Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sesame Place Chooses Us

I remember when I didn't know, what I know now, about life with a child who has a disability. I went on my merry way, not really thinking much about how a day would go or play out. Now though, its all different and I do my best juggling five kids with one on the spectrum, trying to not let anyone down.

Recently, my husband and I chose to make some changes. It seemed on the weekends he was trying to give me a "break" from autism life and I was trying to run, to get away and pretend that life was as it was before our youngest arrived, but truth be told, its not so, a few weeks ago we adjusted and I am so glad we did.

Today I set off to the newly identified "Autism Certified" Sesame Place. I couldn't take the entire family as Sesame Place isn't exactly geared towards teens and tweens but as daddy set off to lunch and lax, I was driving down country roads to experience what was different first hand.

Though it was opening weekend the park wasn't yet packed and we parked and walked in. I knew my daughter had food allergies so I had her snacks packed, trying to adhere to their no picnic policy, I had some fruits and veggies as well as some nuts. It was absolutely no issue for us to take those snacks in and the guard was kind and friendly directing me to the next booth to identify Seraphina's needs.

Just inside the gate we waited and visited the Guest Services where we were given a sticker to put on our annual pass. This ride accessibility sticker lets others know that Seraphina may have trouble waiting an if I need, I can get her into the ride more quickly at that time. I am lucky as one of Seraphina's programs at school is waiting and today we worked on it and never needed to use that pass. There was one time when I thought I may have to pull the card and jump the line but she made it and I was grateful that I had that sticker to fall back on.

Though it was hard for her to wait at times, whenever anyone noticed her sticker, they were extra cautious. At one point a team member asked if they could touch her or if she would be upset. I thought asking mom was a great way to learn and protect all of us from a melt down.

I also ran into another team member and asked about the newly identified quiet rooms. She told me where to go to find them but if I couldn't find them to just find any team member and tell them and they would try to help. Everyone wanted to be gracious and helpful, and though the sticker meant something I think they would have done the same for any child.

Seraphina struggled today at times too because the water rides weren't open. She desperately wanted to go in the "Castle" but had to wait. She didn't melt though I could tell she was gearing up however there were enough distractions that she didn't go into full melt down mode. 

Finally, the highlight of the day was when one employee, working the Flying Cookie Jars kindly talked to Seraphina and took the time to speak just to her, tell her she was beautiful and ask her for a "high 5". Seraphina never made eye contact but she never gave up and for me that meant the world.

The characters were around Sesame Place but they were not obviously approaching kids. They waited for children to approach them. Seraphina was petrified and hid behind me as we walked around we gave wide berth and she passed by and carried on her merry way.

We lasted three hours on our first trip. It was perfect. Though we had only visited Sesame Place once before, I felt the changes they have  made were already visible. We now have season passes for 3 of the 7 of us and almost intuitively Seraphina asked for a "Julia" at the end of the day...and who can say "no" to that smile, especially when she says please.

As I always say, I wouldn't choose this journey and there were a few moments at Sesame Place when I wished we could be together as a family but I realize that no matter if we are physically together or not, we are together in our common goal, to do the best we can with the lives we have been given and today was a great reminder.

Thank you to Sesame Place for choosing us. You see, with your education, you pass on tidbits that will enable your employees to choose to carry education on autism and disabilities into the world furthering the commitment to understanding and acceptance of autism.

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