July 27, 2013

Autism, Dorney Park and the Kindness of Strangers

A day at an amusement park with a child who has autism can be challenging and stressful, though not so much when the destination is Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  My son Justin obsessed and talked about little else for weeks.  He was so excited that we moved up the date.  On an unseasonably chilly summer morning, Justin, his sister, her friend and I headed off to Dorney Park. 

Justin knew which rides he wanted to go on and in what order.  Which brings us to the Stinger.  During that one minute and 30 second roller coaster thrill ride, Justin's prescription glasses flew off his face.  This is where the day could have ended in disaster.

I took Justin to the car so he could be in a quiet place with little stimulation while his sister and her friend searched for the missing glasses.  From the parking lot, I called ride services and spoke with a supervisor who told me there was nothing he could do and that we would have to wait until 10:00 pm when the park closed and the rides were turned off before we could get any help in our search.  I was crushed.  I thought that weeks (four) of anticipation and planning were down the drain and that we would be heading home.  I didn't cry.  Not yet.

Imagine my surprise when shortly after returning to the ride, a crew of uniformed employees arrived to help us in our search.  A supervisor gave instructions and the reinforcements were off.  I don't know if they closed the ride to clean up throw up (which they did in fact do) or to look for the glasses, but either way the Stinger was out of commission long enough for them to search the places we couldn't go.   

One young male employee ended up saving the day.  He, on his own initiative, started searching moments after Justin finished the ride.  He said he wouldn't stop looking and, by golly, he was true to his word.  He found one lens and, eventually, the other which was far away from the first.  I wish I would have hugged him and given him a reward because he deserved both.

The frames never resurfaced, but with the assistance of two first aid employees, I was able to tape Justin's prescription lenses on top of a pair of weak reading glasses I found in the bottom of my purse.  His sister said he looked like a minion from Despicable Me, but the MacGyver fix worked and we were able to stay and enjoy what was left of the afternoon. 

Here is Justin wearing his minion glasses.    

I would like to thank Keith Koepka, Director of Operations, for his kindness, and all of the employees of Dorney Park who worked together to make Justin's day a happy and memorable one.  Thank you for the tears of joy and relief.


Note:  Many people with autism easily become anxious and overstimulated, Justin included.  If you have a child with autism and are planning a trip to Dorney Park, I recommend you check out their Tips for Guests with ASD page, as well as Ann Schlosser's and The Autism Society's amusement park guides. 

July 18, 2013

A Happy Anniversary!

This year we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a New England adventure.  Here we are in Bass Harbor, Maine, still madly in love after all these years.