And before folks think I’ve lost total leave of my senses – yes, we went to Christmas at Sesame Place. That may seem odd for me (being that I’m Jewish and not inclined to ‘accommodating’ Christmas with my family), but…
Well, let me start off by putting credit where credit is due. Variety Philadelphia was responsible for this outing – they offer tickets to events for children with various disabilities, and Autism qualifies. So, if you’re in reach of Philadelphia, go to their site and look up the criteria for applying to get on their list for these and other events.
I’ve mentioned that the Monster doesn’t have a lot of the sensory issues that other children with Autism have – he’s only vaguely sensory-seeking, and he’s hardly sensory-adverse. He has no issues with crowds. We’ve taken him to other places before, either as events geared towards children with Autism or general events, and he’s not had major issues. On the other hand, we also rarely take him to amusement parks. On the few occasions when we do go, usually one of us waits with the kids to keep them together while the other goes on the ride (since we usually go with family anyway).
On the other hand, Sesame Place is specifically geared towards his demographic. The Monster loves Sesame Street. So this seems a win-win, even if it was all Christmas-y up there.
For starters, dealing with the Autism – we took along our doctor’s general note about his special needs, as we’ve seen advised on various boards for when we’re going to amusement parks. At many parks, we’ve heard that you should go to guest services with such a note to get whatever accommodations they make for such situations. Interestingly, Sesame didn’t want to see the note, but rather directed us to the Welcome Center just inside the main gate, where they just asked his age, height and what his disability was. This resulted in my wife being given a bright orange wristband (to be distinguished visually from the bright pink of their “Abby’s Magical Queue”) and a list of the rides he could go on, with what supervision was required on each. Like the Magic Queue, this short-circuited the lines at busy attractions, hustling him almost immediately onto the rides, which is good given our son’s lack of patience in lines.
(My wife notes that her thought is that this is tailored apparently on experience with various diagnoses, and that it might well be different for different disabilities.)
The park itself was not horrifyingly crowded for being open only seven hours a day during the season, and we arrived around 2 PM, an hour after the park opened. Obviously, with the wristband (which the wife wore – Monster doesn’t like bracelets), we skipped what lines there were, but only the occasional ride seemed to have long enough lines that I’d have been deterred normally. We got him onto the train they run during the season, as well as the carousel, the roller coaster and the ‘flying fish’ ride among others. I don’t know, given the weather being quite cool, that he’d have been content to sit through a show in the cold, and we didn’t get around to seeing the Elmo’s World Live which was indoors.
Interestingly to me, he really doesn’t know what to make of the costumed characters. He’s absolutely in love with Sesame Street when we watch it on TV, but when faced with a furry figure that’s taller than I am… he’s very hesitant, which is unusual given that he loves people in general. We did manage to get a picture of him with Grover at one point, without his freaking out too much, but much of that was due to the wife holding him.
So. My thoughts:
For his developmental level, Sesame Place is excellent. It gave him a good variety of activities to choose from, from constrained to unconstrained, and it was an environment where any potential meltdown is going to largely go unnoticed (if only because plenty of kids kick and scream when being pulled from something they want to be doing). It also isn’t so massively large that a child like ours gets overwhelmed with moving around from place to place, and can be handled reasonably in a day or two.
Another plus – there are a lot of restaurants nearby if you don’t want to eat on site, or if your child is a picky eater like ours. It means not being constrained to the few choices they have.
One problem that we had was that he’s not quite attentive to what he ought to be. The parade was a lot of fun – if you go, be sure to get a spot early because it’s extremely crowded – but he wasn’t all that interested in paying attention to the characters and whatnot. This was, perhaps, a point throughout the day, and while we know this is how the Monster is when we’re out, your mileage may vary.
So, our verdict: We’re considering getting season passes, because he’ll love it – it’s on the way to visiting my family, so we can stop there multiple times a season.