Not-so-Special ‘Special Needs Day’
I don't write much about my daughter's Autism. Mostly because people's reaction is usually one of sympathy, and I feel like that isn't the point. But to not accept that reaction seems somehow ungracious, and that isn't the idea either. Katie has challenges, and as a family we also have some extra issues. But she doesn't ask for anybody's sympathy, and neither do I. EVERY family has challenges, and issues. It's what you make of the everyday that fills life's bucket. Today, I have to say something, even it's to nobody.
Today we went to a 'Special Needs Day' at our summer Fair, like we do every year. Katie seems more comfortable with the pace of this day, with less hustle and bustle, and generally less-crowded rides. The Fair offers free admission and rides for 3 hours for families with a special needs member. It's a very cool thing to do, but let's be honest, nobody is going for sainthood here. The Fair makes the money on the back end, when food vendors and Midway split their take from all these extra people (and their purchases of food, games, etc..) on an otherwise dead attendance time window.
I feel somewhat guilty even accepting the free admission, since Katie's 'Special Need' isn't one that is particularly visible. But in we go, with the other kids and adults who need extra attention, and it is much appreciated. Until today. We were told by a ride operator that these kids could no longer go on rides that go in the air (or, about 90% of the rides my daughter was interested in riding, and had been on in years past with no issue.)
Can't ride the rides? At the Fair? On Special Needs Day? I've never felt more used by a company than today. This ride company made a decision to alienate the very group they were advertising to attract. From what I could gather in asking around, the Fair itself who hired the amusement company has no knowledge of this new rule. In fact one ride operator (at the Swings, who I will call "Toothless" for no readily apparent reason) told me that until 20 minutes prior to my asking him, he ALSO has no knowledge of the rule.
So it appears that the "free rides" hand-stamp was being used to discriminate against the very group it was supposedly benefitting. I asked one guy (Ferris Wheel, I'll call him "Dirtball" for no readily apparent reason) why I wouldn't be able to go on the ride, even though I was clearly not 'Special'. He told me that anyone with a stamp was excluded. So, was this a ploy to make me purchase tickets and wash off my stamp? On Special Needs Day? Or just an "F.U.--go buy some food" to what must be a worthless group of people to them. No other ride operator I am aware of has this blanket rule.
I am so proud that my daughter, who has never asked for special anything, even in the face of this awful treatment, managed to hide her disappointment until she walked away from the line. But, with tears welling up in her eyes, she finally shouts, "THIS STINKS!" You tell 'em Sweetie.