Recently, Peyton and I attended a conference in Sandusky, Ohio. While we were there I decided to make some time to take her to Cedar Point Amusement Park. Peyton loves roller coasters and all things Snoopy so I thought it would be a great way to spend a little family fun time together on a working trip. But what I didn’t think about, was how I was going to navigate a foreign area that I knew nothing about with my special needs child.
Peyton is on the spectrum, her disability is invisible, so for people that do not know us they cannot see her struggles. And even for people that do know us, they don’t understand what it’s like for us when we travel or when we are going to special events. For parents with neurotypical children, they don’t have to think about how the noise, crowd levels or the unknown is going to affect their loved one. And to be honest, Peyton and I have been staying in our little bubble and not traveling outside our comfort zone lately that I had gotten lax.
I had become comfortable with all the places we visit and the events we attend. I knew exactly what to expect and how Peyton would react, it was natural for us. I was on autopilot. I wasn’t really thinking about the steps I take to make these events and activities successful. So here, now we are, getting ready to take an 11-hour road trip across the Midwest to Ohio and visit an amusement park that I have never been to and had no clue what to expect. I wasn’t thinking about how all this may affect Peyton. I went completely unprepared. I did not research, I did not prep and I paid the price.
So for all you other parents that are thinking about visiting Cedar Point Amusement Park with their children that have special needs I wanted to share some insights, so you can prepare, go and have a wonderful time. Peyton and I will definitely be heading back to Sandusky, Ohio next year and implementing this for our whole trip so we can take full advantage of the park.
First – Know that in September and throughout October the theme park has spooktacular Halloween festivities. They have several haunted/horror houses throughout the park, they have “monsters” throughout the park to boo the guests, it’s decorated to the hilt for the Halloween season. All this can be extremely overwhelming for a child in general, but for Peyton, whose on the spectrum, this is debilitating. Good news, the “scary” stuff starts around 7 pm so there is plenty of time to go and enjoy the park during the day. If your children are feeling up to staying later you can purchase a “no boo” necklace for them to wear and then the wandering monsters won’t boo them or interact with them as they maneuver the park. I knew Peyton would not be able to handle the dark, loud noises and people dressed up even if she had the “no boo” necklace so we made it a plan to be out of the park by 6 pm.
Next, this park is a roller coaster park, like they have tons and tons of them throughout the park. And unlike other amusement parks that we’ve visited, that have a variety of rides, a park that is mostly roller coasters is dramatically louder. The constant rush and roar of roller coasters whizzing by can be overwhelming for people with sensory issues. If your child is sensitive to loud noises having a pair of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs are a must. I had not thought of that so for Peyton it was a struggle for her to walk through parts of the parks that had several tracks close together. We managed through the day but if I would’ve brought her earplugs with us she would’ve been able to enjoy the park more.
Take advantage of the disability pass if your loved one needs one. I did not even know this existed at the park! Normally that is the first thing I check into when we are going somewhere but I have been so busy with my day job, school starting, having a sick kiddo that it didn’t even cross my mind. So after we had been at the park for a few hours I stumbled into a customer service center and asked if there was any sort of pass for a child with special needs. They asked me what it was needed for and I explained to them that Peyton was on the spectrum and that standing in a long crowded line with loud constant baragement of roller coasters roaring over her head was going to send her into a meltdown from the overload of stimulation. They asked Peyton a few questions to see if she was physically able to be on the rides, like if she can brace herself on a ride, get on and off a ride and if she wanted to do them. Then they gave me a booklet with a pass attached.
The pass was a godsend. It enabled Peyton to go on any ride without having to wait in the line. It was not a pass to skip the line but it allowed her to wait in a virtual queue. So, if she saw a ride she wanted to ride we would go to the attendant and hand them her paperwork. They would look at the wait time and fill out a time for us to come back. If the wait was an hour, they would have us come back in an hour. Then we could go to a quiet part of the park and wait for her turn. When the time was up, head back to the ride and go through their skip the line lane. Unfortunately, by the time I asked about this pass Peyton was already overstimulated and overwhelmed for the day. She felt better knowing we could walk around the park and if there was something she wanted to ride she had an option. We never rode a ride while at the park, and that’s ok.
There are plenty of things for you to enjoy at Cedar Point Amusement Park to do that are not thrill rides. Peyton saw a game where she could win a Squishmallow, she LOVES Squishmallows. So I paid the $10 for the gentleman to guess her weight. The goal was for him to not be able to guess her weight within 4 lbs. And he didn’t! Peyton was so happy. She took her time picking through the bin of Squishmallows until she picked out this adorable squirrel. That was a huge deal to this kid. She was so proud to have won a Squishmallow. Plus, this toy fulfilled a sensory need for her while we were at the park. She had a lovey, or a comfort item that she would hold while she explored the park.
When Peyton and I were in Missouri last year she discovered glass blowing and at Cedar Point, they have a glass blowing area. We sat and watched a lady create pumpkins from molten glass for like an hour. This was a great way for Peyton to enjoy the park, learn about glass blowing and take a break from all the loud crazy crowds and noises.
We also did a little mining while at the park too. They have an area near the glass blowing where you can buy a bag of dirt and wash it to find gems, stones, ect…It’s one of Peyton’s favorite things to do whenever we are traveling so when she saw it her face instantly lit up and I knew we needed to do it. I bought the biggest bag of dirt, which was about $13, and she spent her time washing it and picking out her treasures.
There are also pony rides, candle making demonstrations and more in the same area. We spent some time in the petting zoo area as well. Peyton got up close with the camels that love to steal your food and take pictures. The baby goats were extremely friendly and wanted to be petted. It was a wonderful area for her to get some sensory inputs that calm her too. Just remember to wash those hands when you are done! There is hand sanitizer at the exits but also stop in the bathroom and use soap before you partake in treats or lunch. That’s just my little mom germ phobia comment for the day.
Cedar Point Amusement Park is a great place for all children, families and groups. There is something for everyone. The front of the park is geared towards more of the littles, with Snoopy themed rides and a calmer atmosphere. The back of the park is for the thrill-seekers, the roller coasters and more intense displays. Will we be back? Yes! Will I do things differently? Yes! This time I will bring earplugs, get the pass the second we walk into the park and go early in the day so we have plenty of time to explore before the Halloween festivities begin in the evening.