anything good or that could be misconstrued as discrimination. I felt sorry for her and the older brother but agree they should rent a whole house or a farm somewhere. If she had have disclosed I would have rented our other place which is on 5 acres to her and the child could scream all he likes as only the sheep would be disturbed.


We have some two set of friends both with special needs children. I can’t imagine they would book an Air in someone’s home/or entire home without at least mentioning their children’s needs, mainly for their children’s safety. For example one of the girls loves to explore and wander off, obviously this can be dangerous, so the Mum is very cautious about making sure the exploring is limited to a safe, closed in area. The Mum always takes stock of the surroundings before she puts her child in that environment. However, the flip side is maybe these guests brought it up in previous request to book, and they were denied, because the other hosts discriminated.


Yes that is probably true.

If It were me I would pop something in the review probably at the end with a positive spin on it.

1 Like

im sorry, its so funny, they dont even know the name of the diet, mix it with something different, not to mention, that it doesnt help on children with special needs… i suppose the specialist who “prescribed” the diet, just gave them something like he/she could advice anything useful. on the top, paleo diet is a scam.

you ask, why they didnt tell you before the booking - if they would, how many hosts would accept them? screaming during night, impossible diet, especially that a lot of people doesnt feel comfortable with children with special needs (its not good, but this is a fact).

1 Like

You asked them twice. They declined to tell you what would surely happen every night in your house. They should either book a whole house/apt unit or be forthcoming about the issues. If they get rejected they get rejected. Not all hosts will decline them.

This reminds me of a guest who asked to book and had a child with a non-functioning anal sphincter and some various food intolerances. As a result, diarrhea oozed down the child’s leg most of the time. Maybe they shouldn’t book a carpeted listing.

If you’re applying to stay in someone else’s home you had better tell the truth. There is either a situation (whole house/apt) or a compassionate host who will accept you somewhere. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging the trust and getting a negative review or worse.


Pile up a stack of negative reviews and no one will accept them going forward. Will they be like Chen and just move from site to site?


Thanks for your thoughts, everyone. I think I will actually call airbnb and discuss it. If anyone else has more to add I would surely appreciate it.

I wish now that I had taken the time to discuss this with the mom privately - to ask her “what were you thinking?, what were your expectations? Did you think about how this would affect the host family?”

It just feels really uncomfortable ‘outing’ them in a review - because it’s such a personal situation -

One thought I had is I could say how much I admired the “mom’s attentiveness to her non-verbal child” Or something.

Really, it would make a world of diff if they had told me the first night that their daughter has a screaming episode every night before falling asleep. My husband and I were awake listening to it thinking “oh my God, what is happening?!” I half expected them to come upstairs and say “I’m sorry, but we can not stay here, our daughter is not comfortable” or something.

Tricky - what an adventure this hosting is - like @suzehamling says, now we have to add that to the questions we will want to ask “Do you have any special diet/did you notice you have to pay taxes upon arrival/do any of your children drool everywhere and vocalize non-stop, screaming for the last 30 minutes of every day…”

1 Like

I just want to repeat…You owe it to us–your fellow hosts–to “out” them in your review. It doesn’t matter how nice a couple they are, they are being selfish and rude to seriously disrupt a host’s home, a host’s neighborhood in this way. Their non-disclosure of such serious issue borders on fraudulent. I have all the empathy in the world for their situation, but I am not a social service agency. Maybe in your private feedback you can say something soothing to maintain the relationship you say you want to have with this mother but they need to understand the way the airbnb reviews are crucial to the model.


I’m tending to agree with this. If they turned up and at my door and I don’t think I could cope at all with what your family went through! xx



While it sucks that they didn’t want to be rejected, it is so unfair to not give fair warning to a host. DC - don’t you have at least 3 children? What if the guest’s special needs child, caused disruption with your own children? I have no idea if any of your children are special needs - but what if one of your kids went bonkers. I know your kids are exposed to a lot, but imagine a brand new host with small children who aren’t exposed to much.

Anyway, this reminds me of people with service dogs. I read on several forums where people with service dogs eventually just quit disclosing that they had one, and would just show up at the rental with their dog - I’m referring to whole home vacation rentals that do not accept pets. (And, yes I understand service dogs are not considered pets).

I have no idea if they were first seeking out pet friendly rentals and none were available, or not. And while hotels usually have specific rooms dedicated for those with dogs, it’s unfair to an individual host or the following guests with allergies- for the service owner not to disclose this information. So while discrimination sucks and it is real…is it really fair for the next family who booked the home based on the fact that the home doesn’t have dog dander? Is it fair that the housekeeper shows up and all of sudden realizes a labrador has stayed for an entire week, and now she can’t have the entire place ready for next guests to check in time?

1 Like

I feel families with special needs kids are at high risk of discrimination so while I agree that some of these families might be best off renting entire units & not home-sharing, this is very contingent on the specific child. Most kids with DS that Ive interacted with are more pleasant than my “chromosomally normal” 3 yo (a loud whiner who is prone to tantrums & who I would never inflict on a host in a shared space).

A family renting a shared space ought to disclose what behaviors could be expected but I would think that’s the case with anyone bringing children. What’s the difference between hosting a teething 5 month old (who drools constantly, may cry before going down, etc) & a 4 yo who does this? Both are quite loud & potentially unpleasant.