How Much Accommodation?

Yesterday, my wife asked me to take the day off so that we could take the kids to Sesame Place.  Baltimore City schools let out early for the summer this week – on Monday – and while the rest of the state seems to still be in classes, it seemed an ideal opportunity for us to fill some time for both children by taking them somewhere fun.

As my long time readers already know, I love how Seaworld Entertainment accommodates guests with disabilities.  Sesame Place has been the top of the heap in this regard – they’ve been so easy with regards to accommodating the Monster, and their policies in general are very disability friendly – so we’ve always looked forward to our trips there.  We’ve even bought season passes, despite the fact that it’s twice as far away (if not more) than the nearest Six Flags park.

MonsterAtSesamePlacePoolSo a visit to Sesame Place is fairly standard for us – we park, we go inside, the wife goes to Guest Relations just inside the gate to get the bracelet and RAP sheet for the Monster, and we go about our day.  And then… this year came with a change.The disability accommodation program at Sesame Place has changed.

The plan used to be fairly simple to use – you walked up to the special needs entrance, presented the RAP sheet to the worker there, and they let you onto the ride for the next cycle or the one after.  No fuss, no muss.  The waterpark was a little more complicated, with only having 3 escort-to-the-top tickets on the wristband, but still fairly no-stress.  This year, now, there’s a ticket stapled to the RAP sheet that entitles the person being accommodated to skip the line for 6 “dry rides”.  The 3 wet rides are still in place, but… as my wife pointed out, that’s a major change to the program.

And yet… I find that I have a hard time arguing with the new limits, because it comes down to the spirit of ADA and the program.

I think it’s fair to say that we all want our children with disabilities – be it a physical handicap or something invisible like Autism – to be accommodated… but not coddled.  Certainly, going to an amusement park is a difficult undertaking when someone in your party has a disability, and worse depending on the severity of the matter.  (For example, the Monster has historically not wanted to ride dry rides, and gets fussy about waiting in lines for the water rides.)  But… they also have thousands of other guests who don’t need accommodation.  They’re expected to wait in line and all of that goodness, and I’ve no doubt that many of them have watched the line at the special-needs entrance to each ride with arched brows.

So what is fair?  What is the fair level of accommodations for our children?

I think the answer’s a simple one, as I put it to the wife while we were standing in (the regular!) line for the carousel yesterday – the level that has our child having as close to normal as possible an experience at an amusement park is the right level of accommodation.  That means, oftentimes, waiting in the queue.  That means saving those six dry-ride line-bypasses for when he’s really having trouble waiting, or the park’s extraordinarily crowded, or for that one special ride at the end of the day when it’s really time to head out.  That means planning our day to try to manage his frustration level as we would with any other seven-year-old.

Because in the end, the accommodation wristband isn’t something for R to use to “make up” for having the added stress of having the Monster being himself on some days at the park.  It’s not an excuse to zoom around the park to try to hit as many rides as possible in a single day.  (I mean, seriously, we have season passes.  We’ve ridden almost everything at least once… on most visits.  A little patience, please…)  It’s a tool to help the Monster be a regular little boy and make it a little easier when things go slightly sideways.

And that’s what we all want – for our children to be regular.

So on a positive note about yesterday.

Aside from R pulling his usual act of late – being a “threenager” or, as I put it, “being three going on six-feet-under” – and nearly having me pull the plug on going to Sesame Place, it was a very good day at the amusement park.  The kids lasted for almost six hours, and we had a nice day out as a family.

And the Monster rode almost every land ride R wanted to go on!

KidsAtSesamePlaceAs I’ve mentioned, the Monster has rarely wanted to go on rides when we go an amusement park – I usually chill out on the side with him, while the wife takes R on rides.  (Waterparks are an exception to this rule, because the Monster loves water.)  And when we went to Hersheypark earlier this spring, he shocked us by wanting to go on rides.  This continued yesterday.  While he’s not himself suggesting that we get on rides, he’s not adverse to getting into the queue and getting on them… at least once.  I can think of a few rides he’s not going to do again any time soon, but he only balked at one suggestion that was made (the roller coaster), and was easily manageable/divertable the one time we pulled him from a preferred activity (playing at The Count’s Splash Castle, which we pulled him from because R was miserable and cold and whiney, after an hour of the Monster playing there).

I’m probably jinxing myself with posting that, mind you… but as far as I’m concerned, this one visit made the season passes entirely worth it.


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