One of the things we LOVE to do with Will is take him to Six Flags. This kid loves rollercoasters - the faster, the better! The only way we are able to navigate amusement parks though is if there are accommodations available like being able to use the exit entrances so we don't have to wait in long lines. The thought of waiting in line for an hour for a minute-long ride is hard enough with typically developing children. Imagine trying to do so with a kiddo with autism. I can run down a list of reasons why it is nearly impossible for us to wait in long lines, including Will's constant need for some sort of stimulation or tactile input. The thought of constantly having to apologize to the patrons around us for Will's behavior is enough of a nightmare to keep us at home. It's one of the reasons why autism can be so isolating for families - the constant judgment from those around us who don't realize our kids aren't just being bad and that they have disability that causes these behaviors. But with accommodations, we can easily nagivate a park with minimal stress. The stress and anxiety aren't completely alleviated, but for a brief moment when we're on those rides, we almost feel "normal."
I've been thinking recently about when Will and I would plan a trip to Six Flags here in Texas this summer. I was stunned when I read a friend's Facebook post this week about her recent experience at the park. Six Flags had made some changes to their policy and the accommodations we were used to weren't available. There was no more exit entrance accessibility. I called Six Flags for some clarification on their policy. After speaking to a guest relations employee and the supervisor who had to call another department for some clarification on the policy, I was told that the exit entrance admissibility was still available for patrons with mental disabilities. I called my friend and explained what I'd been told, and she confirmed that her experience was completely different.
My friend Giselle Phelps of CW33 did a story on the situation. Seems like there was some miscommunication and hopefully Six Flags will do a better job at instituting their policies.
Let me say this - I will be the first person who understands why Six Flags needs a good accommodations policy. Lord knows I've gotten mad when I've seen a person with a broken arm and their five teenage friends utilize the accommodations. A broken arm doesn't affect your ability to wait in line. And I've watched overweight passengers roll up on their electric scooters with their ten family members in tow use the exit entrance. In fairness to the other patrons waiting in line, I can understand why this isn't fair and why Six Flags would try to institute new policies so that people don't abuse the system. But I hope the new policies don't make it more difficult or impossible for people like us who really need the accommodations to enjoy the amusement park as well.
And if anyone who reads this has a problem with my kiddo skipping the line because he has autism, I'll say this - I'll trade you Will's autism and we'll happily go wait in line!
DFW Family Says Six Flags Over Texas Special Needs Policy Inconsistent