Friday, July 29, 2011

Heavenly Leveling

Back again... finally.  We had a great week last week, full of things to do, full of opportunities.  it was a wonderful week.  The funny thing is it was so great I can't just spill it all in one post.  So I'll start from the beginning... I hear it's a very good place to start. 

We began our journey to San Antonio for the Texas Bandmasters' Association convention, held every summer.  For the past couple of years something has come up and we've been forced to stay home.  This time, we were kinda determined to go.  We learned of a place called Morgan's Wonderland and decided that our family would love that. 

We were so right!

This is at the base of the statue (below).  I immediately knew this was going to be a very good day.

We started to play pretty much immediately when we walked in.  All the paths on all the playground equipment- which in itself is amazing- are more than wide enough for a wheelchair, and each play area is accessible.  Even the slides are friendly... they are rollers instead of just a solid surface, so even without the ability to propel yourself you can slide right down.  There are regular slides, too.  Everything is sturdy enough for adults, too.  I'm not a "little girl" and I was able to slide, run around and play just like Ryan.  Well, something like that anyway... I lack his energy!

There are so many neat sensory things, like the water play area, that kids with or without a sensory "thing" can enjoy. All our kids thought the whole park was cool... but a close second to the trains was the water play area.  I cannot begin to describe how cool it was.  Just glance a little further north on the page and check out Ryan gettin' his stim on!

Goin' around again on the train!
Then there are the rides.  Oh, the sweet people who work there!  The only place I've been where the help is such a part of the experience is Disney World.  Not kidding.  All the staff were welcoming and warm, some with a special need themselves in some way or another.  On the train that goes around the park, we rode three times the first time, and two or three more at the end of the day.  Again, the train is even wheelchair accesible.  This doesn't apply to us, but there are so many who need it.  On the carousel (again, wheelchair friendly) we rode twice around... only stopped at two because mommy doesn't do round and round.  As we got off, one of the staff members needed to go inside the carousel to do something.  Before I could grab him, Ryan followed him!!!  The man left outside the carousel just laughed and said in a voice loud enough to hear, "You've got one behind you" like it happens all the time.  No big deal.  No "hey lady, control your kid." Just a little warning so he didn't back over my boy.  After a high five from Ryan, we left the carousel and continued our stay. 

I have to say, any time I encounter something done for special needs kids, or just autism, or it's just so obvious that people get it, I choke up.  Random tears of relieved joy rolled down my face for at least the first hour I watched Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn run around and lead the way.  Even ground.  No "you and you, but not you".  The biggest thing that got me... Morgan, who the park was inspired by... is pictured at the front of the park.  Below her picture is all about her.  Things she likes to do, eat, see, and what she enjoys, what kiind of person she is.  Never once does it mention what her "special need" is.  Never once are you confronted with a label.  The only label that exists is simply "hi, I'm Crystal, and I like...." 

For three glorious hours, I didn't have to say the word "autism".  No explaining, no apologizing, and even during a meltdown (the only one at the park), no stares or comments.  Just the five of us, playing and being together. 

The boys were boys...

Mae was Mae... ever the busy girl. 

As we poured ourselves into the front seats of the van after cajoling, buckling, issuing water and snacks, diapey changes and explanations of what's next, we looked at each other and agreed we'll be back.  Not sure when, but we'll be back.  After all, how can you stay away from a place that lets kids, whose bodies have robbed them of so many of the joys of physical child's play, swing and slide?  Other than our own experience, one that will stay in my heart is the image of a mother sliding with her teenage son.  He needed her assistance, and she was more than elated to oblige.  As they slid down the roller-slide, laughing and smiling with an unadulterated joy I cannot explain, I made up my mind that I had to do all I could to share this place.  This fabulous, amazing, yet so simple... level ground.  Absolutely heavenly. 

Taking Flight
(on the plaque below the statue)

"Taking Flight" dramatically symbolizes what Morgan's Wonderland stands for- to inspire those with special needs to soar beyond their physical or cognitive challenges and reach heights thought to be unattainable. Just as a butterfly magically emerges from its cocoon, unfurls its wings and takes flight, this unique park is dedicated to encouraging each individual to dare to reach beyond their limitations and reach the heights of their dreams.
We are so thankful to the founders, dreamers, for Morgan, for her wonderland.  But we're even more thankful to be blessed with the three most amazing children I've ever met... Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn... and all their dreams, hopes, and challenges.

Thanks be to God, the giver of all!

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