It’s funny how public places, especially those meant for children, are carefully laid out so those with disabilities can get around easily.

That is, kids with physical disabilities.

For autistic kids, the claustrophobic mazes and tunnels, low-ceilinged playrooms and jumble of screaming children crowded around every feature are basic nightmares.

The children’s museum is a mecca of childhood playtime where everything is meant to be touched and interacted with. Where other children happily flit from feature to feature, forgetting an adult is anywhere nearby.

Other children. Not Simon.

His sweaty little hand grips mine tightly. He offers a throaty scream intermittently — a signal to me that it’s all just too much for his system. He eventually crawls through the tunnels in the ant hill, but only if I’ll come along.

He’s of course drawn to the features where he can drive something — a truck, a car, a boat. But inevitably, there is  another child already at the wheel. He is pretty good today about waiting his turn, but refuses to share once he’s seated. Toddlers, especially, tend to violate his personal space bubble.

The other kids like it here, but not as much as the zoo or the blow-up jumpy place, they say. Clare complains that I’m not spending enough time with her. I am not, but she doesn’t need me.

He does.

All in all, it’s a pretty good day with no major meltdowns. But I’m left wondering if Simon really had a good time.

I also wonder if I should, or should not, be exposing him to situations like this.

Most Fridays, our time for Mommy-kids fun, are a few hours to just play and see and do and forget about the rest of the world. But today, all I could think about was the autism. Around every corner was a booby trap set for Simon’s sensory system.

I’m glad the older two weren’t super excited about the place. I don’t think we’ll be back for a while.

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