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Second Chances Can Equal Change

It’s the time of year when leaves are falling, everything is in transformation and kids are getting excited about the holidays ahead. You smell fall in the air and feel the cool mist in the morning blanketing the earth. There are pumpkin flavored everything’s in every store you find.. and for my family, that means Halloween is excitedly soon around the corner.

We have the yearly tradition of going to a local Pumpkin Patch. My kids are just about getting old enough where next year it might not be quite as alluring as it was in their earlier childhood. I wanted to embrace this one to the fullest and cherish the moment that was upon us.

But there was a complication… as our beloved pumpkin patch had made critical errors when Jax had visited with his school. I was protective and pissed — our favorite spot was excluding, judgmental and shaming disabled kids. Who the fuck does that nowadays? It turns out people still do. It felt like I couldn’t go back as a family and support their own family owned operation of pumpkin patching it up.

Here is the thing. Nothing changes unless someone educates people, gives them information and gives them a chance. So I could sit there and be heartbroken and pissed.. OR, I could go and speak kindly yet firmly, giving clear information and see what happens. (If they didn’t step up then there is always a stronger approach of actual laws like the ADA.) Underneath my anger I knew this place was family owned, this was not how they would want to show up. I had to try.

So, I took my family… we had an amazing time! I think Jax spent most of his time in the wheelbarrow. He loves riding it. To point, you are technically not supposed to just push your kiddo around their patch in the wheelbarrow for hours on end, but they saw Jax was different and made an accommodation for him knowing it allowed him access to other areas and places in the part in ways he wouldn’t feel as safe to go to without the sensory support (and fun!) of the wheelbarrow.

You’re thinking, wait, isn’t she going to advocate?? Yes, totally. It’s coming. Wait for it. My first priority was cultivating memories for my kids and if it was going smoothly, no freaking way am I stepping into the good times and rocking them off kilter! We have to seize them while we can!

We see farm animals, slight interest from Jax. We pick out our pumpkins: Jax’s awesome way is to calmly go up to one and just touch it.. if you aren’t paying attention you might miss it! He sometimes taps on it like a drum, which is always inspiring and hella cool for everyone. Baxter’s way is more thorough… he needs to see every pumpkin to make sure he’s got the biggest one with the best place for carving. He’s a fierce carver of scariest proportions. (Wait until you see our Halloween! Our family gets down in the spooky and he’s the ring master.) We ride the big slide, bouncy houses, corn sensory pit (win win win!!). We eat all the gloriously unhealthy hot dogs and fries and funnel cake. And of course, Baxter’s and I doing our traditional corn maze together one one one, so he gets focused Mama attention. These moments are deeply bonding and freeing for him and I to share. We love family time, we love his bro and I also recognize his need for times when his bros sensory regulation doesn’t rule the show and timing of his experience. It is one of the keys of harmony in my kids equal development.

The overall point is: It was a score for our traditional, inclusive feeling yet unique to our family fall pumpkin patch jam! What the hell happened when his school visited? This time they were so inclusive. They made accommodations for Jax to access things, even opening the side gate for us when we were leaving so Jax didn’t have to walk all the way back and around. Everyone was friendly. Staff didn’t ignore us and tell us we were a liability. What was the difference?? Because it was just one disabled kid instead of many? Was it different staff?

As we went to leave it was time for me to do my part to ensure that what happened with Jax’s school never did again. As I’m spending way too much on Pumpkins I could seriously get at a Safeway, I speak to the woman behind the register. I ask for the manager… turns out she is the Mama of the Husband/Wife duo that own this patchy joint. Score. I tell her about the infuriating events that unrolled in Jax’s school visit. I emphasis the words that were spoken “your kids are liability” and how incredibly fucked up that is. She got it. I could see she was totally shocked.

Which was right. Be shocked lady and then freaking do better! Have your heart break for my amazing son so it will motivate you to change! I spoke to her about training her staff in differences and how to make accommodations. I subtly reminded her that we loved her pumpkin patch and that was the reputation we passed along and it would be a shame to have that all switched because of this one experience. I needed to know that she would train her staff on inclusion. She promised she would. I offered her resources. She sincerely was deeply apologetic and said many times that is not how her son or her family want the patch to run. I spoke to her of sensory differences, of 1:1 support needs of kiddos. It felt in my heart she got it. It inspired me to make a resource of how to support differences and the disabled in public gatherings that I could present to management at any event we attend as a family prior.

This is what is true: you can be defensive and put off by a situation of unfairness and choose to close down, or you can choose to provide opportunity for change. Give people information, give the a chance to rise. Don’t jump right to judging them back and feed into the separation. Take a risk, be vulnerable, express what is true to you and provide people with the window of growth. I could’ve stayed angry, stayed in the drama, limited everyone and feed the already ever present separation in our community of differences… but I chose to stay open, believe in a better outcome, create from the joy of my family and show people a way to inclusion. Sometimes people just don’t know the way. If we shame them for that things will never change. I’d rather teach and model a community of acceptance. And in this case, it worked. Acceptance, inform, change, inclusion.

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Aura

Aura

I am a single Mom to two amazing boys. One neurotypical, one Autistic. As I write that I wonder what that means to you and how that shapes how you perceive us, even more interestingly yourself.

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