We visited the local zoo today; the first time for both of our children. I finally felt my 5 year-old autistic son would be able to handle the newness, the long walk, and take joy in the experience. (Plus a kind friend had given us a discount voucher, so it wasn’t going to be expensive.)
We arrived early in the day to avoid the anxiety our son would have felt waiting in line. My husband carried / kept an eye on our 1 year-old toddler, and I was largely responsible for shepherding the 5 year-old through the experience.
I’d pre-planned a circuit that meant we’d be able to make a reasonable exit if my son started having a meltdown, this was a good idea because half way around the first loop he decided it was time to go home. I used a tactic of sadly saying good-bye to each animal we passed to try to peak his interest again. That worked for a few animals, but he figured out what I was doing and not even the kiwis and tuataras could get him to swerve off his exit-path.
We did get to see some fantastic animals before he started getting upset. He particularly loved the lions and cheetahs. The elephant bored him to the extent that he barely looked at it even though it was close to the fence. Instead he and his brother were fixated with the bamboo fencing around a tree in front of the elephant inclosure, “bamboo, bamboo!” *sigh*
On the way out, he spotted a clock on a wall, and forgot he was desperate to leave for a while. He pointed at it and talked about it, and didn’t want to leave it. That was one loved-up clock.
Once we got out the front gate, I asked him if he had fun, and he said yes. By the time we were half way down the road from the zoo, he was asking to go back again, so I guess that counts as a success!
I, for one, loved it. My favourite animal was the cheetah this time round, particularly because of how close you could get to it; a truly beautiful animal. The photos with this post are ones I managed to take today, to help entice my eldest back in (hopefully the near) future 🙂