Autism Friendly We Rock the Spectrum kid's Gym Rocks!

Imagine a place where your kids can go and play in a safe indoor environment. But not only play, learn at the same time! A place where physical activities also teach and benefit with balance, spatial awareness and fine motor skills. We recently went to such a place after hearing about it from another special needs mother. We Rock the Spectrum kid's Gyms are all over So Cal. It's not only kid friendly but specializes in being special needs friendly. In fact it is the first of it's kind place designed for special needs children and teens.

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I Know You're In There Book Review + Giveaway!

I Know You're In There

Winning Our War Against Autism

By Marcia Hinds

Book Review & Giveaway

                     There was no recovery from autism. There was no cure.   There was no hope. Or was there?

                    There was no recovery from autism. There was no cure.  There was no hope. Or was there?

It's not often that a book spikes my interest to want to read and do a review of my own, but that was just the case with this book.  I have read more than my share of Autism books and I can't even imagine how many hours of internet articles on the subject, but this book, well I just knew it was one I needed to read for myself.  This is a story of recovery.  Recovery from Autism.  Not just any case of Autism, but one that had no hope from the professionals, the same professionals that we trust to know it all in their fields of practice.  So what is one to do? Having all hope of a normal life for your child banished in a blink of an eye, you do as this family did and find a way at all costs.

Book synopsis:     At a time when Autism cases were very low in comparison to today's world 1 in 68 (or 1 in 50 depending on who's reporting), getting help was virtually non existent, spread out over the country and very costly.  Theories on Autism were all decidedly fixed on it being a developmental disorder, but what if there was more to it?  Well thankfully for this family they explored every avenue and therapy existing and emerging and found that it could be treated medically and the pioneers in the field were definitely on the right path to getting their son off "Autism Island" as they coined it.  Through trials and errors across states and years this families journey is one of great hope, inspiration and joy.  Knowing that Autism is Spectrum Disorder, the outcomes can also be as varied on the spectrum as well.  This book documents the amazing work and dedication one family put into getting one child, their child, healthy and in doing so prepared him to be a competent professional that is thriving in our society today. 

The issues we as caregivers deal with on a daily basis is covered and honestly Marcia nailed it in this book: in public, at home, with school districts, dining out, trying to make friends for our kids, at the grocery store, relationships, you name it all the things/places for those with Autism there is always some issue or situation that we must prepare for and some we just have to deal with right on the spot.  Tools and resources like ABA, proper diet and medical intervention to deal with the issues associated with Autism are key to recovery and the sooner they are implemented the better.

One thing I can say I took away from this book (but had already been doing) ALWAYS! go with your gut feeling! ALWAYS! When it comes to your child. 

In closing, I found it hard to put the book down, wanting to get through each chapter excited to learn about each new accomplishment and triumph the family gained with each new treatment. Cheering them on along the way knowing all too well the ups and downs and comparing them to ours, there are so many similarities all Autism families share.  In our own daughters treatments and recovery things always got worse before they got better too, it's just the way it works with Autism treatments. We are not as far along on our journey since my girl is only 7, so this is a helpful guide for us as I am sure it is and will be for many. I found some very useful advise that I will be considered in the near future and I really appreciate Marcia taking the time opening up and sharing her story.  It's a real eye opener for anyone who has just had a family member diagnosed and I feel it is a definite must read.

A special Thank you Marcia Hinds for providing me a copy of the book for this review and for the additional copy for 1- of our readers, good luck everyone!

To Purchase a Paper Back Copy Hit the Learn More Button Below

About the Author:
Marcia Hinds most impressive credential for writing this book is that she is Ryan’s mother and their family survived the autism  diagnosis. Marcia has more than fifteen years’ experience as an educational and behavioral consultant for families dealing with autism. Marcia holds a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from the 
University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and is a credentialed K-12 teacher. 

1- Winner Will Win a Copy Of The Book

I Know You're In There

Autism/Disability Accessibility at Knotts Berry Park

Accommodations offered at the park and our experience with the system at Knotts Berry Farm

So with any amusement park, if the concept of time, crowds or sensory overload is an issue try using the accommodations the park may offer you, at Knotts Berry Farm it is a Ride Boarding Pass that can be acquired.

Start off by visiting the parks information center and requesting a Ride Boarding Pass. There you will be asked what your needs, limitations and concerns are and there is where the determination is made as to what help can be offered.  In our case, the Ride Boarding Pass was explained, issued for the 3 of us in our party and we were off.  No picture, no proof of disability (it is against ADA laws) overall a very simple process.

Knotts Camp Snoopy

Knotts Berry Farm's system works for the most part, only downfall I see is if you are alone (parent with child) you must go to the ride to get a return time.  This can/may be stressful/difficult for child/adult to comprehend that he/she must then leave the ride and then return at a later time. 

Getting a return time helps avoid being in the ride queue where child/adult can become over stimulated by being too close to people or noises.

Another down side, only having the ability to have one return time at a time for a ride, but this is par with other amusement parks.  Planning your visit on off peak days or season will cut your wait times and offer less crowds.

These pros & cons mainly apply to Autism, cognitive issues or over stimulation caused by Autism/ASD

               Front and back of Ride Boarding Pass at Knotts Berry Farm and the Instructions on how to use.

             Front and back of Ride Boarding Pass at Knotts Berry Farm and the Instructions on how to use.

I can say that when we were given a return time/boarding time, we were boarded at that time....No extra waiting.  May not be the case always, but the 2 times we used the Ride Boarding Pass it was.  The R/O's were very friendly and helpful making for our first time using the system a little less stressful, it was also our first visit to the park too.  I did like the fact that we were not placed in an additional line to have to wait more time to ride, this is the case on many rides at the "other" park were the fastpast system is used and adds to the overall board time. With a person on the spectrum and their issue with not understanding the concept of time this to me is a plus here at Knotts Berry Farm!

Overall the accommodations worked with my high functioning autistic girl (who has tons of practice at the "other" big near by amusement park)  there will always be that off day, that favorite ride that is broken down or delayed or the day that EVERYONE just decided to show up, for this we are thankful the park has this system in place to help out.  Now how to keep people honest and not abuse the system and ruin it for those who truly need it.  Sigh

Autism Friendly Museum - Pretend City in Irvine

We love being invited to spend a few hours at Pretend City. If you have never been it's a full hands on museum in Irvine that caters to younger kids ages 0 to 8. Pretend City is also very user friendly to kiddos on the spectrum, boasting sensory fixes at every turn. If you have never been or heard of this place it's a city sized for kids. There is everything you would expect to find in a typical neighborhood. There is a bank, grocery store, library and even a garden area to name a few of the exhibits. It's a bit of a drive for us but one of my daughters favorite places to play. With featured exhibits, special events and a room to hold private birthday parties, your time at the museum will always be filled with learning, fun, personal discovery and growth. 
      

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Mermaids Tail - A Faery Hunt

Dance and sing your way through the forest trees hand in hand with the fairies, the mermaid queen, Aunt Angelica and Captain Scrappy while they tell their tell in this highly interactive performance so unique and magical for children it is sure to put a smile on every face and make memories that will soon not be forgotten.At a Mermaid Birthday Party Stay for the charming party afterwards to look for faery treasures on the forest floor, have your face painted by the fairies, play games, dance, be treated to lunch.  Autographs and photos of all the players are also available with you and your children as well.

A Mermaid's TailCan a Mermaid walk among us without her tail?  YES she can in Faeryland! Come with us and we will show you the way with the help of our friends the faerys of the woodlands and a peculiar fellow Captain Scrappy.  Off we go!

  With our trusted guide Aunt Angelica  leading the way, we are off in search of the Mermaid Queen with a little help of the fairies Sedona and Shalee.

With our trusted guide Aunt Angelica  leading the way, we are off in search of the Mermaid Queen with a little help of the fairies Sedona and Shalee.

  On our way to find Mermaid Queen LiBan's cove and THERE she is! 

On our way to find Mermaid Queen LiBan's cove and THERE she is! 

  The Queen Mermaid and her faery friends Stardust and Hope, they were all elated to see us!

The Queen Mermaid and her faery friends Stardust and Hope, they were all elated to see us!

  Avast thar mates, it's Captian Scrappy! Doing a little song n dance.

Avast thar mates, it's Captian Scrappy! Doing a little song n dance.

  With a little help from his friends, Captian Scrappy and the fairies follow the treasure map!

With a little help from his friends, Captian Scrappy and the fairies follow the treasure map!

  Dancing and singing with the fairies in the forest , anything is possible in Faeryland!

Dancing and singing with the fairies in the forest , anything is possible in Faeryland!

   Snacks and refreshments were a welcome sight after frolicking in the forest with the fairies and their friends during the Mermaid's Party.

Snacks and refreshments were a welcome sight after frolicking in the forest with the fairies and their friends during the Mermaid's Party.

Autism & Special Needs Pros/Cons:

  • There are no loud noises or scary costumes.
  • You can go at your own pace and rejoin the group if needed.
  • The singing is soft and the walking is minimal.
  • Since there is no "Seating" there is always a good spot for the children to see at one point or another during the show and the interaction level is completely up to you.

This is our second time I have attended A Faery hunt performance.  My autistic daughter did much better this time since she knew more of what to expect and was able to stay the entire show and party (first time we had to leave after the party started, it was a bit too much stimulation for her) Both times there was a group of approximately 130 attendees . If this may be of concern for you, I am told that the performances without the parties after tend to have a lower turnout and may be a better option for a first time out.  My daughter is a HUGE Faery and even Bigger Mermaid lover so this play was a treat for her indeed. 

I would like to thank the entire cast and Especially Aunt Angelica for graciously having us once again and for keeping these performances going, for there is nothing else out there like it out in the open air, so interactive and free spirited like children are and should be!

Disclaimer: All opinions are my own, I was provided tickets for this event.

 CLICK HERE TO SEE MY FIRST POST!

CLICK HERE TO SEE MY FIRST POST!

HUZZAH! Medieval Times Behind the Scenes Tour & Tournament! and GIVEAWAY!

Medieval Times

Our Behind the Scenes Tour and Evening at the Tournament

To say we were excited to be invited to tour the Medieval Times facilities in Buena Park would be an understatement!  It is a sight seen by few of the general public so we were so honored when we were given the opportunity this past week.  And of course my gal HAD to dress appropriately, she never misses an opportunity to dress up.

 The King's Stallion. Standing approximately 17 Hands Tall, he is a breed from the Netherlands.  The Gentle giant with my daughter, I think they were captivated by each other.

The King's Stallion. Standing approximately 17 Hands Tall, he is a breed from the Netherlands.  The Gentle giant with my daughter, I think they were captivated by each other.

 My girl having fun with the horses and their trainer.

My girl having fun with the horses and their trainer.

 Our behind the scenes tour started with the stables that house the gorgeous stallions (the show features only stallions, the foals and mares are all in Texas at the Medieval Times Ranch we learned) Here in the stables where the horses are kept, groomed, bathed as we saw, fed and prepped for the show. They were stunning up close, almost seamed unreal how still and calm they were. 

 

 A little assistance from a pro at crowns the princess and the knights of the tournament during training.

A little assistance from a pro at crowns the princess and the knights of the tournament during training.

Next stops were the main hall and then the arena where the knights were in full training mode. This was awesome, they interacted with my daughter and even let her hold their sword.  Since they were playing up their battle moves she was laughing (I think it kind of confused her as to if it was real or pretend, this is a perspective taking /autism issue)  The noise level at first was also an issue for her, we left for a brief time (to seek out the princess) then returned after adjusting to the loud clashes and we could then enjoy the arena and the knights practice.

So during our brief break from the arena, we took the time to track down the princess to allow my daughter to adjust to the noises and my daughter was insistent that we find her anyway.  In the middle of preparing for the show was how we found the princess so my girl was able to try her crown and grill her as to why she was not fully dressed (nothing gets past her) I explained that her lady in waiting must have stepped out. 

 We finished our tour with taking our picture with the king and my daughter with the princess (this time fully accessorized) and then waited for the tournament to begin! Lucky Gals or what?

 

 The beginning of the tournament, such a spectacle of colors amongst the talented performers and horses.

The beginning of the tournament, such a spectacle of colors amongst the talented performers and horses.

Okay so this was not our first time to Medieval Times for the Dinner and Tournament, third to be exact counting this time.  We have had mixed experiences each time, mainly sensory issues (loud noises basically) but overall, great thus the reason we keep coming back.  My girl asked for the black and white knight on our last visit and did so again on this visit!  Autism and things always having to be the same.

 So much food, can't finish it all, take it home!

So much food, can't finish it all, take it home!

Dinner is served!  My daughter had the baby dragon, I mean chicken, rib, potato with bread and tomato bisque soup and I played the part of a vegetarian for the evening.  My dinner consisted of a hummus plate with veggies and a stew made with potatoes, rice and beans along with other veggies.  Both were very filling and very Delicious. 

 The Falcon returning from his majestic flight around the arena.

The Falcon returning from his majestic flight around the arena.

 Black and Whitle knight for the win! and the flower that made her "Knight" 

Black and Whitle knight for the win! and the flower that made her "Knight" 

As the tournament got underway my daughter seemed a bit uneasy at first with the noise level but once things got going she was all cheers and rooting the tournament on, whew! "Bring on the castle bread" and "Go black and white Knight!"( She's 6 mind you) and as the evening progressed she REALLY wanted a flower, I feared with us being so high up she wouldn't get one, so I stood her up, waved a napkin and PLOP! right on her chair landed a red flower! MADE her night. Oh and I knew then he would win....and he did.  Perfect ending to a perfect day with my gal, the kind memories are made of!

I would sincerely like to thank everyone at Medieval Times for their generosity and their time in taking us on the tour of their beautiful facilities, just a great group of people I have to say.  We had met a few of them at a previous Autism events and can only hope we see each other again to spread awareness again soon. 

Autism/Special Needs Pros and Cons: 

If waiting in the Main Hall for the tournament to begin is too much stimulation, noise or the crowds are overwhelming you can ask to use the handicap entrance and be seated a few minuets before the rest of the public at a separate entrance.  Just explain your situation and they will be more than happy to accommodate your party.  We used this option and it was a HUGE help.

Be aware that the tournament has loud noises and flashing lights.  Seating your party to the end of your row allows you to leave for breaks if needed(this is where the early seating option comes in handy), The show runs approximately 2 hours.

If eating with hands is a concern (tactile/sensory issues) I would say bring your own utensils (plastic if that is acceptable for your family member) or your normal flatware. I would advise your server of your situation as well.

Have any other concerns/needs just give them a call!

General note: The arena is a bit on the cool side, so bring a light sweater.

Last but not least enjoy the show!

Autism Friendly at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

Autism/Disabilities Accommodations at the Parks

  Visiting Disneyland or any other amusement park for that matter with a child or adult on the spectrum can be tricky and stressful, it’s not always a walk in the park. My daughter has Autism which is a neurological disorder. Autism causes her to have issues with understanding the concept of time among other things. My girl can become over stimulated with people being too close, sounds, smells and crowds. All of these things can cause people with autism to become stressed thus making the alternate entrance option (exit of a Ride) the better one when boarding attractions. At Disneyland and Disneyland California Adventure there is a system that is in place, the DAS. It can come in handy to assist in making your experience a much more magical one at the park. 

                           It was a perfect day to visit the park.  Sleeping Beauty's Castle.                               Lead the way my Princess! 

    What it does: The DAS helps guests with cognitive issues like my daughter by getting a return time to one ride at a time and wait outside the ride's queue till the boarding time comes up (which is equal to the rides current wait time less 10 minuets).  The subtracted time is due to what has to be done to get a ride time.. 

 How do you register to use the Disneyland Disability Access Service (DAS)?:  You will need to visit Guest Relations at either City Hall in Disneyland or the Chamber of Commerce in Disney California Adventure. Here you will be asked what your concerns are or issues you may have when visiting parks such as Disneyland. The DAS is valid for 2 months if you have an annual passport or for the duration of your stay with valid park tickets and it works at both parks regardless of which one it was issued in. You do have to go through a registration process and if your DAS time lapses it's validation date you will be asked the reason for your need all over again. Upon issuance you can select your first ride, get your boarding time as well as a park map detailing where the guest relations kiosk are located throughout the parks. It is there where you will get your future ride boarding times for the remainder of your stay.

Where to get a boarding time for a ride: Visit any guest relations kiosk regardless of park and request the ride of choice. Your ticket or annual pass will be scanned along with everyone else in your party desiring to ride and the wait time relayed to you (less 10 minuets) When the ride time comes up you are free to go to that ride then or anytime after, it will not expire until you check in at the said attraction or change it for another ride at a guest relations kiosk. At the ride you will Check in by presenting your tickets again (look for handicap entrance) where they are scanned by a CM and you are free to join the line. It may be the fastpass return line, exit/handicap line or a point where you are merged into the general queue line. When you have finished the attraction you are free to visit another guest relations kiosk to select your next ride/attraction. With the DAS you are also permitted to utilize the fastpass system which gives you two rides you can virtually wait for at once.

Autism Disneyland

Special one on one time with the Characters at Disneyland make it all worth the while!

 List of Kiosk in Disneyland, Plus you can get your first ride time at City Hall when you get your DAS.

List of Kiosk in Disneyland, Plus you can get your first ride time at City Hall when you get your DAS.

 Central Plaza Kiosk/Across from Jolly Holiday Bakery

There has been a lot of controversy over this new program which replaced the GAC that ended in October of 2013 due to the severe fraud that was occurring by non disabled people acquiring the pass. The new system has all but eliminated the problems that were occurring in the past. 

I still prefer the old system which was spontaneous and just more natural, it takes work to make the new system work for us on a good day. Even with added accommodations of Readmission passes which are not readily handed out by all CM's . What these passes are is a "safety net" for us, in case my girl passes a ride she HAS to go on right then and there or we have an extremely long wait for our next ride. We can use the Re-ad pass to go on that ride without a return time or if she wants to ride a ride immediately again after getting off one as many on the spectrum like to do. But again it is NOT an immediate boarding pass, we still wait and that on a busy day for a child on the spectrum can be very difficult. Unfortunately the new pass is not a "one size fits all", many disabilities are not as covered as our group is unfortunately. Wheelchair bound guest are given a return time directly at the ride of choice but without a DAS, it is not a blanket policy anymore. 

 My daughter with one of her favorites! Alice and the Mad Hatter on a stroll.

 

 Current List of Kiosk Locations in Disney California Adventure
 Entrance of cars land Kiosk

Entrance of cars land Kiosk

Autism Pros:

  • Ability to have return time while eating, shopping, taking restroom break.
  • Added Readmission passes available to some that help out with those extra busy days and the “Immediate” need to ride. (which is still not immediate). But again these are NOT given out to most visitors but was done at the beginning of the transition between the GAC and the DAS systems. Always advocate for your family members if need be is my advise. Only you know what is best suited for them. 
  • Not having to wait in the general Queue with a special needs child/person who has no concept of personal space or waiting in general is a pro for them and the general public.
  • Stroller as a wheelchair tag enables you to take a stroller up into the ride queue with child until point to boarding ride, keeping them and your belonging together and comfortable.

Autism Cons:

  • Waiting for return time and then having child/person change their mind, you sometimes lose your time that you waited, all depends on the CM.
  • No consistency among Cast Members with DAS rules when it comes to ride breakdowns and what accommodations they will make with your ride times. Rule is you should be issued a Re AD pass. This issues I run into less and less as the change from the old system to the new has settled with the CM's.
  • Ride times are normally longer than normal stand by times with the DAS on busy days.
  • Passing a ride and having to explain to your spectrum child why they have to wait to ride/come back at a later time.

Per ride info/Tips for some of the major attractions:

Disneyland

  • Indy -Very loud in the regular ride queue, wear headphones if loud noises are an issue. The ride itself is very jerky and loud.  Utilize the exit to enter where you are merged in further down the line if not you will be added to the FP line.
  • Big Thunder Railroad- Can be loud from riders screaming in the tunnels and the blasts/explosion. Again utilize the exit entrance if possible, though the wait to board is with no overhang and it does get hot in the summer months the line moves quickly. If you do not use the exit you will be added to the FP line.. 
  • Haunted Mansion -Utilize the stroller option if crowds are an issue as the main hall to board the ride gets very impacted and can be overwhelming. If no stroller is used you will be merged into the line at the point of entering the mansion.
  • Splash Mountain -Utilize exit to enter, main queue can be loud and crowded and feel confining. If no stroller enter at FP lane.
  • It's a Small World- If not using the handicap entrance, pick the right lane, it's faster. Wheelchairs can greatly add to wait times in the handicap line (left) during peek seasons. 
  • Space Mountain- Enter at exit of ride with stroller or be placed with FP line. (sound is loud on this ride)
  • Star Tours- Enter ride at FP line. I have honestly never used the stroller option on this ride as it the line always moves fast.
  • Pirates- Enter ride from exit with the DAS.
  • Matterhorn- Enter from right side of ride. This is always changing and depends on park attendance. You will board from exit. Never have utilized stroller as wheelchair for this ride as the line moves fast.
  • Finding Nemo Subs- Enter at exit (kinda confusing as the monorail entrance is directly next to it. Very tight enclosed space on the subs, keep in mind if this is an issue.
  • Astro Blaster- Enter at far right next to green little men store. There you will be escorted and merged in with line.
  • Peter Pans Flight- Enter handicap/exit lane.
  • Alice in Wonderland- Check in and enter from exit.

All other rides go to the exit and check in with CM to be given access to ride.

Disneyland California Adventure

This park since it is newer is very handicap accessible, not many needs to enter from exits and is only offered on a few rides for wheelchairs. DAS still utilizes exits or FP lines.

  • California Screaming- With a wheelchair or stroller you can load quicker and enter from exit. 
  • Tower of Terror -Pick the right side to board when up to the point of split. Other wise there are stairs and the line tends to be longer. I have never utilized the stroller as wheelchair option on the ride as the line moves very fast.
  • Radiator Springs - Again if you can take the far left once you are up to the split, it does not emerge with the normal lines or FP/single riders. You do this with a stroller as a wheelchair or a wheelchair.
  • Soaring Over California- Enter at FP line. I have never utilized the stroller as wheelchair option on the ride as the line moves very fast. (sound on ride is a bit loud)
  • Grizzly River Run- Enter at FP lane. Line moves fast and have never used stroller as wheelchair option.
  • Toy Story Mania- Enter at the left side at short ramp.

Remainder of rides enter/ check in at exit

The DAS does NOT work for character meet and greets which can be a very long wait on busy days (over an hour to and hour and a half) this to me is a big negative in my book. I normally go to the park alone with my girl and have no one to stand in line to hold our place. We opt instead for very slow park days or find them on the streets for the chance meetings.

So please next time you see a perfectly normal looking child or adult in the handicap entrance, we are not abusing the system (most of us anyway) and if we are calm it is because the system IS working for us! 

My daughter and I are Annual Pass holders and visit approximately once a month as a reward/motivator to my daughter and well because we just LOVE all things Disney! The disability passes have been a blessing for my child, for without them I fear we would not have been able to enjoy the park equally and make the memories we have made. We still have bad days and hard moments we work thru on our trips (even on the days pictured here), but manage to find our magic with the help of a little Pixie dust.

In the enclosed PDF you will find a great guide for planning a trip to Disneyland with family in the spectrum.  It details the attractions if you are sensitive to sounds, smells, loud noises, lights, and speed.  Along with if the attraction accepts Fastpass so that you can plan.