Today is Labor Day (although by the time I post this, it will most certainly not be). And it felt like Summer’s Last Hurrah. We have a very popular art/music/food festival in our area that we have been attending for years. It always falls on Labor Day weekend, but it is a good time, if very crowded. We had heard through a friend that Autism Alliance was offering families that deal with autism free parking, rides, and food at the festival this year, and even an hour on the carnival rides before the rest of the public was able to come in. We signed up, got our info in the mail, and quite possibly had the best time ever.
We arrived early and had access to parking in the nearby parking structure (going for $15 later in the day). We signed in, got out wristbands, water, and a lunch ticket. We wandered and waited for the carnival rides to open, and spent a good hour riding everything The Boy wanted. We had a couple of tense moments having to do with color… The carnival workers were Polish, I believe, and didn’t speak much English, so The Boy attempted to go on the Super Slide twice and came back down crying, saying the man at the top wouldn’t let him slide down the blue part of the slide. But he also wouldn’t let me go with him. I finally asked the man at the bottom if there was some reason The Boy couldn’t ride the blue slide. He explained that they usually just threw the mat down where there was an opening, and promptly yelled something in Polish to the man at the top. The Boy was finally able to ride down the blue slide on the third try. We talked about how important it is to speak up for yourself and ask questions when you don’t understand.
The next color issue was on the balloon ride – his favorite, apparently. The second time on the ride, someone had already taken the blue balloon, and he got upset. I told him to wait until the next go-around, and he would be able to choose first. We have used this strategy previously on the carousel in various venues, and the attendants always look at us funny, but it works.
We wandered a bit, and I took note of some artists I liked so I could check them out on the web. I treated myself to some Butterfly Chips – Yum! The Boy would only eat the ones with no green (chives) or white (sour cream) on them. He balked at the red, too, until I explained it was bacon.
Then it was time for lunch, and we trudged up and down the main street looking for it for a bit, but finally found that Autism Alliance had rented the banquet room at the Chinese restaurant to serve pizza, salad, and water. We ate, looked around at all of the parents who looked like they desperately needed naps, and connected with a family with a new diagnosis. Dad had so many questions, and I remembered how much courage it took to talk to someone, and how bewildering it all felt. I hope I helped them a bit.
The Boy had seen his favorite fudge stand earlier in the day, and so we went back and got him his Oreo fudge, and I looked for a place to buy a dessert large enough to take up my remaining 12 tickets. I got a brownie turtle sundae to finish off the day, and we headed for the car.
And now we are home “resting our feet” as The Boy put it. This was a perfect example of how autism groups can help support the parents and families in their communities. Their support gave us free and somewhat private access so that we could engage in this community event, and feel like we were part of a larger whole. Au-some.