Sunday, May 18, 2008

Thrill of a Lifetime

Ethan is psyched to ride the roller coaster.
Summer in Colorado--time to explore the great outdoors. When I moved back here four years ago from the flatlands of Wheaton, Ill., I couldn't wait to go hiking and camping. Growing up here, I had done my fair share of hiking in the mountains, but I had still only seen maybe one-fifth of the state. I was going make up for lost time and spend all my weekends in the wilderness, and my kids were going to appreciate its peacefulness and beauty as much as I do.
I wish it had worked out that way. Instead, a year after we moved out here, my son, Ethan, was diagnosed with autism, and we were scrambling to get him speech therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral therapy. We soon learned from these therapists that the reason Ethan crashed into walls and yelled was because his body was understimulated, and he craved constant movement and sensation to regulate himself. His out-of-whack nervous system made long car rides in the mountains excruciating for him, and the tantrums made it unbearable for us.
Soon Terry and I were looking for activities that would take in account Ethan's need for movement. Our former occupational therapist recommended that we take him to Lakeside, a local amusement park. We were unsure--would the crowds overwelm him?--but decided it was worth a try.
We entered Lakeside's kiddie ride section, and Ethan got on the mini-roller coaster. Terry and I held our breath as Ethan zoomed around the miniature course. When the ride screeched to a halt, we looked over and saw a look of pure joy on his face. We were sold.

Ethan and James wait for the mini-swing ride to start.
The next year we decided to go all out and buy season passes to Elitch Family Gardens in Denver. The passes cost $55 each, but it would pay for itself after 2 visits. Ethan loved going there so much we went there almost every weekend. I hated standing in the hot sun, waiting for Ethan to finish a ride, but at least when we brought him home, he was calmer and not trying to turn our house into an amusement park.

The boys enjoy an ice cream cone after a whirlwind of rides.
Today was opening amusement park season for us. We, of course, bought season passes to Elitch's for the summer. When we got to the park, Ethan headed toward the mini-roller coaster. I watched him as headed up the little hill, squealing with delight.
Yes, it will be another Elitch's summer, I thought.

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

Haven't been to elitches for ages. Maybe we'll go this year as the prices have gone down considerably. you should checkout water world too