#Review: #Legoland Discovery Centre (#Toronto, ON)

Last week, the kids, my man, his son and I had the opportunity to go to LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Vaughan, ON (north of Toronto). To stay away from the really busy times, we took a “family field trip day” during a school day…gasp! The kids were really excited and, to be honest, my man was almost as (if not more) excited than the kids.

When we arrived, the kids “had” to play with the Lego people outside the centre, with my daughter gravitating towards the girl Lego person, and  my son dancing with his reflection in the window.

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Inside the outer doors was pretty amazing…very colourful and a very cool HUGE Lego cut out as the door to enter into the centre.

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There was a really interesting Lego display to walk through of various Canadian buildings. It was amazing to see these structures and some of them were taller than us!

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There were bins of Lego scattered throughout the centre, so kids can play with them whenever they wanted. One of the staff was constantly picking up Legos from off the floor. Needless to say, all grownups were wearing their shoes whenever we walked around. 😉

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There was a big indoor playground that the three kids loved, and a play Lego kitchen where my daughter was so proud that she completely organized the fridge…she’s definitely my girl!

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My son’s favourite part of LEGOLAND was a smaller space that lead to a mini slide. He spent lots of time in there…and hugged the giraffe made of Lego at the bottom of the slide each time he came down.

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As with any other tourist/attraction areas, I dressed my son in one of his Autism t-shirts. Just makes everything easier…especially when another parent tried claiming she saw my son push another child. I was right there and saw everything…it was actually her son who pushed my son then when he noticed I was right here, he fell over and called for his mom. She tried disciplining my son and he ignored her (shocking that!). I calmly let her know what had actually happened and that as far as my son was concerned, her son didn’t exist because he has Autism and just wants to play with Lego. She then saw his t-shirt and just left us alone.

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My son had a mini-meltdown when we tried to move him from the quiet space he loved to the larger indoor playground. We knew once he got to the playground, he would be in heaven. I was a bit surprised that there weren’t any offers from LEGOLAND staff to help but there also wasn’t really anything they could do to help either. The lack of staff within visible distance did make it easier for my man to carry my son over his shoulder to get him closer to the indoor playground. He was screaming his head off but then I held him for about 10 minutes to help him calm down enough to see the indoor playground. Eventually, he went in and that’s where he spent the rest of our time there.

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We had wanted to go when LEGOLAND first opened up a year ago but were deterred by the admittance price: $20 per child and $22 per adult is a bit too steep when factoring in two of my three kids, my man and his son. When I was contacted to review LEGOLAND in exchange for free admittance, we jumped at the chance.

An area for improvement for LEGOLAND from a guest-standpoint is that there is nothing for grownups to do, which is strange when it costs more for adults to be there. In comparison, we go to a local indoor playground often and there’s a charge for children (less than $10) but adults are free. A similar set up would be great for LEGOLAND. There’s also a really large interactive display that blocks sightlines from the café (similar price to going to the movies) through to the indoor playground, which means you can’t sit there enjoying a coffee or tea, while keeping an eye on your children. So, after the kids played for just over two hours, my man and I were done…especially since there is very little seating for grownups within sightlines. Then we had the just-over-an-hour drive home, plus to ensure we didn’t get stuck in traffic, we took the toll-highway.

I’m really glad we went, and it’s something we can check off our “Attractions we want to go to” list but the high cost for a family is a deterrent. Overall, the kids had a fantastic time…and they were exhausted on the way home. 😉

 

Meghan and her family received free admittance to LEGOLAND Discover Centre

in exchange for this review.

 

The Guilt of Extra Curriculars (post on SpecialNeeds.com)

A new post I wrote for SpecialNeeds.com:

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Last week, my daughter had her first knitting class and she LOVED it!

Until now, my kids have only attended classes or groups if they are offered by groups that can manage my son’s needs. My daughter has bugged me for years about joining swimming, gymnastics, knitting, etc classes. Each time, I would tell her that I would look into it, and hope the topic didn’t come up again. I grew up doing A LOT of extra-curricular activities: ballet, skating, soccer, band, orchestra, etc. I was never home directly after school other than to grab my skates. 😉

In reality, so many thoughts went through my head each time she asked about extra curricular activities:

  • How can I afford extra curricular activities on my single income?
  • What other costs will be needed (uniforms, team snacks, etc)?
  • Are you going to stop growing for a couple of months so we can maybe get through one season in the same pair of footwear/clothing?
  • Who can I trust with my wonderful child?

The biggest barrier though was: What will I do with my son

Read the rest of my post here:  SpecialNeeds.com/GuiltofExtraCurriculars

 

Calming #Meltdowns (#Autism)

“Meltdowns” sometimes look very similar to “tantrums”….to the untrained eye.  For my son, he’s learnt how to self-soothe by removing one of his senses…and that’s usually his sight. Sometimes, him covering his eyes or shutting them REALLY hard is the only indication I have that he’s going into meltdown rather than just having a tantrum. I deal with tantrums by ensuring he’s safe and calming asking him to use his voice to tell me what’s wrong and ask when it’s over.

 

Meltdowns are VERY different. When he was younger, he wasn’t able to self-soothe so I had to do that for him by removing as many over-stimuli as I could, and honestly one of us would end up bleeding (usually me) because he was very physical and violent during his meltdowns. Now that he’s able to self-soothe, I’m able to just hold him in my arms, he rocks us back and forth and they don’t last long.

 

I borrowed this checklist from the “Autism Spectrum Disorder” page on Facebook:

 

You Might be an Autism Parent If…

Gotta love Twitter! It’s giving me lots to work with in the last week…including a GREAT trending hashtag: “YouMightBeAnAutismParentIf…”. I’ve now “met” so many other Tweeps in the Autism community, I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone more. The following are some of the tweets I especially appreciated:

You Might Be an Autism Parent If:

  • your child has taught you more about love, life and what truly matters, than the other way around. @Soundless2
  • you wouldn’t change your child for the world – but want often to change the World for your child!  @helenhamill
  • U discover chunk of skin is missing from his pinky & u find the chunk stuck in between the closet doors. He didn’t cry. @yupcom
  • “It takes a village to raise a child” takes on a whole new meaning @trydefyinggravity
  • you know the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown and can explain it @GPKRacing
  • you say “try again”, “use your words”, “first this-then this”, “nice hands”, “good waiting” 1000x a day.  @AutismPinoy
  • ifurheart hurts b/c not only does he have 2 overcome more. He also has 2 learn ppl will treat him badly for it  @ErronA
  • hearing your child say “I’m sad” makes you secretly happy they were able to express an emotion!  @Calormom
  • it is unfathomable to go on an outing in shoes you can’t run in @FroggyPrinceMom
  • swings, trampolines &/ or obstacle courses are main pieces in your home’s decor. @Kristin Macchi
  • you have heard more often than not “I don’t know how you do it” or “you must be exhausted” #notcomplimentspeople @LLA_Princess (so true! Just makes us realize how tired we are!)
  • you know that potty training is a multi-year project. @texascanadasean

My responses…You Might Be an Autism Parent If:

  • You can’t secure fulltime work because no one will look after your child afterschool.
  • You walk into a new venue and “see” what will trigger meltdowns and overstimulations for your child, whether or not they are with you.
  • You explain to anyone new coming to your home that your 6yo son will probably be walking around in his diaper.
  • You fake being interested in what “advice” someone who doesn’t have a child with Autism offers because they met ONE child with Autism, 10 years ago, and therefore they know everything about Autism.
  • You can’t remember the last time you slept an entire night.
  • You LOVE Melatonin!
  • You never think you’ll be partnered again because no man will want to take on the extra responsibilities of Autism (and yet I found one!!)
  • You put off your own surgery until your child can understand NOT to jump on mommy during recovery.

 

Not a Normal Morning

Overnight, my son was up for a few hours, which is “normal” in the wonderful world of Autism.  I changed his diaper (6 years and counting!), gave him some water, made sure he was comfortable in his room, closed the door and went back to bed.  I drifted in and out of sleep for the next few hours and, when my daughter crawled into bed with me around 6am, my son was wide awake, playing loudly in his room.  By the time I got up an hour later, my daughter was fast asleep (which was strange because she’s the morning person in our family) and my son was actually hyper.  The first thought that went through my head was “Has he been awake this whole time?!”.

 

We dropped my daughter off at camp, and then my son and I went to the Early Year’s Centre for the weekly playgroup.  Being new to town, it’s nice to get to know other (usually) moms in the area – have even reconnected with a couple childhood friends there too, which is always fun.

 

My son always goes towards the same toys for the most part: fabric plant pot with 3 fabric flowers and a fabric worm, a bin of plastic animals (which gives him time to practice his new word: “zees-ba”, otherwise known as “zebra”), and some containers filled with rubber insects.  He spends most of the time happily lining everything up and using the rubber insects to create letters, spelling out words.

 

This morning however, he just didn’t want to sit still.  As more moms and their kids entered, more kids tried taking these toys away from him.  Most mornings, he’s really good at sharing but this morning was not one of those mornings.  He kept trying to take the toys back, which made the younger kids cry.  I moderated, giving the other child the toy (“First, it’s his/her turn, honey; then, it’s your turn.”).  This was unacceptable for him.  He started burrowing into me, covering his eyes with his hands, which means he’s self-regulating to try to avoid a meltdown. 

 

I was able to calm him down each time, alleviating a meltdown, and he went back to happily playing with the toys.  When he was happy however, he would screech…almost taking the paint off the walls.  I tried talking him down, distracting him, giving him a timeout, everything.  Nothing stopped the screeching so we ended up leaving, not because anyone asked us to but I didn’t want him to start upsetting the 10 other younger kids that were there, and the snowball of emotions that might ensue.

 

He was very excited when I told him that we could go to the park, and on the way there, it started looking very ominous so we came back home and within 10 minutes of using sidewalk chalk, it started raining.  I had a full demonstration of how obsessive he can be during this time because he would not stop writing (even though it was POURING) until he had finished his normal combination of words.

 

Poor guy just can’t get a break today.  Sun’s out now though so hopefully the park will dry up soon so we can go.

“Scary Mommy” Reflections

 

 

 

 

Scary Mommy has a great blog post this week – well, they are all great, but this one has caused some reflection on my part because my son has Autism. It’s inviting parents of typical kids to ask those hard questions to us parents of special needs kids that they are afraid to ask.

I have three pet peeves…firstly, don’t ask “what’s wrong” with my son. There’s nothing “wrong” with him. He just interacts with the world differently, same as there’s nothing “wrong” with me for not aceing science and math in school the way you might have; or that you didn’t ace languages, music and history the way I did.

My second pet peeve is when someone calls my son “Autistic”. Someone with Cancer, isn’t “Cancerous”. My son has Autistic traits, but he isn’t Autistic.

Lastly, when people tell me that they are “sorry” about my DS having Autism, I try not to look at them like they have three heads. Why are you sorry? I’m not. Autism is PART of how my son learns and interacts, it isn’t WHO he is. My son is AWESOME!

There is also a long discussion on Scary Mommy about how to help a parent of a child of special needs. My advice is to be there, whether emotionally or physically. If you hear we are having a bad day and that we aren’t leaving the house because of it, show up. Give us time to have a shower while you are there, bring us our favourite drink (mine’s a Starbucks chai latte, lactose-free milk, no water…in case you were wondering), do the dishes, fold laundry, bring us a home-cooked meal, etc. Sure, they are “chores” that you probably don’t want to do at your place but I can tell you from experience that my stress levels increase exponentially by the second if I haven’t had time to do the dishes (don’t have a dishwasher) and I can’t find counter space to prepare whatever food my DS wants at that moment.

At the end of the day though, just ask how you can help – please don’t be offended if we say there’s nothing you can do though…sometimes it’s just harder for us to explain how to help because you might unintentionally trigger a meltdown. Ask about the specialist appointment we took our child to today – just be prepared for a detailed answer if you ask about the appointment. 😉 Invite us out at a time of day that works best for us, whether it’s a playdate for the kids or some grown-up time. We get very isolated very easily as we have been asked if “other moms groups might be more suitable for my son” often.

Most of all though, share in our excitement about developmental advances our child makes. Remember how excited you were when your child started talking/walking/went potty the first time? We are just as excited, if not more so, when we finally get to experience those advances when our kids are older. Can you imagine how excited I’ll be when my soon to be 6yo son will finally be potty trained??!!!

Above all, if you happen to witness my son’s complete meltdown in public, walk over, ask if there’s anything you can do to help and offer to hold my bags, then try to keep up with us as my son takes us on a “Meltdown Adventure”, which can lead anywhere or nowhere. Hope you’re wearing your running shoes!