There came a point in the assessment process that made me feel , for lack of a better word, bummed. And that was the whole not knowing whether or not our son would enjoy some of the simple pleasures in life that we as kids enjoyed. I think that's one of the most difficult things as a parent is not knowing whether your kid is going to enjoy what kids typically enjoy. I remember last Christmas being at a loss as to what to get for him. Do we get him the transformer he has never seen before or something sensory that we know he'll play with repetitiously for hours on end? Obviously the latter was by far the better choice but in some weird sense it bummed me out a little. But, on Christmas day when he opened his sensory geared gifts it was as if he had discovered magic. And that little grey cloud left my vision.
When we saw the little carnival pull into town I was super excited. And I was hoping that our boy would be too. Sure enough, he saw the rides and immediately was asking to, "play" while pointing at the kid rides. I was beyond thrilled. Now, I know that the carnival was a hit last year but every year he's shown us something new in his preferences and you just never know what will be a hit tomorrow and an absolute no-no the day after. Well folks....
It was a hit! Of course he remembered things I was hoping he'd forget, like the cotton candy, but it was all something that I had always hoped for and that was and is that my kids will always have fun regardless of sensory preferences. And he did.
Of course I realized, sometimes, when doing the great carnival experience, things don't always go as planned. Here are ten tips (from professional carnival goers) for taking a kid with ASD to the carnival that will make the trip more pleasant.
1. Employ some sort of waggon or stroller to accompany you to the fair and already have them in it when you hit the gates. In between rides put them in it. When getting off rides put them in it. Worked wonders for us.
2. Eat before you go to avoid meltdowns and bring plenty of water with you and a small snack and maybe even a picnic depending on how long you're staying.
3. Expect anything. If your kids wants to just watch the rides. Let them. It's no biggie if they don't take advantage of what we think is fun. Let them just watch happily if that's what they want to do.
4. Take other family with you. It's always better to take the understanding people with you that way they can sit with the kidlets when you wanna ride the rides. Or agree to trade off on the riding of rides with your partner. It's OK to go on alone. Sometimes you need the thrill to put things into perspective. lol
5. Bring one of their vices. If they like a certain video on your phone let them hang out with that while they process everything around them. Let them stim, hand flap whatever they need to do to feel comfortable that's appropriate. Forget about the stares. Whatever people think about you or your little one is non of your business. Just as mush as it is non of their business, but always be flexible to answer the genuine questions about why it's happening, in the most it's "no biggie" voice you can muster.My son had a vast treasure of receipts he would flap to process the ever changing environment of society. We encouraged him so he would get used to it. Now he doesn't need them but back then it was a must or tantrums would ensue.
6. I would suggest, for first timers trying this, to stay an hour tops. You know your kid best and what they will and won't handle so plan accordingly. We have a pretty small carnival that comes through so 35 minutes is how long we stayed and it was enough.
7. I know this might be crappy advertisement but don't play the games. My kid loves repetitive movement and games. If I were to let him play the games we would have been there for hours on end and 100's of dollars less. Don't do it unless you think your kid can part with the activity.
8. Rules on riding the rides. If you have a kid that can go to the bathroom by himself and not get hurt or into anything then I would say they can ride the rides alone as long as they are tall enough and know what's going on. If you have a kid that's a runner, will not sit still, doesn't like being harnessed, I would say use a lot of parental discretion in deciding whether it's a good idea or not. Again you know your kid.
9. Be prepared to spend money on tickets for rides. I let my son know how much money we had and that once the tickets were gone that was it. He understood for the most part and decided he wanted to ride the kid rides all night long. Well, that's what we did. Watched him on the rides the majority of the time. I enjoy that. Many people don't. It's refreshing for me after having a long hard day of tantrums to see the wonder and hear the laughter of my son.
10. Don't over do it. If you see the eyes droop and hear the slurred speech of a child that needs to rest the senses, leave. Call it a day. An overwhelmed kid with ASD can, sometimes, be easily overwhelmed so the second you see it call it a day. Again you know your kid and how much they can handle.
or yeah I guess there are 11 tips.
11. Take photos regardless of who enjoys it, you have every right to enjoy it. This is your family moment. It is what you make it. Don't let a tantrum and crabby people mess it up regardless if its the child or the partner or anybody. Enjoy it this is your family moment and make sure you record it as something great to look back on.
Anyway, those are my tips for families who are willing to try it. I can't state this enough. You know your kid and what they do and do not process well. If you think it might not be a good idea but still want to go, find a sitter and take your partner or friend and hit the carnival like your 16 all over again. Do things that scare you, make you laugh till you cry. That is what life is worth living for...happiness.
As always thanks for reading.