Courtesy of Oaks Amusement Park

Oaks Amusement Park came through for the win again for my 4-year-old son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Early this year, I wrote about how much fun he had during the park’s morning preschool skate. This time, we wanted to check out Chipper’s Preschool Rides.

He’s been on the park’s age-appropriate rides previously, during regular open hours. While he had fun, he also experienced intense emotions due to sensory overload. A fellow parent recommended that next time, we attend the Chipper’s Preschool Rides instead. I’m happy to report that it was a successful experience. Here’s what we did to make it a fun outing:

Plan Ahead

I purchased our ticket ahead of time on their website.


Based on our last time trip to the amusement park, I made a few changes. I began with having my son look at the Oaks Park website with me. We looked at pictures of the rides and watched some videos. We also talked about waiting our turn in line.

The day of, I packed my son’s noise-canceling headphones. He doesn’t need them all the time, but we found that unexpected noises for too long, increases his anxiety and agitation.

I also brought a visual for our son for the day. I created a google document with pictures and words explaining the schedule of our day that we could look at on my phone. I also packed a favorite toy that we left waiting for him in the car, for an easy transition out of the park.

Fun with Chipper the Squirrel

Courtesy of Oaks Amusement Park

Overall, my son had a great time. The combination of smaller crowds, shorter ride wait times, and an overall shorter event, made for a neurodivergent family-friendly morning. He also loved the positive transition off the rides — for a storytime with Chipper the Squirrel and snacks (included with admission!).

Instead of saying, “We have to get off the rides and go home now,” I was able to say, “Time to go see Chipper the Squirrel and get snacks!”


Tips for Families with Older Neurodivergent Kids

I reached out to Emily MacKay, the Marketing and Events Director at Oaks Park, to ask her suggestions for neurodivergent families with no children under the age of 6. She says that weekdays before 2 pm, and after 4 pm, are the least crowded regular sessions.

Also, guests needing accommodations can stop by Guest Services to get a companion bracelet. This bracelet ensures proper support, to get guests on and off rides safely.

Good looking out for the family, Chipper!

If You Go

When: Every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 am-noon, from June 20-August 30
Who: For children ages 6 and younger
Cost: $13 per child (adults ride free with a paid child). There is also a separate $3 parking fee
Bonus: At noon, families head to the Historic Dance Pavilion. Storytime and snacks are hosted by Chipper the Squirrel

Melody Moran
Scroll to Top