14 hours ago
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Morgan's Wonderland: why it's such a big deal
There's been a lot of buzz on the web about San Antonio's Morgan's Wonderland, the first large theme park to cater to kids with special needs. Dave e-mailed me about it from London. He's there on a business trip and had seen it on the news.
The story's amazing: A real estate developer with a daughter who has special needs raised some $30 million to open the park. It has wide ramps for wheelchairs, a carousel with adaptive seating, and a sensory village where kids can interact with lights, colors, sounds and textures. It's even going to limit the number of visitors so as not to overwhelm kids. Admission is free for those with disabilities and $5 for friends and family. The Grand Opening is April 10.
I was psyched to hear about Morgan's Wonderland, but all the hoopla has left me vaguely troubled. Because if adapting places to kids with special needs were more of a regular thing, a park like this wouldn't be making international headlines. Morgan's Wonderland is a big deal not just because its the first of its kind but because this concept seems so novel to people. Wow! Lots and lots of opportunities for kids with special needs to enjoy themselves, as opposed to the slim pickings available at mainstream parks.
The topic's totally on my mind. We're headed to Disney at the end of next week, a place that is considered exceptionally accommodating to kids with special needs. Last time we went, though, we were limited by the number of rides we could go on because they scared the hell out of Max. Make that, we were limited to the race track. Everything else was sensory overload. I made the mistake of dragging him onto It's A Small World since I thought he'd get into it only he wailed the entire time as the robo-children in adorable outfits sang their hearts out. Max will probably run screaming down the Disney streets at the mere sight of it.
Morgan's Wonderland deserves all of the attention it's receiving. I just wish that the Chuck E. Cheeses and Great Adventures and water parks and all the other mainstream kiddie fun places of this world did more to include kids with disabilities, you know?