Kidzone is an indoor adventure playground in Berkhamsted which has been operating for at least fifteen years; I used to take both kids there quite a bit when they were younger and have had more than one nightmarish Kidzone party (sugar + screaming + running + chips) to contend with in my time.
Ellen and I were supposed to be going pottery painting this morning while her sister Daisy was at her tutor, but out of the blue she announced that she wanted to go to Kidzone instead. I checked their website http://www.thekidzone.co.uk as I wasn’t sure she would be allowed in, and in fact their age limit is twelve. However, on phoning I was told that it was more to do with height than anything else (another bonus of Ellen being tiny) and if Ellen would enjoy it and it would ‘do her good’ they were more than happy to welcome her 🙂 So nice to get a positive and friendly reaction to disability! On the downside rather than sit rather genteelly painting a small piece of pottery I knew I was going to have to squeeze and wedge myself around some equipment built for five year olds – definitely time to put a belt on my jeans…
Luckily for me, but unlucky for Daisy, I had got the date of her tutor wrong, so we ALL went to Kidzone! I sent the two girls in whilst I tried to park the car- on a rainy day in half-term it seems that strangely other people may have had the same idea as me. By the time I got in, both girls were up on the frame and so the games began.
Inside, Kidzone hadn’t changed a bit from my memory (or nightmares). This obviously suited Ellen’s autistic desire for sameness perfectly and as a result she didn’t hesitate to launch herself at the equipment.
When the girls were younger I used to look with envy at the parents who sat in the cafe enjoying a coffee and a read of the paper whilst their children ran around happily, only bothering their parent when they wanted a drink or a bit of a rest. If I had any idea that I might be that parent today though I was much mistaken. Ellen spent the first half an hour wanting me to ‘find’ her and Daisy and the second half an hour wanting us all to take turns on the equipment. I thought I was fit, but after 45 minutes I was gasping!
From Ellen’s point of view though this was all good stuff. Her general temperament inclines towards ‘couch potato’ mode and she resists any form of organised exercise like running and swimming. Presumably at Kidzone she was having too much fun to realise or care that she was exercising as well so perhaps this is the key to her future fitness.
Today, as you may notice from the photograph, Ellen was ‘Mirror Woozle’ (see an earlier post for a full description of the Heffalumps and Woozles). Mirror Woozle was very keen to pose on all the items of equipment and would stand alert in ‘photograph’ mode until I obliged – much to the bemused looks of some of the other kids. Ellen also surprised me with her determination to climb onto a large ball-shaped swing. Usually, if she can’t do something she gives up straight away, but with this she kept trying and even let me help her get on it and swung for a bit until she announced ‘it hurts my f****!’ very loudly and I hurriedly helped her off!
All of a sudden, after we had all climbed and slid and swung and balanced to our hearts content, and I was beginning to seriously regret wearing a thick woolly jumper, Ellen announced that she had had enough and it was all over just as quickly as it started.
‘That was actually quite good fun’ announced Daisy as we walked back out into the persistent drizzle. And yes, it was. One of the goals of RDI is to provide positive episodic memories for our children (i.e. personal representational memory of an event tied with emotions and unique meaning for a person – thank you http://www.thinkautism.co.uk/page3.htm). In this case, I think Ellen’s episodic memory was probably more positive than mine!