Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘ride

Yep, for reals. That’s a lot of the reason I haven’t been here much lately. I got to the point where I started to think twice about blogging about ds. What’s new to talk about? What will people want to read about? It also gets harder to discuss some things at times. Did I need to stop blogging and re-focus?

After a lot of thought, I’m back blogging. I’ve probably lost most of my readers, but we’ll see. I’ve taken some time to think about the whole point of my blog, and while I’m not sure of the real point yet, there’s still plenty of things to blog about.

Like migraines.

Ds started having headaches a few weeks ago. To be clear, he’s always had them periodically, at least every couple of weeks, and they’ve just gotten a lot more frequent. I’ve spent a lot of time running to the school to either pick him up or give him some pain reliever. I’ve spent equal amounts of time trying to talk him from needing to come home. In the end, he missed a few days of school by either leaving early or staying home entirely for a headache. That just makes it more stressful for him, as he has homework to catch up on. But, his teacher’s been understanding and he’s not been overwhelmed. The doctor ordered bloodwork, and an MRI. We had a social story about the MRI, including pictures of what to expect. (Finding a picture showing the inside of the MRI machine was a challenge, I could only find cartoon cutaways.) Hopefully, the MRI will show nothing, and we’ll move on to treat the headaches as migraines. The bummer is that it may mean an additional daily medication as preventative, and the first doctor pointed out that headaches can be from seizures. I really didn’t want/need to hear that — we already know the path my daughter’s headaches took, so I’m praying ds goes a different direction. No sign of anything else, so it’s a realistic hope.

On other fronts, things are going well in school. He’ll likely be in the GATE program next year. He gets easily bored if the work isn’t challenging enough, and he hates to have to wait for the other kids to finish work after he’s done. And he’s distracted by their noises and poking and prodding. (Of course, I’m sure he contributes his own poking and prodding and noise.) He’s back to finger flapping quite frequently, though he’s twirling his hair a lot less. I’m almost thinking I liked the hair twirling better. We went to Knott’s Berry Farm this past Saturday, and he even waited in a couple of short lines without issues…but we were close.  Thank God their new special assistance pass system works much better than their old non-successful antiquated discriminatory policy. This time? We got immediate boarding the first time on each ride, and a timed boarding, without waiting at that time, on our second ride. We never got around to testing that out, the first time on each ride sufficed as we only lasted until 4pm. La Revolucion did him in, a fast, twirling upside down ride that proved to be too much for him. “Mom, I have a headache” was instead “Mom, that made me feel like I was gonna throw up.”He never did throw up — he inhaled a bowl of Dippin’ Dots but still wanted to go home.

While at Knott’s, he found a new ‘pet,’ a rock with eyes named Watcher. We couldn’t find Watcher before we went to school this morning, but he didn’t freak. No meltdown. No excessive worry, just a calm assurance we’d find it when he got home. And I did find it, hidden in a little box he put it in last night so he had a ‘new house.’ I know he will be excited to hear that when daddy brings him home from school this afternoon.

Back to the headaches. We’ve got a standing order at school for him to receive pain reliever as necessary, and we’re keeping a headache log. Think positive thoughts for us as he has his MRI a week from Thursday, soonest they could get him in.

We’re annual passholders at Disneyland, so we try to go at least once a month, if not more often. With leaving for vacation soon, we weren’t sure we could fit it in but we wanted to check out the new Toy Story Mania ride. In one word: fantastic! Again, Disney has succeeded with a unique ride that is definitely going to be a big hit. Before you go, prepare your child that it’s not so much of a ‘ride’ as it is an event in which you participate. The car you sit in spins a bit (four to a car, but two to a seat, and you won’t see the other two in the car at all during the ride) and moves semi-quickly but there’s no up/down. The thing that you might want to be ready for is that some of the objects ‘fly’ at you — it’s 4-D flying, but they do an amazing job of feeling the objects as they fly at you. Ds did great, didn’t freak at all, and insisted on going back again later. So we did!

For a Monday after school was out, the park wasn’t that busy. We waited a mere 3-4 minutes to get our special assistance pass renewed, then headed off for rides, rides, and more rides. Tower of Terror is a ‘must ride’ every time, and we even got him to go on Soarin’ Over California. And, wonder of wonders, he was just tall enough to ride California Screamin’ — and he got front row! Talk about proud, I thought dh was going to cry afterwards. 😉

As you know, or maybe not but you will now, autistic children have unique personalities. They usually know what they want, and trying to change their mind is often futile. You end up trying to understand what they want, then learning that’s often futile, too, and just go with the flow. This was clear again when we took the little ones shopping and told them to pick a souvenir bigger (e.g. more expensive) than what they normally buy, as an ‘end of the school year’ celebratory purchase. First stop, dd finds a keychain, and ds finds a “crystal skull” (so named since he saw Indiana Jones’ latest movie). Next store, ds finds this big, thick walking stick, topped with a wooden skull. (Notice the theme here?) Cute, but honey, really, how are you going to carry that the rest of the night, and what will you do with it? Two more stores later, and ds is running to the skull-topped walking skull immediately consistently, like he knows the store layout. I pick up the tag; it’s $35. So it’s not just a walking stick, it’s an expensive walking stick….handcarved out of some special wood in Bali. Okay, that explains the price. But again, how are you going to carry it the rest of the night, and what will you do with it? Thirty minutes later, I had the answer. He wasn’t going to carry it; we were. And he was going to name it and make it his new friend. After we got him back in the stroller, we spent the rest of the evening saying “Honey, hold it straight up. Straight up! STRAIGHT UP!” to prevent the skull from taking out unsuspecting guests. To his credit, it apparently was a cool souvenir. It got a slew of comments but all he cared about was that it was his. And what does he do with it? Sleep with it…carry it around everywhere…it took a bit for him to realize that it wasn’t going on our vacation with us. No, really, we aren’t carrying it and I doubt the airline would have let us carry it on anyway. (Then again, at this point, maybe it’s just lucky if we autistic families get to stay on the plane anyway? Maybe I shouldn’t joke. I’m getting on a plane in about 35 hours….and landing at Raleigh-Durham airport. No, I’m not flying American Airlines.)

If you’re considering a Disneyland trip soon, go for it. If you can, try out the Blue Bayou restaurant at the Pirates of Caribbean ride, but make reservations or you will be out of luck. It’s not cheap — kids’ meals are $7-$8, and it comes with loaded plates (we aren’t GFCF so I didn’t ask about it) and adult entrees start around $27.99 and go up. Also, they offered my dd a ‘larger’ portion of the child’s mac ‘n cheese plate, and we said yes…for $18.99, who knew? But, the service is phenomenal and the environment is different from anywhere else you go. It wasn’t without its entertainment, courtesy of ds and his behaviors. He loves to shove food in without silverware, and the plain pasta went in so quick, he ended up gagging. No more pasta. He tried the chicken. Didn’t like the consistency. No more chicken. The grapes and strawberries were a little more successful…a little…but his favorite was the rolls and butter. (Again, we’re not GFCF so I know this is easier for us than it would have been otherwise.) The cookie, decoration from our Creme Brulee Trio dessert, was not chocolate chip. Disneyland really helps make the whole visit as ‘normal’ as possible, but you’re not without little reminders all evening about the necessary accommodations.

Not sure if I’ll be able to update for a couple of weeks. It depends on our internet access while traveling, but I promise to have some interesting stories to share when we return. Enjoy your fourth of July! (This year, we won’t be spending it with ds hiding in a box in our driveway…not only are fireworks no longer allowed in our city, but headphones and a firm snuggle on my lap have really improved on the holiday.)

We spent yesterday evening at Disneyland — got there at 4pm, and were into California Adventure by 4:15pm, and on Tower of Terror, special guest assistance pass in hand, by 4:30. We were moving! (Not that I want to add to my quick lines, but getting the pass in Cal Adventure is much faster than Disney itself, as the line is always shorter. It’s directly to the left when you walk in, at guest services.) Since we always keep our old pass, we just show them and ask for renewal each time, updating the number of people in our party, though they do often ask to see ds, which is no problem. He’s usually so excited to be there, you can hear him a mile away.

After Tower of Terror, ds’s favorite ride by far, we left Cal Adventure, just missing the new Prince Caspian parade. It sounds really cute, but ds only likes parades from afar, for a few minutes, so it’s much easier to get away from those crowds and enjoy the shorter lines elsewhere. Off to Disneyland right away, where we headed straight for Space Mountain and then pizza. My apologies to the sweeper in the area of the Pizza Port; that was my ds throwing small sections of crust down to the birds, though I do think you could have stopped hovering behind the pole and let the birds take it before you swept it up each time. A few rides later, then an ice cream stop (“Yay! Ice cream.” Ten bites into it “I’m full!” so he tries to hit his stomach to make room…honey, that will just hurt…trust me.) A quick wait in line at Splash Mountain, where we found out that children under 60″ are no longer allowed in the front seat. Yay, finally, it always freaked me out. However, that left dh stuck in the front seat — 200 lbs. in the front and a high water level=getting soaked. But, I’d warned him it was late for a water ride, and he insisted we still do it, so laughter replaced my sympathy. Ahem. Sorry, Honey. 😉

Close to 8pm now, so we headed to Indiana Jones, now that ds is finally tall enough. We made it all the way to the stairs next to the loading platform, and the ride stopped. Cue the impending moans and meltdown. A compassionate ride staffer (I’m sure there’s a better word for her, but I can’t think of it right now) listened to my plea for help with a special needs child and a guest assistance pass stuck on the stairs, crowded and really bugged by it all, and maybe worse, having to go potty. She let us use the employee restroom, and promised us quick loading if the ride came back up…but it didn’t, so we and every other person in line headed for the exit en masse. I’m not claustrophobic in the traditional sense, but standing with what seemed like hundreds of other irritated people inside cave-like walkways was uncomfortable. Why is there a wait to GET OUT? Turns out they were giving out fast passes, yet we have the guest pass so we passed up the offer (sorry for the pun) and headed for the exit. Apparently, not only does Disneyland cut back on staffed rides during their weeknights (only one elevator per floor in Tower of Terror, only one side of Matterhorn open, etc.) but they can only afford to staff one exit gate for everyone at closing time. If I could talk to Disneyland, I’d let them know how much we truly appreciate the guest assistance pass, which is a lifesaver — we couldn’t do Disney without it — but open up the staffing again so more rides are open (slower nights should mean less wait for rides, yes?) and open up more exit gates, especially towards the side where you actually meet the tram.

We love Disneyland. My kids love it. It is not the happiest place on earth though. My heart went out to a family I saw when we literally ran into Goofy on Main Street. Three boys ran to Goofy, got their pictures taken by parents who can’t snap fast enough since there were tons of others waiting, and then my kids ran to Goofy, got a high five, and we turned to leave. Then an older boy, probably mid-teens, ran to Goofy, begging him to wait. I don’t know what the politically correct word for him was, as it seems to change daily and different parents have different words depending on their views (autistic? person with autism? just one example) but this boy was clearly challenged..and obviously so. However, that didn’t stop some other mom from frowning and shaking her head. Those are the times I want to really ask her what she’s doing at Disneyland, a child’s playground for the most part, if she can’t tolerate kids being kids…and to open her heart, and have some compassion. The boy/young man didn’t want to be left out, yet due to his size, he probably was. I wanted to hug him, then hug his mom, but I never saw her in the crowd of cameras trying to be sure their child was next, to heck with a line. Times like that make me sad that society is so harsh, and selfishness abounds.

Then comes the best ride of the day…the tram ride. Pushing and crowding to get on, and kudos <not> to the lady who sat with us, the lady who decided that she needed that last smoke (in a non-smoking area, on a non-smoking ride) more than my kids needed clean air. Like they don’t have enough issues. And then she couldn’t even apologize for rubbing her cigarette on the seat as she sat down, spraying both my kids with red ashes. That’s okay though, when I said “Dumb place to sneak a cigarette,” at least she didn’t argue.

All in all, a really good visit to Disneyland, though only four hours. It’s longer than other visits though, some where we’ve made it as far as Main Street before ds decides he wants to go home. Sometimes it’s because he’s had a potty accident and doesn’t want to tell me…others it’s because they don’t sell his particular liquid of choice (lemonade — it’s there, just not all over)…others, it’s just too loud and he’s done with lines after just waiting to get on the tram. The closest we had to a meltdown last night was when we refused him root beer when we found the only brand they sell contains caffeine, a no-no for both him and my daughter with seizure disorder. By the end of the evening, he was running off and not listening, in his own world yet happy about it, completely overstimulated. Getting him calm for the hour ride home was iffy in the beginning, but he eventually pulled out his DS and played. And we didn’t have to stop to potty all the way home!

If you get the chance, don’t let the idea of a Disneyland visit intimidate you. Talk to Guest Services, and get their help. They are truly the only park I go to anymore that allows 100% help for our kids when it comes to lines for rides, shows, characters, etc. And we’ve tried many, only to completely cross Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags off our list, as they don’t accommodate autism — “We wouldn’t want to upset our non-disabled guests” by basically allowing those of us with disabled children to “abuse” the system. What crap. Sea World is good, too, though you still have to wait in show lines and get no real help there.

Go Disney!


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