Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Walking On All The Keys

Miriam at the McWane Science Center

This past January, my parents were in town from Seattle for a two week visit.  It had been half a year since we last saw each other and we had a wonderful time together.  I always enjoy seeing my parents interact with the kids as they become increasingly more talkative.  We decided to go on an excursion to the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, Alabama.  It is about an hour and a half drive from Montgomery, and we were able to do something new, especially kid friendly, and simultaneously get the folks out for some new Alabama sights.  

Down town Birmingham, Alabama - On the way to the science center

We did this on a Sunday following a difficult week of Miriam and Jake waking up at night, upon our return from our big trip to the east coast.  We were tired and looking forward to getting back to the "normal" swing of things.  We realized that even though we were wiped, it would have been almost just as tiring to stay at home with the kids all day, as it would be to actively be out on some little adventure with them.   We do try to balance this out so that we are not always stuck at home, getting through the day with mostly indoor activities.

Jake pondering his future career as a scientist - or maybe he's just having fun

Jake and Miriam discussing future science experiments

As it turned out, we had a great time.  We did however have to actively chase the kids around.  At various points Jake had me running behind him from activity to activity.  I'm pretty sure that when he started speed walking, which turned into running faster and faster away from me, that what he really wanted was to be left alone to his own devices.  He wanted to explore the museum on his own terms - like that was ever going to happen.  Our plan of action was to have one adult be responsible for each child, and even though we were at an "advantage" with a ratio of four adults to three kids, they had us hustling all over the place.  Let's face it, as far as public scenarios go, a special needs child adds up to at least 2, and not 1.  So really, we were four to four and their team was winning.  At various points, we were widely spread out at different stations with the kids, checking in with each other from time to time via texting.  Good thing for modern technology!  It wasn't the ideal situation, but that's the way it typically is in children's museum type of settings for us - we made it work.  Jake was extremely interested in many of the areas and activities in the museum.  Some of his favorites were the water play area, the lit up science tubes, and the Wilfred the dog play areas with the sand castle bathtub.

It wasn't easy to get Max away from the restaurant play area

We decided from the get-go to get a year's family membership, which would pay for itself in just two visits and had us committed to coming back.  We also received a military discount, which is always very appreciated.   If you should ever be in the area, we highly recommend this museum.  If you do have a child on the autism spectrum, it can create a bit of a sensory overload.  You may need to later balance this out with lots of quiet down time.  For us, it was still very much worth the aftermath, and luckily, there were no consequential meltdowns.  The key, is to not overstay past the point of no return for the special needs child.  Once you start seeing signs of maxing out from your kiddo, it's a good idea to not over do it, and just call it a day.

Jake catching a break from all the action

With the ups and downs of family life with special needs, we don't always play all of the right keys.  In the science center though, we can figure out the right notes by walking on the keys in our very own sound experiment.  During our childhood, we are all little explorers and little artists.  The take away here, is not to lose that childish naivete and fascination with the hows and the whys that children love to ask.  By keeping that creative spark alive when finding something mysterious and new, we find ourselves experiencing the kind of wonderment that only a wide-eyed child can posses in it's truest organic form.  And that, my friends, is science!

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  1. Love your writing! Great post!

  2. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for your lovely note, Lynn.