Follow up to Travel Spotlight: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Last week, I posted on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Over the weekend, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium released the following information:

The production company that made Dolphin Tale got the green light to make a sequel to the movie that put the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the map.

Here’s some info on it, straight from the CMA’s website:

Alcon Entertainment has greenlit Dolphin Tale 2, a follow up to its successful 2011 Warner Bros release, it was announced by co-founders and co-CEOs Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson.

The entire cast of Dolphin Tale will reunite for the sequel, including Harry Connick Jr., Morgan Freeman, Kris Kristofferson, Ashley Judd, Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff, among others. Charles Martin Smith (Dolphin TaleAir Bud) has written the screenplay and will again direct.

The fact-based adaptation Dolphin Tale was originally brought to Alcon by the Company’s President Of Worldwide Marketing, Richard Ingber, who also produced, and will serve as a producer on the sequel.

Dolphin Tale 2 tells another true story inspired by the life of the rescued bottle nose dolphin, Winter, this time involving a new baby dolphin named Hope who was also saved and rehabilitated by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in 2010.

Filming for Dolphin Tale 2 will begin in Clearwater, Florida in October of this year. Distributor Warner Bros is setting September 19, 2014 release date.

Winter, who still resides at the Aquarium, played herself in the original film and returns in “DT2.” Hope will play herself in the sequel.

“We are thrilled to be working with David Yates and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium again. The fact that there is another inspirational story to be told regarding Winter is almost more than a filmmaker could ask for,” Kosove and Johnson stated.

 TTFN, Heather
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Travel Spotlight: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

I recently posted about the Florida Aquarium, in which I reviewed the aspects of it that either helped or didn’t help my son’s experience. Now, I haven’t been able to take him to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium yet, but I wanted to mention it here.

The other, more famous aquarium: Clearwater Marine Aquarium

In the spring, I wrote on my son’s experiences with visiting the Florida Aquarium. At a friend’s request, I now write a follow-up to that post with this one, even though we haven’t had a chance to actually visit yet. Here goes.

Winter, the dolphin with the prosthetic tail, is so famous that people come to visit her  from all over the world. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is now known as the home of Winter the dolphin.

This is a local resource for those families with a family member with disabilities. Visiting winter is a life-changing experience for these kids.  They see that because Winter tried very hard, and practiced exercising with her prosthetic tail, she can use the tail well, and be like other dolphins. So maybe they can be like other kids.

My son and I have been reading the book Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again, by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff. In it, the authors talk about how Winter seems to have an effect on those who visit her. Children who have prostheses, veterans who have them as well. And there was one little girl who came to see winter who didn’t want to wear a hearing aid until after she met Winter.

The 2011 movie Dolphin Tale that was based on Winter’s story has helped the aquarium expand their facilities, which now also host new residents of the aquarium, such as another recently rescued dolphin named Hope.

Which seems to be a great name for a dolphin that has been rescued. That seems to represent the attitude that surrounds the staff and facilities of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. That seems to rub off on the people who visit. Especially the children with disabilities that come and are inspired by Winter’s story.

The story of a missing tail, the hard work and perseverance of a young dolphin, and an international spotlight that still shines on this special place.

 

The Clearwater Marine Aquarium

www.seewinter.com

249 Windward Passage

Clearwater, FL 33767

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Travel Post: A Theme Park in the Southeast U.S. Changes their Disability Access Policy

I love theme parks. Have done since I can remember. I love taking my son to them, when we can afford it. But I read something today about a place in the Southeast U.S. that really got my goat. So I just had to post.

Carowinds, a theme park in North Carolina, has changed its wait policy for families with disabilities.

The original policy, which allowed families of children with disabilities to skip waiting in lines and go to the front to board a ride immediately (this has been used with success in many locations, including Busch Gardens in our area here in Tampa Bay), has been changed to providing these families with a boarding pass, which would be used to come back to an attraction at a specific time, depending on the average wait time for the ride.

So they would have to come back to a ride.

Cedar Fair, the company that owns the theme park, issued an emailed statement to this regarding the new policy, in which they state that the policy was created “in an effort to provide all of our guests with equal opportunity and access.”

In my opinion, this “Boarding Pass Program” will not be a good accommodation for families, especially for those families who only have one parent. What will happen when the kid gets to the ride and realizes that he still has to wait?

For those kids who are at a developmental level of a three-year-old or less, he or she WILL have a meltdown. They literally do not understand the concept of waiting. I’ve been there.

Also, they are taking the point of view that some take regarding access, like those with not-so-obvious disabilities, like ADHD. That providing access for them makes it unfair for the other kids.

Which is the opposite of true. It levels the playing field.

While we have not yet had a chance to go to this park, we would have loved to, as it is within a comfortable driving distance from my brother’s home in Gastonia, North Carolina. But even if we do make the drive to my brother’s house this summer before school starts, I’m not sure we would go to the park. And not just for cost reasons.

For sanity’s sake.

Heather

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A Review of The Florida Aquarium, and a Special Event they’re hosting soon

I am currently researching all of the aquariums in all of Tampa Bay. I’m interested in aquariums because we took Kyle pretty recently to the largest aquarium in Tampa Bay.

The Florida Aquarium, located in Tampa, sits in between Port Tampa and Channelside, the shopping mall-like cluster of restaurants and shops.

When we went to the Aquarium in early March, it was so crowded in the animal viewing area where they were going to show the penguins. He was anxious. About the dark, about not being able to see the penguins. Then, another animal handler showed up at the back of the area. We were so glad for that. He got a good look at the penguin she was holding. So that was a plus. As were the two screens that were in the front of the standing-room only theater. But Kyle couldn’t see those easily, he had to be hoisted up by his dad.

He was anxious while visiting some of the other areas, as well. He tried not to be. I could tell. But, he did ask to go back. That made me smile.

It’ll have to wait, though. Even though we’ll be too busy with something else in two weeks there is an upcoming event being held there for special needs kids.

On May 4th, there will be a special event held just for kids with autism and similar sensory issues. The event is a result of the partnership held between the Florida Aquarium and C.A.R.D. USF and is called “A Day of Discovery.” C.A.R.D. is the Center for Autism And Related Disorders, and is

From the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., special activities and animal interactions are planned just for our kids.

This will be beneficial to all of these kids, because they won’t have to be jostled in a crowd in order to see the animals, in addition to reducing their stress levels because of the reduction of the noise level. As we know, kids with Autism Spectrum are very sensitive to sounds.

While the event ends at 9:30, guests of the Day of Discovery event are invited to extend their stay afterwards, and attend any part of the Aquarium, including the water park, Explore a Shore. This splash zone is a zero-depth water park and play area.

Admission for the event is $5 before, and $8 at the door. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time by calling 813-273-4000, ext. 4255.

In addition, you can prepare your child in advance for their trip by visiting their website and showing them pictures of what the building looks like, and some of the animals. I did that, even though he’d been there before. It’s still a good idea to do that, to lessen anxiety about knowing where he’s going.

But, there’s more on their website than I noticed before.

On the Explore the Aquarium section of their website, www.flaquarium.org, the Aquarium has an Accessibility page that includes information for those with autism. There are social stories (wish I’d known that!).

One is a booklet and is called “A Visit to The Florida Aquarium.” It’s got a lot of information about what to expect while visiting the exhibits, and even explains to the child how to ask for things he or she needs. Then there are four social stories for specific areas and tours the Aquarium provides.

Wow, when we do go back, we’ll have to use these.

TTFN, Heather

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Two Events Kyle attends every Year: Oldsmar Days and Bay Area Renaissance Festival

This past weekend, we wanted to take Kyle to Oldsmar Days and Nights, but he was sick. This local festival is a celebration of Oldsmar history and culture, and classic cars. As part of the annual festivities, there is a classic car show. Oldsmobiles are of course welcome.

In fact, there is a special category for them. For those who don’t know, Oldsmar was founded in 1912 by R.E. Olds, the man who started the Oldsmobile car manufacturing company.

For kids, there are always a lot of rides, for kids of all ages. This was one of the first fairs where Kyle would actually ride the rides, so it’s special to my family. When you have a child with special needs, you have to create memories where you can get them. And this year, we’ll have memories of past years to hold us over.

Besides, there will be another little festival coming in April, in Palm Harbor, called the Palm Harbor Citrus Festival. I’ll write it up next week.

Speaking of festivals, two weekends ago we took Kyle to the Tampa Bay Renaissance Festival. We attend every year. I don’t think Kyle has missed it since he was born. He always loves it. we gave him the choice of going to the Strawberry Festival or the Renaissance Festival, and that’s what he chose.

I think one reason he always likes it is that it’s so low-key. There are no loud music, flashing lights, or carnival barkers yelling into bullhorns. there are always so many interesting things to look at. there are strolling musicians, and lots of people in costume.

This year, he rode the “merry go round”, as he put it. it’s a swing carousel that’s operated by hand. In the center, there is a structure that turns like a wheel, with spokes that the men use to push the thing around. If you’ve seen the Pirates of the Carribean movies, it looks like the wheel they use to make something happen on pirate ships, like raise the sails or something. So this wheel is attached to a pole that spins around, and that has spokes coming out from it. each of these spokes has two lines, basically ropes, that extend down and hold the swing in place. the ropes also swivel, so that the swing will spin.

Now, Kyle rode this last year, and the year before. So he knew what to expect, which I guess is why he didn’t seem to mind being spun around. Sometimes he doesn’t care for that, but he really seemed to love it. He had the biggest smile on his face!

This was the first thing he wanted to do when we got there. Later, when we asked what ride he wanted to go on, he said, “The Merry-go-Round.” Of course. Well, we decided that since the time we went a couple of years ago when Kyle & I rode the barrel-shaped ride, we decided that was okay. We both didn’t like it!  Those guys push that thing hard! That one swings back and forth, and spins around. It made my head spin, and my stomach lurch.

While we were walking around, I remember noticing he was really looking around intently and thinking about something. I almost literally saw the wheels turn in his head.

“It’s like Halloween,” he said. We were surprised at him being so eloquent all of a sudden, which happens, but rarely.

“Yes, it’s a lot like Halloween, isn’t it?” I said, smiling. And it’s moments like those that make it all worthwhile.

Heather

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Local Goings-on, and A Quick Escape at Busch Gardens

First I want to share something I learned over the weekend.

The City of Clearwater’s Parks and Recreation Department will start a free open gym focusing on building basketball skills in individuals with disabilities for ages 14 and up. So, even though this isn’t for Kyle as he’s under the age group, I wanted people to know, if they were looking for something like this.

The program will be held on Thursdays starting December 6th, this coming Thursday. The sessions will be from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., and will be held at the Ross Norton Recreational Center, at 1426 S. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., Clearwater, FL 33756. To register, send an email to kerry@someplacespecial.org.

Now, on to what we did with Kyle over the weekend.

First, we took Kyle to his baseball holiday party on Saturday. He had a lot of fun, but mostly he was waiting for Santa to give him a present. Kyle and I did dance a lot, though. A big thanks to the Dunedin Elks for providing the space, volunteers and food.

Then on Sunday, the Grandma and I took Kyle to Busch Gardens for the first time. I know, it’s weird, as we’ve lived in Tampa Bay his whole life, but I guess it does happen that way, when you live close by something. You almost forget it’s there.

Plus, the cost just kept going up. It used to be much less expensive to go to Busch Gardens instead of Disney. But, now with their Fun Card, and their Flex Pay option, it’s easier. So, the Grandma gave us Fun Cards for Christmas.

For kids that love trains, this place is a keeper. The train was the first thing we did. It also helped that it was decked out for Christmas. There’s been a pretty recent development, in that he realizes that roller coasters are a lot like trains. So now he likes roller coasters. A lot. So while I like that he’s expanded his idea of what a train is, he now can’t get enough of roller coasters, and rides in general.

He loved the Air Grover coaster at the new Sesame Street Safari of Fun children’s area. The only thing is, after he got off the ride he tried to get to the front of the coaster to spin the propellers of the fake airplane Grover is “flying.” It took myself and a Busch Gardens employee to keep him from getting to it, and possibly falling off the platform. Sigh.

At least, now I know the person riding with him will have to sit on the left, so that they can grab him before he does that again. And/or have another person meet us there, ready to steer him away and off the platform.

Also, when we got to this treehouse play area there (it’s like a McDonald’s play place on steroids), he went into manic mode and got away from me, and ran ahead, across two rope bridges that were suspended high above the hard concrete below. At least that’s what I was thinking. It probably wasn’t as high as it felt. I’m afraid of heights.

Somehow I made myself get across them (but not without sustaining even more stress to my heart) and closer to where he was. Then, after almost losing track of him, I spotted him coming out of a playground tube. Luckily, when I finally got to where he was, there was another employee on the other side of the netting, who could get ahold of him before he could get away again. I told her the situation, and she took him by the arm, got his things he almost left in the tube, and walked him over to me.

Thanks goes out to this lady, whoever she was. Without her, I’m not sure I could have gotten to him in time before he got away again, and further up into that tree house. Sigh.

But, other than that, we did have a good time. He wanted to go back and ride more roller coasters. And we will. With another warm body to help, like the Dad. Hint, hint…

Yesterday afternoon, the lines were short so that even though I did get information on their Ride Accessibility Program, and a piece of yellow paper that I could show someone at any ride’s exit in order to bypass long lines for people with special needs, I didn’t need it. But in the summer, I know I will.

Before the next time we go for the rides, we may be going to the Christmas Town holiday event at Busch Gardens on Saturday night. He might be frustrated at not being able to ride the roller coasters, but he sure is going to love the snow, and the train.

Heather

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Kyle started soccer on Saturday

Kyle kicked the ball into the goal. “Goooooal!” I yelled.

My son loves movement. He loves to bounce balls—as anybody who knows him can attest—and run and play vigorously. It’s an attempt to lessen his anxiety, and to de-stress.

After choosing a soccer ball, he turned around and walked onto the soccer field at Canal Park on Saturday, and promptly started bouncing it. I figured probably because it was the first time he’d played soccer since last season, and he was getting used to the excitement of it, maybe also he might have been feeling a little trepidation about getting started.

After a few minutes, with some encouragement from his volunteer buddy—a kid named Kevin—he started to kick the ball around. In fact, he only kicked the ball the rest of the time he was on the field with Kevin. Kyle seemed really comfortable with him. Maybe partly because Kevin’s his dad’s name.

My husband Kevin and I also encouraged him, yelling “Good job!” or “Wow!” each time he kicked the ball in the goal. Apparently, he’s become quite the good kicker. He really kicked it hard a lot of times.

Eventually we backed off from the field and walked over to where the other parents were. We kept yelling comments in his direction on how he was doing.

Everybody who was watching Kyle was impressed on how well he did Saturday. And he’d been sick for a week with some kind of virus. Still is. But he’s been asking to play again, and to practice. He can’t wait for Saturday.

Years ago, we would be driving by playing fields and we would remark on what the kids were doing. After we moved to Oldsmar, and his language was getting better, he would ask, “You play soccer?” We didn’t know what to say. Parents of children and young adults with disabilities want their kids to feel included. At that time, we just didn’t know how. As far as we knew, there weren’t any programs for him, that we were aware of.

That was before we heard of TOPS Soccer. This was the first organized sport he was involved in, and he just loves it. This will be his fourth season.

For more information on TOPS Soccer at Oldsmar Soccer Club, email Melissa Tremblay at melmom@tampabay.rr.com

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