Sesame Place & Kids With Autism: Tips, Tricks & What You Need to Know

Disclaimer: I am a Sesame Place Ambassador blogger. I was not compensated for this post but I have been provided with a 2015 Season Pass for myself and complimentary admission for my family.



We've been visiting Sesame Place for years. It's one of our favorite family destinations. What I love about Sesame Place is that it's not too overwhelming for kids (or parents). For local families (like us) it's an easy day trip or a fun overnight stay. And it's not just a warm weather destination - it's open until from May through December and there's so much to do. 


However for autism parents visiting someplace new can bring about uncertainty. I remember our first trip to Sesame Place, we had no idea what to expect. So I put together a list of tips, tricks and things you need to know before you go. 
Prepare.
I always like to know where I'm going and plan ahead. Visit the Sesame Place home page or the Sesame Place YouTube Channel with your child and show them the park.
Safety Tip: Make sure when you go your child has a name tag with his/her name, your name and cell phone number. Because you just never know. Even though my son knows his name, our names and our home number - he may not tell a stranger in case he gets lost. (Write-On Tats are a cool option, check it out HERE.)
Food is not allowed inside park - however there are some exceptions (baby food and small coolers - check site for size specifications). However there are picnic areas located right outside of the park where you can eat your picnic lunch. There are plenty of plenty of places to eat within the park and opportunities for a Character Dining experience (reservations should be made in advance). 
Need to Know: Sesame Place is 'allergen-friendly' - for more information, please visit Food Allergen Information. Sesame Place also encourages guests to fill out a 'Chef Card.' The Chef Card is a valuable tool for any guest suffering from food allergies. The template allows you to create a card to that outlines the foods that you need to avoid.
Even if you don't know whether or not your child will do the water rides - and regardless of the weather - BRING YOUR SWIMSUIT & TOWELS. It's better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Trust me, I speak from experience. Though the towels do make fun keepsakes.
Tip:  You are able to leave and reenter the park with the hand stamp but locker rentals are only $13.00. It's a small price to pay for convenience.   
Create a Schedule.
While on the Sesame Place homepage, be sure to explore the Dry Rides, Wet Rides and the Park Shows and Parade. Figure out a what rides and attractions your child will want to see and create a game plan on how to best navigate the park. (Pay attention to height requirements and/or restrictions.) Visual schedules are great for kids with autism - create one specifically for Sesame Place that they can keep in their pocket.

Better yet...


Download the App 
Getting around the park is super easy with the iPhone or Android App - especially if it's your first time. The app keeps you up to date with showtimes, park hours and events. Some key features of the App include:
  • -- True GPS navigation that provides a highlighted path to your destination
  • -- Interactive park map  
  • -- Quick Pay feature - so that you don't have to constantly pull out your wallet
  • -- Wait times for attractions
  • -- Displays next show times for each of the park’s character shows.

Trick: The app is a cool way to share photos right to your social media accounts. Once in the app, click on the camera in bottom right corner. Your pics upload in the cute frame of your choice and it's ready to share.  
No smart phone? No problem! Download Park Map HERE. (Make you  sure you know exactly where the restrooms are. Nothing worse than wandering around looking for a bathroom when your kid has to go.) 

Plan to arrive at the Park when they open.
Sesame Place opens at 10 am. Arriving when the park first opens, makes navigating the park so much easier and less stressful. You can easily explore all the dry rides easily within a couple of hours before the park gets too crowded. You can spend the rest of the day, wandering around and going on rides a second or third time, get a good spot for the Parade or catch a show. 
Tip: Hit all the water attractions first before the park gets too crowded. Then dry off, have lunch and check out the dry attractions. 
Trick: Ride the dry attractions during the Parade times, lines are usually shorter. But if you want to see the Parade (which you should - because it's amazing!) start making your way toward the front of the Park 45-30 minutes before show starts -that's where the parade begins. 
Need to KnowThere is a designated area for disabled guests along the parade route. This area is on the east side (river side) of the parade route, adjacent to the Boy’s River Restroom. While this area was established to provide mobility impaired individuals and their families a place to view the parade, those with a mobility impairment may choose any other location along the parade route as well.

Visit Welcome Center upon arrival, register for the Ride Accessibility Program and get a wristband. 
Sesame Place makes every effort to accommodate guests with special needs. Wristbands will be provided at the Welcome Center for all disabled guests who enroll in our RAP program. The wristbands allow for the disabled guest and their party to be noticeable to our employees, allowing for immediate assistance on and off of attractions. The majority of rides and attractions at Sesame Place have special accessible entrances. Special accessible entrances may be used by our disabled guests and up to three other guests (except where noted).  For more information visit the ACCESSIBILITY GUIDE page.
Need To KnowOn busier days, you may be given a boarding time to return. Our water attractions that allow for special access are Sky Splash, Slimey’s Chutes, Sesame Streak, Slip- pery Slopes, Bert and Ernie’s Slip and Slide, and Big Bird’s Rambling River. On busier days Special Access may be limited during certain hours which will be communicated by the Welcome Center. 
Stay overnight (if you can). The first time we visited Sesame Place, we made it a weekend trip. It was our first time in a hotel and we needed a break from our hectic schedules. I am so happy that's what we did, we drove down at our pace. We weren't rushed. We stayed in the hotel and visited the park the next day and the next morning drove home. There are many hotels in the area at varying price points and there is a lot to do in the area. (Philly is less than 45 minutes away.) 



Light it up BIG BLUE - New York Giants Five Round Mock Draft

This is a post written by Joseph Fontanez aka Atypical Dad


Before my son was diagnosed with autism, I was like any other dad with hopes for The Boy to participate in organized sports. After his diagnosis, it seemed like that would be out of our reach. But now he is participating in Little League Baseball with The Bronxchester Challenger League for children on the spectrum and now those organizers are planning on a Flag Football League for these same children it seems like now sports can still play a part in our lives. With Autism Awareness Month coming to an end, I thought I could contribute to the blog with an unconventional post. 



So good day football fans. This year I would like present the first annual 

Light It Up BIG Blue - Atypical Familia  New York Giants Five Round Mock Draft. 

Some of these picks may look familiar to those who have perused other online mock drafts, as I have, but I would like to think my approach comes from a pragmatic angle, while at the same time having a little fun with the what if's that only a rabid fan can think of. So without any further delay let's light this Giants Mock Draft up Big Blue.

Round 1: Brandon Scherff OL Iowa

Now I know what you ar thinking, "This is the consensus first round pick on the majority of mock drafts online." And while this may be true I did say I was going to approach this from a pragmatic angle and this pick just makes way too much sense. Scherff's combination of strength and versatility are just too good to pass up at this point. The Giants need a road grader and versatile lineman with a little bit of nasty in the trenches. And this guy checks off all of those boxes. His weight room work ethic and Gregor Clegane like strength makes him the epitome of a trench warrior. I'm sure the label "Coughlin Guy" won't be far off. 

Round 2: Benardrick McKinney ILB MSU

At 6'4" 244 lbs. McKinney possesses the size and frame of a prototypical 4-3 Middle Linebacker. His pass rushing ability may allow Spags to play him out of position on certain downs primarily as a pass rusher. Also his length in coverage could also help, and maybe the dreaded Tight End seam pass that has plagued the Giants for a better part of a century may finally be able to be covered. Paired up with last year's Linebacking revelation Devon Kennard we could be looking at part of a future Linebacking corps that could be patrolling from sideline to sideline for years to come. 

Round 3: Paul Dawson OLB TCU

What? Another linebacker? In back to back rounds? Why would this make any sense? Well remember when I was saying way back when about having a Linebacking corps of the future? The Giants off-season acquisitions are only stop gaps and the Giants really need to start looking at the future. Why Dawson when his combine numbers were not so impressive? You cannot teach football instincts and this guy has them. His college productivity was better than any of the Linebackers in the draft and most aren't as versatile. And I remember a certain Vontaze Burfict who had a lousy combine and who went on to become a Pro Bowler. I can see the same happening with Dawson. 

Round 4: Kurtis Drummond S MSU

Drafting from a position of depth and need the Giants would do well with this pick. Having shared the field the with cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes, Drummond has benefited from having quality corners to play with. But do not think that he is not a quality safety option at this point of the draft. Having played four years, this Spartan is a rangy type safety and a solid tackler with loads of game experience. The Giants could do worse than picking the Big 10 Defensive Back of the year. He won't start day one, but he'll definitely be in the mix by midseason. 

Round 5: Nick O'Leary TE FSU

Standing 6'3" and weighing 252 pounds O'Leary possesses the size and build of your more prototypical pass catching tight ends. An adequate blocker in college O'Leary served as a reliable safety valve for Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Having a knack for finding the open areas on the field O'Leary won't make anyone forget about Mark Bavaro but he will certainly remind you more of a combination Kevin Boss and Jake Ballard with better hands. Between O'Leary and last year's first-round pick out of FSU and current Carolina Panther Kelvin Benjamin they both played a big part in helping Jameis Winston capture his Heisman with some of the circus catches they came down with. His blue-collar style of playing football would make him an immediate fan favorite and right off the bat he would be a "Coughlin guy."

And with that my first ever mock draft comes to an end. I like many others will be watching the draft this coming Thursday and like many others I will be living vicariously through these parents watching their sons dreams come true. Now I may not have an NFL career for The Boy to look forward to but all of his accomplishments going forward will make me just as proud as any of those fathers on draft day. And who knows? I am going to begin teaching him how to long snap, block and tackle. There may be a special-teams spot for him somewhere in the future.  

We All Need Time and Space for Dreams #CRVSueños

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Honda and Latina Bloggers Connect. As always, all opinions and dreams are my own. 


As I slid into the driver's seat of the 2015 Honda CR-V, I recalled all the road trips with my parents, sitting in the back seat, my nose buried in a book. My mother would say, "Put away the book and look out window." My mom was all about the scenery. To keep her from nagging, I dropped the book and looked out the window. I didn't take in the scenery, I didn't notice the trees or the deer grazing by the side of the road (even though my mother yelled for us to look). I'd dream about the characters I was reading about and continue the storyline in my head. It was on those road trips that I first began to dream about being a writer. I never talked about my dreams, I kept them to myself but I'm grateful my mom gave the time to dream. Maybe that was the point - for me to dream my own dreams instead of reading about someone else's?  

Now that I'm a mom, I'm the one urging my kid to look out the window. Norrin doesn't read in the car, he's all about his tech. So I try to limit screen time while in the car. I want Norrin to look out the window and take the world in; I want to give him the time and space to dream. I encourage conversation by talking about what I see out the window. I ask him to point out things or ask him the colors of a home or car, I'll ask him to count the number of trees. I try to spark his imagine by pointing to the clouds and saying "that cloud looks like a fish." We listen to music and I ask him about a song he likes or I try to get him to sing.

And I also allow for moments of silence in the car. No tech and no talking. Because even now, I sit in the passenger seat beside my husband and dream. I dream not only for myself but I dream for Norrin. Having a kid with autism, I've had to slowly let go of some dreams, but there is always time to dream for other things. And I have so much to wish for
   
And what better place to dream than in the car?

I think that's why I love the 2015 Honda CR-V - Space for Dreams video. 


Yes, the video is in (mostly) Spanish but that doesn't matter. The message is universal. I know because I don't speak Spanish very well and I was in tears. I remembered dreaming like that when I was a little girl - without limits, when I believed anything and everything was possible. What I especially appreciated about the video was the message of hope. While she's dreaming of venturing into space, she's on her way to a school science fair with her parents. It says that dreams - no matter who dreams them - are attainable. 

As a parent, I want to encourage my son to dream big! I want him to know and believe that anything is possible. I want Norrin to know that his future is as bright as anyone else's. He doesn't have to dream about going to space. He just has to dream...and dreams can be made anywhere, anytime. I just need to give him the time and the space to do so.


For specific details about the 2015 Honda CR-V please visit: Honda

This is sponsored post in collaboration with Honda and Latina Bloggers Connect. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

The Secret To #LivingFabulosa

When I received the invite to attend an Orgullosa #LivingFabulosa event, hosted by Golden Globe Winning Actress Gina Rodriguez, Radio Personality Angie Martinez, Style Expert and TV personality Lilliana Vazquez and Entertainment Weekly Correspondent Nina Terrero - I may have jumped up and down in my chair.

[FYI: I am obsessed with Jane the Virgin. If you haven't gotten into this TV show , I don't know why - it's everything! On the night it premiered, I tweeted with excitement. But you won't catch me tweeting and watching anymore - the show has my full attention.] 

But back to #LivingFabulosa...
(Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for P&G Orgullosa/AP Images)
P&G's Orgullosa program celebrated last night its newest initiative ‘Living Fabulosa’ (living fabulously) as a continuation of its Nueva Latina campaign, which highlights the unique and complex experience of the modern, bicultural Latina -- the Nueva Latina. The star-studded event was hosted by Golden Globe Winning Actress Gina Rodriguez, Radio Personality Angie Martinez, Style Expert and TV personality Lilliana Vazquez and Entertainment Weekly Correspondent Nina Terrero. Special guests and on-stage panelists included actresses Diane Guerrero and Selenis Leyva, Founder of Vixen Workout Janet Jones, musician Raquel Sofía, and entrepreneurs and founders of My Wellness Solutions Indhira Santana, Violet Santana and Hilda Pichardo. ‘Living Fabulosa’ was successful in reigniting the passion to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Nueva Latinas through a forum recognizing Latina trendsetters and their stories of confidence, strength and success. 
The room was filled with so many familiar faces - I hugged and kissed hello so many fabulous latina bloggers before stepping into the auditorium and settling into my seat. I was ready to be inspired, motivated and even a little bit star struck. But during the panel discussion, I found myself becoming a little emotional. I may not be a Golden Globe Winning actress or TV/Radio personality but their stories still resonated with me - it was familiar. And I left believing that anyone can live fabulously regardless of who they are or how they look.    

So what's the secret to #LivingFabulosa? 

Forget what people think. "Whoever said I wasn't Latina enough can suck it." Selenis Leyva (Orange is the New Black). One of my favorite lines of the night. I have been told time and time again that I am not Latina enough because I don't Spanish. Leyva, speaks Spanish but because she's an Afro-Latina, she's considered as not being Latina enough. (Now ain't that some ish...) Who cares what people think a Latina should be. I self-identify as a Latina. When I look in the mirror, it’s who I see. I know that I am enough. Cultural pride and identity goes beyond speaking a language or looking a certain way. It’s about knowing who you are, being proud of your roots, and being your best possible self.

Because like Angie Martinez (radio personality) says, "The only person who can define who you are, is you."

Be a little selfish. "It's not a bad thing to put yourself first." Janet Jones (Creator, The Vixen Workout). Oh these are the words I need plastered to my bathroom mirror! I need to see them every morning. I put myself last almost all of the time. And when I put myself first, I feel guilty about it. 

Start from the inside. "Women need to change from the inside first." Janet Jones. She may be the founder of the Vixen Workout but she believes you need to start from the inside first. It seems so simple too. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you're wearing - you need to feel good about the person you are first before you can look in the mirror and feel satisfied with your reflection. 

Remember who you are and where you come from. "I am my mother's struggle." Diane Guerrero (Jane the Virgin & Orange is the New Black). While Guerrero didn't elaborate on "the struggle" it's still a statement many Latinas can identify with. Many of our mothers came to the country with a dream. They raised us to be do more, be better, work smarter. I work hard not only for myself but to make my mother and my family proud - to show them that their years of struggle and sacrifice were not in vain.  

Keep at it. No matter what. "Don't compare your journey to anyone else's. With anything in life, you have to give it a lifetime." Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin). As 40 is creeping up on me, I'm starting to get this nagging feeling as I haven't done enough, as if I haven't accomplished all that I should have. There are no timetables - raising a kid with autism, I should know this by now.

And my secret to #LivingFabulosa - 


I know, I know, Elizabeth Taylor isn't Latina. But I love this phrase because no matter how hard life gets, you just have to pull yourself together and push through it. Sometimes for me, it's as easy as putting on a little lipstick to brighten my mood - to fake it until I make it. Other days it's a little harder than that. So on the really hard days, I'll remember to come back here. 

In case you missed the event, check out the highlights! 




{Top} Golden Globe winning Actress Gina Rodriguez, Entertainment Weekly Correspondent Nina Terrero, Radio Personality Angie Martinez and Style Expert and TV Personality, Lilliana Vazquez, from left to right, attend P&G Orgullosa’s forum “Nueva Latinas Living Fabulosa” at The TimesCenter on Wednesday, March 25 in New York. {Middle} Actress Selenis Leyva and Diane Guerrero with Gina Rodriguez. {Bottom} Lilliana Vazquez, Radio Personality Angie Martinez, Actress Selenis Leyva and Actress Diane Guerrero. The all-star lineup of speakers shared their passion and stories of rich history, blended cultures and aspirations. (Photo by Diane Bondareff/Invision for P&G Orgullosa/AP Images)

To learn more about Orgullosa's Living Fabulosa program or to be part of the community, please visit the Orgullosa Facebook page or register at Orgullosa.com. Follow the conversation on social media with #LivingFabulosa.

Journal of an ADHD Kid - a Book for Kids written by a Kid

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the Journal of an ADHD Kid for review purposes. No compensation was received. All opinions are my own.

Journal of an ADHD Kid: The Good, The Bad and the Useful by Tobias Stumpf with Dawn Schaefer Stumpf. 

Toby, the narrator, relates his experiences coping with ADHD in an authentic kid's voice, providing plenty of solid information, emotional support, and tips for kids and teens!

***
Three years after Norrin's autism diagnosis, he was given the additional diagnosis of ADHD. Sometimes it's hard for me to know which condition is holding him back from meeting his true potential. (I've gone back and forth about medication for years but that's for another post.)

While Norrin isn't quite ready to read Journal of an ADHD Kid - I learned a lot about it and I can't wait to share this with Norrin one day. 

Journal of an ADHD Kid is written specifically for kids and it's written by a kid with ADHD. The intro explains that Toby was inspired by Jeff Kinney's The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and immediately you see the influence - which will definitely appeal to kids.

Each chapter is a few pages long and they tackle the real everyday concerns. What I appreciate about the book is that it's more than just one kids' experience with ADHD. Many of the chapters end with checklists or Q&A - allowing the reader's experience to be part of the book.

It's also fun to read. One chapter explains different kids of ADHD by comparing it to pizza. "...just like there are different kinds of pizza, there are different types of ADHD." And because it's written by a kid - it touches on subjects that resonate with kids. Like video games, getting in trouble at home, not liking homework - all "normal" stuff. Toby is honest about ADHD. While he doesn't consider it to be a "gift," he does recognize that it's a part of who he is. It's a journal of understanding and self-acceptance. 

Not only is Journal of an ADHD Kid a valuable learning tool but, it's a great way to jumpstart an honest conversation about ADHD. 

Journal of an ADHD Kid is available at www.woodbinehouse.com.

My Morning Routine Always Includes Coffee #CoffeeMyWay

I take my coffee very seriously. #CoffeeMyWay means it needs to be strong, it needs cream (milk will not do) and it needs to be sweet - a sprinkle of cinnamon is also lovely. It can be hot or iced.  And I can easily drink 3 - 5 cups a day - depending on the day. 

Before I was a mom, I'd be content buying coffee on my way to work. After motherhood - my love for coffee intensified. I could no longer wait until I was out the door. I needed it as soon as I woke up.

I can't even tell you how many coffee makers I've gone through over the years. But I've had my Keurig for almost 2 years and  I love it. It's perfect for making a much needed single cup and I don't have to worry about making an entire pot for one. 

Weekday mornings, I take sips in between making breakfast, packing lunch and getting Norrin ready for school. I usually walk out the door without finishing. At work I make another cup of coffee but it's never quite the same. But on weekend mornings, it is something to be savored. I look forward to waking up before everyone else and enjoying my coffee while working or catching up on Facebook. 

Some weekend mornings are so hectic, I have to get coffee on the way and it's rarely made exactly how I want it. And isn't that the worst? When you buy a cup of coffee and it's awful. So I try to remember to make my own and put it in a to-go mug. Because this is me without coffee -- Do I look happy? 


Coffee goes beyond a need or even my love. It's been a part of my life ever since I could remember. For Latinos coffee is a part of the culture. I remember my parents warming up milk for their instant coffee, sweetening it with just a few spoonfuls of sugar. And on the side was always a piece of toasted bread with butter. 

Whenever I visit family in Puerto Rico - after being greeted with hugs and kisses, the first question asked is "quieres café?" But it's not really a question, it's more of a demand because they're bringing it out no matter what you say. Puerto Ricans drink coffee around the clock which I cannot even understand because it gets so hot. 

It's all about Cafe Bustelo in PR so the day I found Cafe Bustelo k-cups in my local supermarket - I was overjoyed! With some International Delights French Vanilla cream - I am a happy girl.     


But even with my "fancy" coffee maker, I know to keep a jar of instant coffee around for my parents when they visit. They like coffee their way and I like it mine.   
   
Coffee Makers and Mugs from wayfair.com

Roomy, Sporty & Efficient: Atypical Dad's Experience with the Mazda 3 #DriveMazda

Disclosure: DriveSTI loaned us a Mazda 3 for a week. No other compensation was received. As always, opinions and thoughts are my own.

     This post was written by Joseph Cheo Fontanez aka Atypical Dad    



At first glance the 2015 Mazda 3 looks like a very unassuming car. Nothing could be further from the truth. For a compact four cylinder every day driver this car packs the amenities and performance that you would find in a car with a much higher MSRP. After driving it for a week I came away with a newfound respect for this Mazda. 


Initially you would not think that this would be an ideal family car. You might assume that it is too small, not roomy, and not practical. Your assumptions would be wrong. I found the Mazda 3 to be not only an ideal family car, but a vehicle that exceeded expectations. 

This was especially true when driving three of my more goonish coworkers on our lunch runs. By goonish I mean that at 6 feet tall I stand as the runt in my coworker lunch circle. Averaging 6’3” among them my 3 coworkers had little issue entering and exiting the Mazda 3. And I never heard a complaint about legroom. And if you know my coworkers they are never lacking in complaints. 

The lumbar support in the driver and passenger side seats also made me feel like I was driving a high-performance vehicle. They were fully adjustable and easy to manage. And the legroom in the rear seats kept my coworkers from pelting me with insults about how cramped they were. This leads me to believe that family driving would be a breeze. 

While I was driving the Mazda 3 I found that the steering was very intuitive. The ease in which I steered the vehicle in and out of traffic was a pleasure. This combined with the Mazda 3’s suspension made driving through the potholed streets of The Bronx much easier to navigate. Equipped with a set of Blizzak snow tires I was a little concerned with how it would handle now that the winter was behind us. The handling was not really an issue and I believe those snow were integral in absorbing the shock delivered when driving over potholes. As you may know this winter was not the kindest to the streets of New York City so this Mazda 3 had more than its fair share of craters to drive through. And it handled them satisfactorily while at the same time providing a ride that was both quiet and comfortable. 

The amenities equipped with the Mazda three are not just your run-of-the-mill add-ons. The Mazda Connect system provides you with the controls needed to operate both your stereo and navigation with either voice command or, which was my personal favorite, with the console mounted Commander Control. The steering wheel stereo control was also easy to get used to and all worked well with the system’s Bluetooth capabilities. Navigating the stereo or a music app on a mobile device were both just as simple. The Bose Premium Sound System is comparable to any car audio sound system on the market today. The sound was both deep and crisp and was at home with both Sinatra and Wu Tang Clan. 

The safety features equipped on the Mazda 3 not only made it a safer car to drive, but also provided you with a piece of mind behind the wheel. Equipped with sensors that will indicate if there is a driver in your blind spot via a warning light that pops up on your rearview mirror. It also signals you when you engage the turn signal and someone is also in your blind spot via a beep as well. This brings driver confidence to a new level. It was very liberating. With all this there is nothing entry level about the Mazda 3.


Be sure to check out what the wife thought about the Mazda 3 - the fact that she may be open to the idea of learning how to drive says a lot...




Copyright © 2013 Atypical Familia