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The Not-So-Inclusive Pumpkin Patch

It’s fall and the air vacillates between warm days and cool mornings and nights. Like many families, we have the ritual of visiting apple orchards to pick apples and pumpkin patches to get pumpkins. It ushers in the season of magic and excited fun for my kids.

We’ve tried several pumpkin patches and finally scored finding the one with not only bouncy houses for B, but a corn pit for J (sensory heaven!) … plus all hay rides, a maze, burlap sack slides.. and of course pumpkins.

J’s class has planned a field trip to the same Pumpkin Patch. I’m super happy for him to be able to go with his peers and be out in the community. This is one of the gifts of his school: they always seek opportunities for inclusion out in the community. Which is a much bigger deal than typical families may realize!

Upon arrival, all the kiddos are happy and excited to be exploring. They have support staff that keeps the kiddos safe and able to access the experience. My kiddos favorite is the corn pit, but the class heads to the bouncy houses. It’s awesome for sensory integration, the jumping movement giving strong proprioceptive input to their bodies which is organizing and calming.

But like most things with our unique kids, they need support to be able to access it safely or even at all. This year this Pumpkin Patch informs the school staff that the support people are not allowed in the bouncy houses with the kids. Which means they are denied their right to safe access.

They try to let the kids go in the bouncy houses without their support staff so at least they can get the experience … and some are unsafe. Some can’t access it. Some have behaviors. It’s a downward spiral.

Meanwhile, my son doesn’t enjoy bouncy houses. So he watches from the side. Still enjoying being there, but not included in the experience.

Needless to say, his teacher is deeply upset. She talks to the staff. She mentions ADA (American Disability Act) and the kids right to access the community. She is told “we know all about the ADA…”

She is also told… “you all are a liability”.

A liability.

My 11 yr old son is a liability to their Pumpkin Patch.

How about: He’s just a kid that wants to enjoy all the fun and magic of the season like any other kid. He just needs different supports to be able to do that. And him and his peers are being denied that very support.

Honestly, it’s infuriating. They deserve to be included.

But the bottom line is the bottom line. This Pumpkin Patch wants to make money like all others and they do it really well. Our kids interrupt that system flow because they require something different.

Our humanity is lost when we can’t offer human kindness to one other. When we continue to marginalize and make invisible our disabled community. We ALL are important. We ALL want to be seen. We ALL matter.

So what do I do? Sit back and say “that sucks” and move on? Or do I invest the time to try to make a difference and open some minds… knowing that it may or may not shift things.

Of course, I will try. Because if I don’t, who will? When will it change?

If you see an injustice, do you ignore it? Or do you step outside of your safely constructed world and take the energy to create opportunity for change. Let’s all support one another. Let’s do the work in front of us in our community to have an impact of positive change. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So yes, this Pumpkin Patch has not heard the last of this. There will be a Part 2. I’ll be going there with my kiddos and will see if some warmth will shift their humanity. And if not, perhaps a video camera and the ADA will.





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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