• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Autism Accommodations—Carowinds Amusement Park; Receives a Big Fat “F”: Part II: What Happened?

Keep in mind that I am now a pregnant, hot, tired, autistic woman dragging my three boys to the park after a three hour trip from home to our hotel. During said trip, we had a hot engine light come on and pulled off the interstate in order to check it out. While we were pulling off the exit our back tire blew ensuring we were not going anywhere for a while.

I ran after Tantrum Tot for 45 minutes in the parking lot of a gas station while Hubby unloaded the whole vehicle in order to change the tire and let the vehicle cool down—not fun. (In the Jeep the spare tire in beneath the floor board in the back so all the luggage was stacked on top of it.)

We arrived at the hotel at 3:30 pm(check-in was at 3:00 pm) to find our room was not ready—more running around after Tantrum Tot in the lobby until 4:00 pm while they readied the room. We skipped going to Carowinds altogether that day because after all it was Memorial Day and I knew the park would be crowded. Besides, the kids just really wanted to go swimming. When I asked where the pool was, I was informed that it was closed and will hopefully be opening the following day because someone threw glasses off the 8th floor balcony into the pool!

When the room was finally ready we were told that breakfast will be served until 9:30 the following morning—only. I always choose hotels that include breakfast because with the three boys heading out for breakfast is not practical, costs too much money, and they usually eat very little. Apparently, they were opening a new restaurant on Wednesday morning where we could purchase breakfast. I was not happy!

Up in our room I found that the last occupants tore an entire doorframe off the wall leaving exposed nails for the Tot to hurt himself on—it took another half hour to move our room. I was flustered and aggravated to say the least when we decided to take the boys to the park for the evening (they were closing at 8:00 pm) and in no mood to deal with pure stupidity.

First stop: Roaring Rapids

—always one of the boy’s favorites. They love love love water, and love getting drenched on water rides so it was no surprise that was the first ride they wanted to go on, and it is located right in the front of the park so I thought that worked out rather well—it didn’t.

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The instructions were to go into the exits of the rides, which was usually where the alternate access entrances were located in order to board and/or get a time to return—or go right to the staff who was outside of each ride. The first problem was that there was no staff to be found outside of the attraction.

In order to access a staff member I had to walk with the boys all way through to the exit, which was a good lengthy walk, to the attraction—only to be turned back and told to enter through the fast pass entrance.

We walked up the fast pass line entrance, and had to hunt down a staff member to let us through the chain (no one was manning the entrance), and then were ushered up to the ride loading area.

Once there, we waited, and waited. When the person manning the ride was good and ready, they approached us and I showed her our passes. She wrote down a time for us to return to the ride (one hour later!). I asked what the procedures were (maybe I had misunderstood at Guest Services) and was told that if the line was longer than a half hour wait, we were required to wait one full hour before returning to board.

Ok—my first issue. The boarding time is supposed to be equal to the wait time not a standard come back in an hour on our boarding passes.

When I asked how I would know how long of a wait a ride had, because there was no one at the entrance and you had to wrestle yourself past people actually waiting in line to gain access to staff, she told me that I could ask any staff member or supervisor—not helpful at all.

It did not take a small amount of time for us to finally get our boarding time, and by this time my 9 year-old was half way to his first meltdown because he was standing on the boarding platform, after waiting, and walking to that platform twice only to be told to come back in an hour.

Happy First Ride in Carowinds for me!

Second Stop was Snoopy Planet

–in order for the Tot to go on some rides because by this time he was very restless. Hubby had been running around with him outside the ride, while he screamed because he wanted to follow us during this whole fiasco. We figured we would spend some time letting him do things while we waited for the hour to pass.

(There is another catch by the way, while you await your return time, you cannot collect any other return times on other rides—not until a staff member signs that you rode the one you were waiting for.)

Snoopy Planet is where I encountered the

STUPIDEST THING I WAS TOLD ALL WEEK!

Considering you will hear many outrageously stupid comments from ignorant, incompetent, or lazy staff, my labeling this one as the stupidest by far is big!

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The Tot is only big enough to go on five rides in the entire park, and they should not have been this difficult. In Snoopy Planet, I ran into the most difficulty with accommodations (yes, on the kiddie rides) than any other area of the park.

The Flying Ace Race

—a little ride that goes up in the air and round and round. The Tot is small (less than 36 inches) and can only ride with an adult, which should not have been an issue because the pass is for him and THREE OTHER GUESTS!

Hubby went to the ride operator and asked where he should wait and showed her his pass. The lines were long because it was Memorial Day. It was fairly crowded, but they were definitely nowhere near a half hour or an hour for this little ride—but still there was no way the Tot would wait with the other people. Hubby was told that he had to wait in line, while leaving the Tot outside the gate. When he reached the front of the line, she would allow the Tot to board through the exit.

Hubby is just not one to argue with anyone—unlike me, so he left the line dragging a screaming Tot along behind him to tell me what he needed to do. Another woman and her son waited by the exit of the ride showed her passes and the attendant allowed her and her son to board immediately. So I calmly walked to the exit with my three boys all passes in hand without hubby and showed her their passes expecting her to load them onto the ride. She told me that I had to wait in line for them. Keep in mind that I am pregnant and not allowed to ride ANY of these rides, but was told I had to stand in the wait in line anyway even though I was not riding.

I asked her where the alternate waiting area was in order for me to wait, and she pointed to the side of the gate and said “the kids can wait there.”

Are you kidding me?

SHE WANTED ME TO LEAVE THREE AUTISTIC CHILDREN (One being only two-years old, and attached to a leash because he takes off at the drop of a hat!) UNATTENDED SITTING ON A WALL OUTSIDE THE RIDE WHILE I GOT ON THE LINE AND WAITED!

Hubby was NOT with me!

I asked her what the wait time was and showed her the boarding pass, and she told me that it was over an hour, but still refused to actually give us a time to come back to ride. That is when I was seriously ready to start kicking stupid people in their shins!

When I refused to leave the boys alone, or walk away from her ride she allowed the boys to enter but said that ONLY THEY COULD ENTER, even though the Tot could not ride without an adult (my husband).

I again, had to show her what the passes said about the child and three people in the part for EACH PASS, and she still argued. It was ridiculous.

In the end, she did allow Hubby to board the ride with the Tot, who finally got to ride his little balloon race thing—but it was a hassle; a hassle which continued through the whole trip because at each and every ride I either had to fight for the right to use the passes or explain what they were and how they worked.

After only one ride in Snoopy Planet, the hour wait was up and we walked back to the Roaring Rapids, entered through the Fast Pass entrance with the boarding passes showing the time had lapsed. Again, we had to find a staff member to allow us through because no one was there, and when we arrived at the boarding zone (through the fast pass line) no one looked our way until I called them.

It was a different staff member than before who told us that she would get them on the next boat. Four went by, I called her over again, she made a phone call and finally got them boarded—but did not sign our passes saying that they had rode, which took even more time. She obviously had to call someone to ask what to do because she had no idea.

Once the boys were on the ride, I had to exit the way I came in, pushing past people waiting in line in order to go to the exit to meet the boys when their ride was done.

For the final ride of the evening we went back to Snoopy Planet, and the two bigger ones wanted to ride the…

Aerial Chase

(a small roller coaster). We followed the procedure, walked into the exit (alternate access entrance) were told to wait there behind the yellow line. The operator took our passes while we waited without letting us know how long the wait would be. At the end of the current ride, he returned, handed us back the passes, and said, “I don’t have a pen right now.”

He actually turned and walk away from us intending not to let the boys on OR give a return time because he did not have a pen! I followed him up to the ride exit, and handed the passes back to him. “You don’t have a pen…so??”

He gave a little start and looked at me, and stuttered, “I guess I can let them right on now then.”

Yes—well I guess he didn’t expect me to follow him!

Three rides, four hours, frustrated family—we left and returned to the park the following day.

 

Tell me…do you want Part III??

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.
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