When I was asked to write about Emmett and a successful community inclusion experience we’ve had, the only thing that I could think of we’re the outings we took that did not go so smoothly. Before I get into our successful inclusion experience you should know a little bit about Emmett.
Emmett is five years old. He is very energetic, kind, compassionate, curious, and so, so much more. Emmett likes to spend his time playing with his Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol figures, dancing and running around, and watching Curious George movies. He’s similar to any other child his age, he just happens to be nonverbal and has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum disorder.
Before Emmett, like many people, I knew little to nothing about Autism. It was a lot of trial and error, wait list, frustration, and a lot of nights spent overthinking and feeling helpless. After Emmett started getting approved and receiving Early Intervention Services, things started to look up. All of his services helped him in some way or another, but I think him getting a Therapeutic Support Staff (TSS) was what really helped. Although having a TSS in our home 4-5 days a week was overwhelming, it also gave me the chance to see how you deal with concerning behaviors appropriately, and gave me the confidence I needed to be the best parent for him.
He missed a lot of the normal things a child his age would be doing because of the things he was struggling with. Anything with a crowd, anything that had loud noises, or were over stimulating, or anything that involved us walking in parking lots or near roads. So many things that he had to miss out on because he wasn’t able to function in the environment, or they were a potential safety risk for him. All that is slowly starting to change.
Emmett has made an incredible amount of progress, especially in the last few months. He is finally getting to do new things, take trips, experiencing the amazing world around him.
Now back to our successful inclusion in the community. Since we haven’t done a whole lot in the community yet, I just wanted to share briefly two of the experiences we did have, Dutch Wonderland being the first.
We went to Dutch Wonderland over the summer, because a friend I had met at an autism related conference took her daughter several times and had great things to say about it. Before this, Emmett had never been to an amusement park, or even been on a ride. Upon arrival we told the customer service employee about Emmett having an autism diagnosis. After I told them I thought I was about to be playing 20 questions with a stranger about my son’s diagnosis. It was nothing like that. They said okay, gave us an accessibility pass which made it so we did not have to wait in lines, and we were able to ride two times on the ride without having to get off. That was wonderful. I did not know that amusement parks did that kind of thing, but I am so incredibly grateful that they do.
Emmett had the time of his life there. He absolutely loved going on the rides, the only problem was getting off. He loved it so much and understandably did not want to get off. That’s where we kept running into trouble. There was no way for me to explain to him that we had to get off, but we could get on a different ride and come right back. That was really stressful for both of us, especially since we were there for 11 hours. Overall he had a really great time. I am hopeful that when we go back this summer it will go much more smoothly since we both have a better understanding on communicating with one another.
Before hearing about our other inclusion in the community, I think it’s important to say that Emmett loves Christmas. He watches Christmas movies all year long. It’s one of his favorite things, one of the things that always brings out that beautiful smile.
Last week Emmett got to meet Santa for the very first time. Park City Mall partnered with Autism Speaks so the kiddos with special needs could have a quieter, and less stressful environment to visit with Santa. Emmett got to sit with Santa for about 15 minutes. Emmett is not one to sit still long, but he did that day. He was so genuinely happy, calm, and just overall at peace. Santa asked me if he always say that still. I told him no, but that he loves Christmas. He gave Emmett a hug and told me that he enjoyed having him there. This is something that had never been possible for him to do before. Watching him sit there with the biggest smile on his face almost brought me to tears.
All these organizations, all the individuals bringing awareness to autism, and all the people participating in inclusion are the ones making this possible. I can not express how grateful I am for my son, Emmett, to be included, and to be understood.
Molly, Emmett’s mom