National Association of Parents of Autistic People
This morning I decided to take my son E. to a wildlife sanctuary at Le Cornelle near Bergamo. E. is a special three-and-a-half-year-old whose special interests are nature and animals.
Grandfather (aka the iconic ‘Nonno’) and I gird our loins and get ready. All the way from home E. keeps repeating one word, (choo choo…). I had tried to explain to him that we were going to a park with animals, and also with a miniature railway around the whole park.
My son adores trains…
My real concern is that he might get scared at the sight of the animals, some of which are quite large, and we might need to rapidly exit the sanctuary.
At the entrance, I take my child to the toilet while the iconic Nonno inquires whether it is possible to spend about ten minutes inside the sanctuary before buying our tickets, just to see how E. might react to the environment.
No problem at all, is the answer: you may spend half-an-hour or more, and come back for your tickets at leisure, if E. seems to enjoy the visit (Nonno is also told that our child is entitled to free entry, and I am entitled to a discount as carer).
I must emphasize that our query is not a strategy to avoid payment…it’s just that we don’t want to throw money away!
We enter the sanctuary. E. sits in his stroller and seems calm…
he begins to notice some of the animals…his face is calm. Only one thought goes through his head at the moment: how to reach the choo-choo train…
Ten minutes later, he sees the train…he begins to gets excited…CHOO CHOO CHOO CHOO….
I tell him that we are going on the train…and we do.
We conclude that the visit is feasible, and while we wait for the train to leave Nonno goes back to the booking office to buy our tickets.
After a whistle, the train pulls out for its ride, and E. is happy.
He sees animals around him, but his greatest pleasure is to be sitting on that wonderful train.
After 10 minutes, the ride is over…E. gets off.
Nonno is back already, waiting for us. He tells me that the Management is giving us complimentary tickets.
All I can think of is asking my father whether he remembered to thank the booking office staff. We have spent about three-and-a-half hours in the sanctuary: E. has been good on the whole…his screams and his contortions were due to the new environment, to the number of visitors and especially, perhaps, to the fact that he kept looking at the train that was going round carrying other visitors.
On exiting the sanctuary, I go to thank personally the young woman who had welcomed us in the morning. My thanks, of course, are not for entering the sanctuary free of charge, but for demonstrating that there are places and especially people, who know the meaning of the word SOLIDARITY.
What a wonderful day.