To Ride or Not To Ride: Amusement Parks and Special Needs

To Ride or Not To Ride: Amusement Parks and Special Needs

I first read the article about the amusement park, then watched the attached video of the child who melted down at the amusement park.  The video explains that the child could not understand or rather process the information that they would have to wait to ride.  The video further explained that due to policy changes at the park, the once easy on and off this family had experienced, was now not the case.

I watched this video again, and I was momentarily transported back some 12 years ago when my daughter was in the deep throes of her Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD.  I knew those meltdowns far too well.  We lived those meltdowns far far too often.  Elizabeth’s disorder of SPD, for her, made all sensations seem offensive, or wrong.  That included lights that were too bright, sounds that were too loud, shoes that were too tight, if you can think of a sensation, she was afraid of it.  Even a bath with its warm water, quite a comfort for many, would make her cry.  When she was done somewhere, when her system was overloaded, she would start to meltdown, and cry.  In our situation, there was no making it better, to force her to stay somewhere, or try to distract her.  Reasoning with Elizabeth  and coaxing her would never make it better.  For us, these meltdowns occurred in all public places.  I was momentarily there with that mother, watching her child act this way for reasons no one can fix right then, watching her child be WATCHED by so many who really have no idea what the child has or cannot possibly know what it is like to have a child who has needs like these special children do.

The video ended as did my memory walk…I looked up at Elizabeth then and thought of where we began, OT, PT, speech, music therapy, craniosacral therapy…on and on, and it all worked, she is no longer that same child, she has grown and changed in amazing ways. But back then, I would have looked gratefully upon the offer of help to accomplish an errand, a chance to move ahead in the line, an empathetic moment from a parent whose typically developing children allow her the luxury to chat with them in the check out line, not perspire and shift your weight from one foot to the next, just hoping to get your items checked out before your child deems it time to go.

I did not ask others to move, but I would have been grateful for the chance to move ahead.  I would not have felt it my right but would have been so appreciative of the offer.

I don’t typically venture into politically charged topics or really into any that have such strong sides taken as evidenced by the remarks found at the bottom of the original article in the USA Today, but that video hit so close to home.

To Ride or Not To Ride | Amusement Parks and Policies with Special NeedsI have to offer out some thoughts.  To allow a child/children who need that little bit more, to step ahead in line, to ride a ride that typically lasts 60-90 seconds is a gift.  To allow a child to BE a child for that  60-90 seconds is a gift.  These children live lives so full of work and trials each day that to give them this little bit somehow seems so right.   To allow the families of these children the chance to enjoy a carefree moment for those 60-90 seconds is a gift.

I offer my thoughts out as simply those, my thoughts.  So as it is such, I can only comment that those parks that still offer out the chance for families to step ahead in line….congratulations to you and those who make your policies for recognizing a chance to offer such a gift.  To those whose places changed those policies, please know those minutes spent waiting for their “appointment” will seem an eternity, I know as I lived it.  I offer that you should think, that you tout yourselves as a place to bring a family etc… but if so, please let it include ALL families.

60-90 seconds, so little time, so much talk, but so much more to so many.


(Photo By: PittCaleb)

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One Comment

  1. Cheryl Bailey
    Cheryl Bailey June 24, 2013 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Love how you point out that few seconds…is a gift. Oh so true. I really think a lot of the new policy’s in parks is due to flat out abuse..and yes…from us with special need children. Bottom line, know your child and their needs. If a child CAN stand in line, let them don’t just use a pass because you qualify for it and have it. Know park times, avoid times with the largest crowds, the hottest days, ect., that bring on issues from the NT crowd because you got a pass. That having been said for years we joked with friends and family that was headed to Disney parks to talk John for the pass. No takers!! Gee I wonder why. Changing Depends, having a child that will not ride things that swing, spins, flip, and would melt down at the sight to them…no never got to “rent him out” for a day.

    Great post…thanks for having the courage to take on this subject and share. 🙂

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