Everyone in New Orleans LOVES going to Mardi Gras Parades, Right? My 14 year old daughter says she “loves celebrating them more than her own birthday.” She loves the excitement and being out in the community amongst peers. We always get there early so she can walk the streets (like all the other kids) and we are usually the last ones to leave (and not until the street sweepers are in sight). Celebrating Mardi Gras with a special needs child takes some planning. And if you are like me, the mom of a special needs child, parade days can be filled with anxiety even though it is something we do without fail every year.
Where do we stand? There aren’t any designated handicap spots along the route. Who will we have to confront? People seem to ALWAYS stand right in front of her in her wheelchair. What should I expect? Anything can happen at any moment. Will my child get hurt? And how do I avoid that without telling her we can’t attend these events? Because that just wouldn’t be fair.
These are just a few of the thoughts and questions that run through my mind when I am preparing to go to a parade with my special needs family, but here are a few personal tips that can make these days just a little less anxious.
Tips For Surviving Mardi Gras With A Special Needs Child
Get to the route early and stake your claim on a spot. This can ensure that you are not inconvenienced in anyway, like having to stand behind other families which can hinder your special needs child’s participation in the event.
Bring Fun Activities For the Wait
Make sure to bring chairs, food, drink, blankets, and something entertaining. This will pass the time and ensure that the kiddos aren’t driving you crazy during the wait. Check out this post on activities to do while you wait on the parade.
Introduce yourself to your parade route neighbors. This allows you to “break the ice,” which helps in avoiding any unnecessary confrontations. It also allows you to decide if you are comfortable with the spot you chose before the parade starts, giving you the opportunity to move if you are not.
Try to avoid crowded spots. Places that are too crowded can be a hindrance when caring for a special needs child on the parade route, especially if there is an emergency.
Have an escape plan
For those moments when the bleep hits the fan and you need to leave immediately in case of an emergency. Choosing to stand close to an on-duty police officer or EMT.
Find the Bathroom
Try to pick a spot close to a handicap-accessible, portable bathroom. We all know that you can’t take the kids anywhere without them having to use the restroom. Accessible portable bathrooms are usually the cleaner alternative and they are large which provides more space for the child and the caregiver.
These are just a few ideas that I keep in mind when preparing for parades. Ultimately, be aware of your surroundings. Follow your instincts when your gut tells you. Be assertive, yet thoughtful, when expressing your wants and needs. AND Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Check out the Jefferson Parish Parent Mardi Gras Parade Guide to find all the parades in Jefferson Parish.
Melissa Mayeaux is the co-founder of Diffability Nola, with her special needs daughter, Lauran Mayeaux. She is the mom of three awesome kids, a wife, a writer and a blogger. Diffability NOLA is a brand new, online community resource that advocates for all things special needs in the Greater New Orleans and surrounding areas. Content can be found on Facebook and Twitter or on our blog!
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