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a plate full

Fulltime Foster Carer - Harriet author of: A Less Ordinary Family

a plate full

Wednesday 24th August

After a long night in the hotel room, we met our friends in the restaurant for breakfast. I was really dreading another mealtime, but then I see ahead the words “buffet Breakfast” written on a board at the entrance to the restaurant. Surely there would be something here that Alice would eat and not complain about. She spotted miniature cereal boxes at the end of the table and asked for Coco Pops – to be honest I would have let her have anything if we could avoid a meltdown today.

Meanwhile Annie and Lauren made their way straight to the cooked breakfasts. Lauren was over the moon that she could choose whatever she liked for her breakfast she came back with a plate full of sausage, bacon, hash browns etc. Annie’s plate was not nearly as packed, but I knew she would be returning for croissant and pain au chocolate. I decided to start with cereal – thought I should at least try to be healthy, well that was until I saw Annie with a croissant – that was my healthy start out of the window. We then all decided that it would be a long time until lunch time so we should load up!!!

After breakfast we packed up the cars and made our way to Chessington World of Adventure. We were all quite excited when we got there, we had never been to this theme park before so it really was an adventure. The first thing I noticed is how much queuing is involved. Firstly there is a huge queue to buy the tickets, then you wait to get into the park in another queue where security check your bags. Next comes the longest queue to get ‘exit passes’. Exit Passes are given to people with disabilities – usually with cognitive impairments that would make it difficult for them to queue. Ironic that the very thing you need to do to avoid the queues in the theme park is join a queue to get the passes. We then had a final queue to get Alice measured. Because she is so tiny we need to get her measured to see which rides she can and cannot do.

It was an hour and a half after arriving at the park that we finally can go on a ride. To be honest by this time everyone was tired and fed up, so we have a quick drink and a stop in the shop to buy hats (I had forgotten to pack them and as it was a hot day I thought I better buy some!). After a quick toilet break and a reapplication of sun cream we were ready to enjoy the rides.

I thought after all the queues the rest of the day would go well but we ran into a few problems. Firstly, Alice decided that she didn’t want to go on any of the rides as they were too noisy. She put both hands on her ears and sat stubbornly in her chair. I decided to ignore it, as I didn’t want Annie and Lauren’s day to be spoilt. Next we had an issue with some of the rides. Many of the rides require you to be able to walk or, as they put it, be “ambulant” for safety reasons. This totally ruled our Alice for those rides – but as she decided she didn’t want to go on them it didn’t matter. However for Grace’s foster son this was another matter. He could walk but often needed support. So was he ambulant or non-ambulant? For most of the rides he coped getting on and off himself, but by the end of the day he gave up and refused to get off the ride. This meant Grace had to help him off the ride.

As they left the ride, a staff member followed closely and began to give her a lecture about her son not being safe to go on the ride as he was non-ambulant. No matter how much she tried to explain the situation – he was tired and hot and just decided he’d had enough, she was not listening and decided to call in the manager. It was an embarrassing situation for Grace trying to explain her son’s disability and feeling like she wasn’t being listened too. Finally when the manager came and we explained the situation, he understood and said there was no problem. I can totally understand the need for the rules and putting safety first. It is a shame though that there were so many rides that non-ambulant people can access.

Despite the frustrations of the day, Lauren and Annie had a fabulous time. We all returned to the hotel for dinner exhausted. Hopefully we will have a better nights sleep in the hotel tonight!

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