I’m always looking for fun activities the whole family can enjoy that won’t aggravate my son’s sensory issues. So imagine my shock when it was discovered a few years ago that Nigel could actually handle game arcades. Not just the sounds of video games bleeping, but also louder shooting sounds, rolling skee-balls, flashing lights, and being jostled and bumped by strange people. Of course, this sensory processing ability occurred right around the time that he also became able to sit in restaurants. Something clicked and he was able to filter out the sensory issues that had previously been so agonizing for him. It was a relief for all of us. And it opened a lot of doors for activities in which he could participate.
Going to the local Family Fun Center turned out to be one of them. I was a bit nervous the first time I took him there, since the entrance takes you right through a noisy, bustling arcade, but I think my son’s excitement cancelled out any sensory issues he might have experienced. He also had his form-fitting fleece hooded jacket on, and that helped to muffle the sounds. It amazed me to see him handle all the stimulation. After some time in the arcade, I took him outside to the go-karts. He had previously been a passenger on other amusement-park driving rides, but he was tall enough at age eleven to drive his own car, and very excited to do it. As we approached the go-kart area, I coached him about not crashing into the other cars, and to keep going in the same direction. I had purposely arrived first thing in the morning, hoping that there would be fewer people driving at the same time, and I was glad to see that my plan worked. The attendant let us through the gate and told us to take two cars in the front. As soon as Nigel climbed into his car, he took off! He just pushed the accelerator pedal and off he went! The attendant started yelling after him to stop, but Nigel didn’t respond – he just kept going! I quickly informed the guy about Nigel’s autism and told him that this was Nigel’s first time driving and he didn’t know to wait. The guy seemed to understand. He waited for Nigel to finish the lap and then flagged him over so that he could put on his harness. Then he continued for the remainder of the allotted time with me following in my car. Nigel smiled and laughed the entire time. Not only that, he drove just fine.
That was three years ago. Nigel is practically a pro go-kart driver now. He knows to put on his harness and wait for the attendant to say when to start. He doesn’t crash into anyone. Furthermore, he even knows how to block other cars from passing him! We just went go-kart racing yesterday, and he beat me again! But the best part of all is how much he enjoys driving those go-karts. I loved being right behind him, seeing his huge smile every time we rounded a curve.
- Four people to take one 6-minute go-kart ride: $24
- Everyone, including Nigel, enjoying it: priceless.