Is there a safe place to visit?

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Today we went on a trip to Loch Lomond Shores. We usually venture further round the Loch to Luss or Firkin Point but the weather forecast wasn’t too good, so we decided to stay where shelter could be found if needed.

Loch Lomond Shores is a mostly paved area at the bottom of the Loch with some shops, a Sea Life centre, playground, shows, a small beach area and a paddle steamer. As such, it should be a safe and relaxing place to take a stroll with the family. That is if you are not out for a walk with a very active, fast, strong and excitable autistic child. Instead of a nice pathway around the Loch with a tourist train and a little beach area, you see dangerous trip/slip hazards in the guise of rocks and gravel, spinning train wheels to run alongside and try to turn and a giant pool of water just waiting to be plunged into.

After almost mowing down a frail-looking elderly gentleman and nearly tripping over two dogs, J ploughed on towards the playground. When we got there he decided it was taking too long to open the gate and made off in the direction of the shows; the dodgems to be precise. He didn’t like the shouting coming from the people on the ride but has a strange fascination with going in for a closer look at things that scare him. After some wailing and face contortions he set off once more, this time in the direction of the small tourist train which was getting ready to set off. The ringing bell attracted him to its presence. We managed to sidetrack him by opening the playgound gate and his new happiness lasted until he got to the swing in time to see another child being lifted in – disaster! After a brief slide down the chute we set off out of the playground for a “stroll” around the lochside pathway. J set off at a pace and the look of glee in his eye could only mean one thing – he had spotted the water!

A brief chase and some minor wrestling had him back in the direction of the walkway through the woods, dodging the train and some more dogs. J decided after a short time that he didn’t want to go this way and kept circling back until we gave in and headed another way, in the direction of the moored paddle steamer. This boat is quite old and once on board we had to contend with some rather wobbly fixtures, hoping that J wouldn’t topple them or snap them off. After arriving on the boat, following a nice long walk, most people would enjoy a nice rest before embarking on their return journey. J never seems to tire enough to want to sit down for a couple of minutes for a recharge.

After a whirlwind tour of the boat we headed back towards the car. Now, J seems to have some sixth sense for returning (even when you take a different route) and will try at all costs to avoid going back. We took turns to carry, herd, hold hands and chase him back in the general direction of the car park. We were amazed when he climbed willingly back into the car, of course he was thirsty and wanted a snack from his lunchbox. Once this was dispensed he sat contentedly, looking out of the window until the motion of the car lulled him off to sleep.

We have visitied Loch Lomond Shores before so the layout is not new to us. What is new is the experience we have each time we go anywhere with J. He has little to no awareness of danger and no fear! Each time we head out prepared for many eventualities – packing a change of clothes, shoes, jackets, etc. and aware of the hazards we met on each previous visit. My son is full of fun, he can also be very clever and sly. He seems to know that we will expect certain things from him, so sometimes he throws in a few extra surprises just to keep us on our toes and make sure we’re paying attention. If we’re prepared for him splashing in puddles or jumping in the mud, he chooses to climb on fences and do a swift u-turn in the direction of a busy road.

My boys really love being outdoors and we take them out as often as we can. Being outdoors is great fun and they get so much enjoyment from our trips; even if we are exhausted and frazzled by the time it’s over. Each place brings a host of new hazards and the list is added to on every visit, but the pleasure they get from it is worth the pain of making sure they remain safe. What we really need is for someone to pad and child-proof nature, removing jagged edges and slippery surfaces. Can someone please build a big fenced in area, with a locked gate, containing rubbery trees and plants, foam stones, spongy hills and water you can touch but can’t jump into? If you do, can you also add a vast number of swings, some spinning wheels on stationary cars/trains and something to bounce on please?

Information about awareness of danger and some possible ideas to help:

NAS Questions – My son has little awareness of danger

Wandering Tips – Ambitious About Autism

This page has some ideas that other parents have tried:

Wandering Tips – Autism Speaks

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