Sounds like an oxymoron, right. There is certainly no way you can work on remediating autism while at a theme park is what you are thinking. On the contrary, we have done some amazing things at our local theme parks. Of course, we are blessed in that we live in Central Florida so there are a plethora to choose from. We can go during off times too since we homeschool. Not to mention that sometimes everyone needs a break to just go be silly and have fun. There is regenerating power in simply having fun with no demands.
In the early years of autism we taught Logan how to navigate crowds, wait in line, and what to do when lost at Walt Disney World. Back then, we didn’t know we were practicing rdi. We were simply trying to have fun and escape autism. We did the only thing that we could afford which was Disney since it was free. Yes, free. The benefit of Michael working there for 17 years. We were unaware of the Guest Assistance Card that you could get to bypass the line for autism. So, we taught him to wait and practiced his flexibility. Sometimes, we had to leave the line and do something else. Sometimes, we had to ride the train for what seemed like a gazillion times. We always left while we were having fun. Logan knew exactly what he wanted to ride in each park. He learned how to negotiate with his little sister when she wanted to ride something else. Amazing things transpired in those days at the happiest place on earth.
After Michael left Disney to work for Publix, we were blessed with passes to the now defunt Cypress Gardens. It was a much smaller park than anything else. We started RDI officially. We used Cypress Gardens as rewards after Relationship development assessment. We practiced coordinating our actions with others. For example, prior to RDI, Logan would not walk with us. He walked in front of or behind and he never referenced where we were. I was forever having to yell stop when he got too far. At Cypress Gardens, we worked on walking together. All done in a fun way. Being that the park was on its last legs financially at the time, we often had the park to ourselves. The beauty of RDI is that you can work on it anywhere but no one knows. It doesn’t have to be done in an office or at home. No one has to even know that you are working with your child on anything. You literally can do it everywhere.
Sea World came as their reward for reading 100 books during a school year. For a brief moment in time, we were a normal family. There was no autism in our life. Everyone choose what they wanted to do. We changed things at the last moment when we saw something fun. Polar bears didn’t cooperate and walruses scared the jeepers out of us. Logan looked a killer whale in the eye and shared it with me. He referenced me and actually shared it! He rode the merry go round with us just because Madison wanted to even though he really hates it due to his motion sickness. Can’t say that I blame him there. He even asked me what my favorite part of the day was when we were at dinner!!!!! How amazing! Here , we worked on episodic memory and experience sharing . We planned out our activities with our map together and saw every inch of that park when our passes ran out.
Now we homeschool at the parks. We work less on RDI and more on learning. But learning would never had been possible without the early days of RDI at these same parks. The best part was that if it ended in a meltdown, I didn’t care what people thought. I was never going to see these people again. That tidbit certainly made it easier on me to stay calm and regulated. This in turn made it easier for him to regain his composure which resulted in our interactions ending successfully more often than not. A great fun way to do one of the many therapies our kids with autism so desperately need.
So, you see, theme parks, autism and RDI do go together after all! Do you have a local theme park that you could use as an outlet for your family?