As a long term country music fan I was excited to see an announcement earlier this week about a ‘Calming room’ being provided at Dollywood. The room has been designed to provide a space for children with sensory issues, such as autism; a safe space for them to decompress and take some time away from the vibrant overload of the theme park itself.
Dollywood is stated as being the first theme park to provide such a facility, but others are now being developed too. Legoland Florida being the next to announce that they are developing calming rooms as well.
Shopping Malls have started to provide specific times for children with special needs to meet Santa, or the Easter Bunny.
All of this is fantastic, and a blessing, for parents that just want to give their children with special needs a somewhat normal childhood.
The question that remains for me though is this: “What happens to supporting these special needs kids when they grow up?”
As an example: as a disabled adult, with recruitment, which means that I hear loud noises as so they are far louder than they actually are, I would love to attend the Cineplex sensory friendly screenings. Now as I’m a big fan of most children’s movies this works out well for me, most of the time, and my local theatre has never objected to my attending on my own.
Though unfortunately I have heard of other adults being refused entry to these special showings unless they had a child with them.
However, I am 44 years old. Once in a while I’d like to be able to see a movie rated higher than PG. Yet, these are never offered in the sensory friendly offerings.
Now I’m quite sure that these facilities would probably allow adults into the spaces; but the chances are that the equipment and furniture will have been sized for children, not adults.
It seems that it is relatively easy to identify problems and provide solutions for children with special needs but as a general rule, society seems to forget that these same children grow up.
They become adults with disabilities.
Their needs are still the same but their bodies have grown.
From a medical, or daily living perspective, supports can sometimes be found to help these adults. A great example is the paddle program in North Bay which is designed to help adults with special needs in five areas:
- Physical fitness
- Leisure & recreation
- Life Skills
- Community involvement
Programs such as these help allay parents fears, as to what will happen to their adult children, when they, the parents die.
However, it does nothing to assist these adults in enjoying the modern world.
How hard would it be for Cineplex to show a movie rated higher than PG in their sensory friendly offerings once in a while?
What about supermarkets? I tend to do my grocery shopping the moment the store opens, 7am, so that I am exposed to less people, less noise, less people trying to pet my Service Dog and it reduces the likelihood of my being exposed to my allergens as well.
Fortunately my life, usually, is such that this works reasonably well for me. Not everybody with special needs can do this. In fact for many this would be the worse time of the day for them to do anything as it takes time for them to get their brains a little less foggy and their bodies a little more flexible.
However, wouldn’t it be great if supermarkets and shopping malls offered a couple of hours a week where they will turn off the ‘music’, calm the environment down, restrict the numbers of people allowed in the building and make sure that the aisles are all clear so that wheelchairs and SD handlers have enough space to navigate?
I think that part of the problem is that, as a society, we simply don’t think of those with invisible disabilities. When children are young, and they have special needs, they tend to have adults advocating for them: parents, family members and carers.
When they become adults with special needs, who advocates for them then?
Some of us can advocate for ourselves, some of the time. But by definition we are going to have times when we’re sick. When we’re not well enough to advocate for ourselves.
We place a great deal of emphasis in today’s society on our children and it is true, our children are our future.
However, yesterday’s child is today’s adult.
How are we helping them?