A Trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
This past weekend, I took Arizona to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Theme parks have typically been challenging outings. Arizona tends to get over-stimulated by so many sights and sounds. This can cause her to “tune out” and become dysregulated. In the past, it has also been difficult for her to stand still (and therefore, impossible to wait in long lines).
Because she hasn’t been anywhere in awhile, I was looking forward to seeing her growth and progress in getting through a day at the park. As usual, when there’s a new plan on the horizon, we talk about it a lot before the big day. I pulled up the Safari Park website so Arizona could look at all of the different exhibits and options we could choose from. The website also had videos of various safaris that we viewed together. Arizona was interested and excited to visit (that and she was promised ONE toy from the gift shop at the end of the day).
Over all, we had a calm and uneventful day. Arizona exhibited a few signs of dysregulation and anxiety, but she was able to express her feelings at each stage of the day.
My observations and commentary on the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, from a special needs perspective :
- Before visiting, I scoured the website for as much information as I could find that would help us prepare for our visit. I was very pleased to find a section on the site dedicated to “Guests with Disabilities”. For example, among accommodations is a request for a “front of the line” pass for those guests who need extra help.
- During the Africa tram ride, the most popular ride in the park, the guide of our tram asked some very thoughtful questions before we started the tour. She asked if her voice was either too loud or too soft for any guests. She then proceeded to lead the tour in a very calm and mellow voice. Due to Arizona’s sensitivies with sound, this was extremely effective for ensuring a successful tram ride.
- More and more theme parks are jumping on the “special dietary” menu bandwagon, and I was glad to see that the Safari Park was not an exception. Although we brought our own food, I did notice quite a few “gluten free” menu options, including a kids’ meal with the following : gluten free chicken tenders, fruit cup and potato chips. Pretty healthy!
- If your child has a fear of public restrooms, like Arizona does, please note that the majority of the bathrooms do NOT have automatic hand dryers and most of the toilets are manual flushers. Arizona still freaks out when she thinks there can be an “unexpected” noise from a hand dryer or automatic flush toilet. It’s getting easier, but still something I have to pay attention to.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how you prepare your special needs child for a theme park visit. Are there any calming routines that you have in place when things get overwhelming? Is there specific information you’d like to receive from theme parks ahead of time that would enhance your visit?