This past weekend was Sesame Place’s annual “Children with Autism” day. On that day, Sesame Place is open only to children on the spectrum and their families. This is also prior to their “official” opening which is at the end of April.
This has grown from their 25 year partnership with the Philadelphia affliation of Variety-A Children’s Charity. Over the years, they have worked together to help those with developmental disabilities enjoy an unique experience. From Sesame Place’s website: “In 2007, a very special day was added to the roster of Variety Days at Sesame Place – this day was solely dedicated to children with autism.” Here’s the presser from the event.
I had heard about this last year, but we weren’t able to go (on account of someone called Mayita entering our world). So this year we made plans to go. When registration was announced (mid-February), I headed over to the website to register.
On first glance I wasn’t sure we would be “allowed” to go – since we’re not in the Philly/Delaware Valley/Southern New Jersey area. We live a bit outside the key demographic. But, I figured, the worst that can happen is that turn us down. This year, in addition to registering online in advance (makes sense, as to knowing how many would attend), you needed to submit an Intake Form. Luckily you only have to do this once.
I filled everything out, had B’s doctor complete the one section and faxed it off to Variety. Still nervous that I hadn’t heard anything, I gave them a call. No indication that there was any issue with our registration, so that made me feel better.
By the way, the Intake Form is three pages – two of them you complete as a parent. The last page your provider (doctor, therapist, psychologist, etc.) needs to fill out – including diagnosis, DSM and/or ICD code, etc. You also sign off authorization for the non-profit to access your child’s medical records.
You know, to make sure you’re telling the truth.
Which of course made me think…holy crap, someone would actually attempt to fake a disability to get free tickets. And yes, there are days where I’m extremely naive about a human being’s thoughts and processes.
So, we did indeed get free tickets to Sesame Place. Since I had never been there, out of curiosity I looked up the pricing schedule. Holy moly, obviously we hadn’t been to an amusement park in a while. Admission (with no discounts, ages 2 and up) per person is $57.99! So, in itself, we saved $173.97 (because Mayita is only 1).
Sesame Place is not tremendously big, but they do have a good mix of water and non-water activities. Which then begged the next question – isn’t it too cold in April to have the water rides running? According to the person tweeting from @SesamePlace, nope…all water rides will be open and normal.
Well, crap, better bring the swimsuit, just in case.
And so Friday night I commenced my planning and packing. Husband quite enjoyed the sight – making fun of the fact that I was packing for trek and “when are the sherpas coming”. Har dee frickin’ har. It’s no longer making sure B had his things…now Mayita had to be planned for. Which is why there were bags for changes of clothing, towels, snacks, bottles…and all the DVDs were packed for the minivan.
Early Saturday morning we left. Well, it was at 7:30AM, which isn’t late for our standards, but just the same. It was a long drive. From our house to Sesame Place was about 200 miles. And with two little ones and the extended break at the Maryland House – we made it there shortly after 11:00AM. Which, for how fast I was going “with traffic” – not too shabby. B of course was getting a little inpatient – if I had to hear one more time, “when are we getting to Sesame Street” I would have had the typical parental “I will turn this car around” moment. Baby M, in a different way, vocalized how annoyed she was riding backwards for an extended trip.
After we paid for parking (our parking fee was the donation to Variety), we unloaded and entered. The first thing we did was head to the stroller rental. Because, alas, we do not have a double stroller. Half the time B won’t ride in a stroller, preferring to walk (or run, depending on the mood)…so we never bothered to get one. But knowing it was going to be a long day we opted to rent one. Now, at $18.00 it seemed steep, but it was worth it. We actually ended up needing both, however, because the rental was not quite supportive for a small toddler like M. But the “roominess” was good for peddling our belongings around the park.
After our “lunch” ($26.00 for a kid’s meal, an adult combo that we split and two drinks was an eye-opener), B finally caught sight of the Count’s “Splash Castle” and that was the FIRST thing he wanted to do. So thank the Lord Jesus above that I brought swimsuits. Earlier that morning Husband agreed to go into the water stuff while I stayed back with M.
B LOVED it – he enjoyed playing around and going down the water slide. Husband was annoyed that you could only go one at a time, so he couldn’t go down with B. I was surprised to see such a large number of kids (and parents) on the water rides. I mean, it did warm up (I think it was as warm as 78 that day, and sunny), but to quote Husband: “Cute, but the water bleepin’ $&*#(&(@% cold”.
I got the job of trying to get some pictures, while juggling M on different shoulders and monitoring our strollers. One very nice man took a photo of us. I got to chatting with him, and he told me that last year, even in the rain, they had the water stuff open. Yikes.
Afterwards I convinced B that maybe we should see some other stuff. We managed (after getting redressed) to go on some rides. By then, there were lines…and B definitely does not “do” lines. I avoid them as much as possible, for the good of all involved. Luckily, they were not “that” bad (well don’t say that to B) – but we still had to wait a few turns to get on rides. But, I imagine that in a normal day it would have been MUCH worse. And B’s little meltdowns were not met by disdain or pity, but simple understanding by other parents.
He got to ride the swings and a flying ride, then a roller coaster. There’s a big climbing/net area as well which he got to play in. And the bounce mat. HAD to do the bouncey thingie.
We did manage to meet one character – Abby. He quite enjoyed that. We saw Grover and Zoe earlier, but I suppose they rotate out characters. And of course, we managed to catch one of the parades that go through the park. However, after a few minutes, B got bored and wanted to ride the carousel…so that’s what we did. Oh and souvenir shopping (couldn’t forget that!). Afterwards it was getting close to 4:00PM (and park closing), so we decided to get going.
We made it home, tired and cranky – after a gas stop and then a “dinner” stop at the Chesapeake House, thunderstorms, and construction, shortly after 8:00PM. Both kids went down with nary a fit. And come Sunday morning, both were bouncing and ready to go at their normal times. How DO they do that?
All in all, we had a grand time. Some things that we’ll think about for next year:
1. Making sure we get there AT 10:00AM. We got plenty done but we could have done more.
2. Bring a wagon, instead of renting the double stroller. A wagon would be ideal to cart around the stuff and kids. I saw a few families with them.
3. A cooler – at the very least one of those gallon water jugs. Granted, our drinks did come with a couple of free refills (within an hour or so of purchase – they had some nifty chip to scan at the fountain). But besides the water for M’s bottles, we only had the drinks for the car ride.
Also, we found out that even with the special day, certain things – like meals with the characters – didn’t occur. It was the one thing that everyone I talked to suggested doing. We didn’t make it to an “Elmo’s World Live” show either. But that’s alright – there was plenty of things to do. I also noticed that people lined up for the parades at least a half hour prior to get a view. Husband was able to pick up B and he could see decently for the limited amount that he wanted which was enough for us.
Giving a Elmo-size Thank You to Sesame Place and to Variety for such a wonderful event!