Does Sea World Have An Elementary School?

We wrapped up a very stressful and uncomfortable week today with a long, fun day at Sea World. With the possible exception of his grandmother’s house — and I’m not sure it’s as close a race as I’m making it out — this is Alex’s favorite place on the planet.

He loves the water park and would stay there playing and riding slides all day if we’d let him. But his little brother is an animal fanatic, so Alex endures the live shows put on by the marine mammalian performance troupes. We coerce him with the promise of riding rides between shows, but I think he likes the animals more than he lets on. I catch him leaning forward with anticipation and even clapping from time to time. I think he’s just letting us talk him into it to guarantee more thrill-seeking opportunities.

His Sea World fandom has reached the point now that we can’t even tell him we’re going until the day before. Otherwise, he’ll be talking about it for 72 hours straight, and he won’t sleep. He wears his bathing suit to bed the night before and starts asking about Sea World as soon as his eyes snap open in the morning. The pure, unfiltered joy he shows when he knows we’re going is just so good for me. It relaxes me so much to see him really enthused about something. Too much of his world is intruded upon by sensory overload, fears and insecurity, so I relish the moments when he can just be a kid.

He struck up a conversation with the parking attendant today as we were getting our season pass scanned in. It went something like this.

Alex: “Hi, man.”

Attendant: “Hello.”

Alex: “It’s me. I’m back.” (Interesting.)

Attendant: “Oh … well, good.”

Alex: “Okay, bye. We gotta go to Sea World now.”

Attendant: “Great. Have a good day.”

I notice he can manage that kind of cheerful give and take conversation with strangers when he’s in a good place mentally. It happens all the time when we’re in the middle of something he likes or on our way to do something he likes. He’s much more close-lipped and standoffish when he’s nerved up or unhappy with his situation, like during school. That’s why it’s so frustrating to read/hear about Alex having trouble making friends and socializing at school or daycare. They don’t get to see him like I do. Not only CAN he make friends. When he’s feeling good, he’s GREAT at it.

I watched him spend an hour today recruiting random kids in a splash zone to take turns blasting each other with a fire hydrant-grade water jet controlled by a lever. He was not only initiating the contact, he was directing the play and organizing who was going to take which turn, then laughing like crazy and high-fiving the other kids when they would knock each other down with the spray. That’s not autistic behavior. That’s my kid being a kid. And I just sat there watching for as long as possible to soak up every minute of it. I was more upset than him when we had to leave.

Can he just go to school at Sea World next year? I’d pay good money for that. And his little brother could help with the stock.


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