Recently our super-powered, special needs family went to The Royal Winter Agricultural Fair (The Royal). Outings can be challenging for most families of young children, and ours is more challenged than most.
In our family of three children, ages five and under, two have serious special needs. Mobility and accessibility are our biggest concerns – we have 2.5 non-walkers. The baby can’t walk yet, neither can three year old Little Miss Adorable. Mr. Sensitive is the part-time walker – muscle cramps and fatigue slow him down. No one does stairs, at all.
Mr. Sensitive has sensory processing disorder and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (at this point it means he has some limited mobility and gets leg cramps and fatigues easily). Little Miss Adorable has Prader-Willi Syndrome. She is tiny for her age (the size of a one year old), has poor muscle tone and cannot walk yet. She travels by bum-shuffling and riding in a double stroller with her baby brother. People with PWS do not feel full after eating, and may perseverate on food, so the notion of taking someone into an environment filled with candy apples, fudge and pizza slices sounds disastrous.
It actually was one of our better outings – The Royal is housed in a large warehouse-like building, we planned for all the sensory, food, and physical challenges we would face. Large bag of sandwiches and water? Check. Double stroller capable of carrying a five year old, should the need arise? Check.
Our best sensory aid of the day was a large brimmed cowboy hat that Mr. Sensitive insisted on buying as soon as we arrived. He wore it the whole time, pulling the brim down over his ears when things got too noisy or busy. The wide brim seemed to screen out warehouse lighting and visually overwhelming stimuli. He acted, for lack of a better word, normal. Completely unlike the whirling dervish he was in Costco Killed my Kid.
We were even able to see the Amazing Superdogs show with all its overwhelming sensory demands. Loud music, roaring crowd, bright lights – Mr. Sensitive just pulled down the sides of his hat during the loud parts. In times before he would have had to leave. A Superdogs show is part rock concert, part competitive sport, and tonnes of fun for the family. Little Miss Adorable happily clapped along and Mr. Sensitive cheered for his favorite dogs.
The Royal has improved their accessibility and kid-friendliness since my last visit. The last time I was there the children’s play area and petting zoo were upstairs – and unfortunately there were no elevators. At that time volunteers were prepared to carry your belongings (even your stroller!) up and down the stairs for you. The planning seemed better on this visit; everything a kid would be interested in was on the main floor and all close together (another important feature for the non-walkers).
All our kids loved the petting zoo and children’s entertainment. Even Baby Dunk danced on stage with a pack of preschoolers. Our family spent quite a long time exploring the Agri Foods exhibits. We watched butter carving, talked to different food producers including egg farmers (who had baby chicks!) and a bee keeper. I personally was not happy to see a McDonald’s booth there.
I was absolutely amazed to see Mr. Sensitive happily inspecting all the vegetables on display – and I mean all the vegetables. There must have been at least 30 different kinds of squash that he had to hold and talk about. Mr. Sensitive was calm, happy and pretty cheerful during out 5 hour visit. Check here to see the Mr. Sensitive and the vegetable display.
One unexpected event was Little Miss Adorable put her foot down – literally. She started to walk at the fair, albeit with us holding her for balance.
What happened?? She wanted a pony.
Little Miss Adorable loves horses. When we told her where we were going she declared, “Want horse!” For three hours leading up to our arrival she declared, “Mommy, want horse!” over and over.
Our car ride sounded like this: “MAH-meee! Want ‘orse! Want ‘orse!.. MAH-meee! Want ‘orse! Want ‘orse!..” for 20 kilometers. Luckily we lived pretty close to the fair grounds.
We visited the equine educational display and Little Miss Adorable was in heaven – combing manes, sorting brushes and sitting on the model horse. For someone with seriously low muscle tone and weak core muscles, something about the position of sitting on a horse (real or not) seems to have ‘clicked’ with her. She sat up straight and her muscles felt rigid. She looked like a typical preschooler, albeit tiny, not a sack of potatoes like she usually does. I could not believe the difference in her appearance.
‘Want ‘orse!’ Little Miss Adorable loved that horse, and tantrumed whenever we’d take her off, sobbing, “Want ‘orse! Want ‘orse!”
As I eyed the growing line-up of children waiting to sit on the model horse, I lifted the sobbing Little Miss Adorable off and tried to put her on the ground in her typical sitting position so she could bum-shuffle.
Little Miss Adorable refused to sit. She simply was not having it – she locked her legs, tightened her core and refused to sit. She was standing up!!
As I held her in amazement she started to step with stiff legs – toward the model horse. She stood in front of a small step ladder and tried to climb up, demanding, “Want ‘orse! Want ‘orse!”
I lifted her up into the saddle. She smiled and waved regally to all on lookers. A curious child approached her. Little Miss Adorable yelled, “No!! Mine!!” and hit at them.
Looks like Speech, Language and Occupational Therapy have all rolled into one.
Does anyone know of a pony for sale??
Be sure to check out the page of Little Miss Adorable’s Adventures.
Disclosure – I was in no way compensated for writing this post, I just wanted to share our family’s adventures.