Tag Archives: Central Park Zoo

A Story About The Lady at the Zoo

Emma was confounded yesterday when she was told by one of the Central Park Zoo employees that she could not sit on the railing to watch the sea lions being fed.  She was very upset and wanted to go home.  However, instead of biting herself or doing herself injury, she came up with the following story, which is yet another example of her delightful temperament, personality and a wonderful display of the progress she is making in being able to turn something upsetting into a story that was both poignant and very funny.

Before we got on the subway, Emma verbally preseverated in her attempt to work through what had happened.  “Mommy says no.  Mommy go home, Emma stay at the zoo with just Daddy.”   Emma reasoned immediately after leaving the zoo.

“But Em.  This isn’t about Mommy or Daddy, this is about the zoo employees.  This is their rule now.  They won’t let anyone sit on the railing any more.  It’s a new rule,” We told her.

“I want to sit on the railing!”  Emma wailed over and over again as we made our way to the subway.  “You have to ask Daddy!  Daddy! I want to sit on the railing please!”

“Emmy, this isn’t up to me.  This is a rule that the zoo has.  You can’t sit on the railing.”

“But I want to sit on the railing!”  Emma cried.  Then Emma flung both arms around me and buried her head into my side.  “I know, I know.  You’re so upset,” Emma said, mimicking words I often say to her.

“Oh, Em.  I know you’re sad.  I know how hard this is for you.  But I’m also really proud of you for the way you’re handling this and talking about it.”

When her beloved R train arrived Emma secured seats for us by the window and then told the following story.

“The lady said, You have to get off the railing!  You have to get down!  Yeah,” Emma nodded her head and frowned.  Then she said,  while stomping her foot on the floor of the subway, “The lady stomped her food and said, You.  Stomp.  Have.  Stomp.  To.  Stomp. Get.  Stomp.  Down!  Stomp.  You get down right now!  Then the lady said, I’m going to get you!  I’m going to tickle you!”  Emma demonstrated being tickled.  She stomped her foot and continued.  “Yeah.  The lady is going to tickle you.  Then the lady had to go home.  She hurt her back.  Bye!  Bye, bye lady.  Lady gotta go home!  Bye!”  Emma waved her hand, like a Queen waving to her adoring subjects.  “The lady had to go.”  Emma nodded her head and feigned looking sad.  “The lady went home and Emma got up on the railing to watch the seal show!  She had to go home because she hurt her back and she has to put on a bandaid.  Now it’ll feel better.”  Emma finished and looking triumphant said, “Emma got to sit on the railing!”

“Wow, Em.  I love that story!”  I said.  “How did the lady hurt her back?”

“She tickled you!”  Emma said and then collapsed into giggles.

Earlier in the day, playing on the High Line

To read my latest piece, Emma’s New Shoes, in the Huffington Post, click ‘here

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Emma and the Puffin – A Moment of Connection

As promised – Emma’s zoo excursion was this past Sunday.  As I’ve written before, the zoo holds a particular appeal to Emma, an appeal that, frankly, is often lost on me.  Still, I had agreed to go with her and because I had had a couple of days in which to mentally prepare myself, I felt eager and excited in anticipation of our little adventure together.

As predicted Emma wanted to visit the bats first, then made her way outside to watch the polar bear do his perseverative laps.  He has been doing the same routine for years.  He swims on his back to one side of his enclosure, then braces himself against the wall, pushes himself off and propels himself through the water to the opposite wall, before flipping over, diving down and doing the whole thing over again to the ooohs and ahhhhs of the admiring and curious crowd of humans standing against the thick plate of glass separating them from him.  Emma watched silently and then, like Howard Cosell reporting from ringside, (does anyone remember Howard Cosell?) began narrating.  “The polar bear is swimming!  He is under the water!  Uh!  Where did he go?  There he is!  He came back!”  After awhile Emma had had enough of the polar bear and off we went to her favorite perch where she likes to sit and watch the various ducks and other aquatic birds. (Truthfully I have no idea what types of birds were swimming around and as I was keeping my eye on Em, couldn’t find any plaque telling me what we were viewing, I’m afraid, “aquatic birds” is the best I can do at the moment.)

“Time to see the penguins!”  Emma announced and grabbing my hand she made off for the penguin house.  The penguin house has an unfortunate odor. I must hold my breath when we are inside because the smell is one I cannot cope with.  But Emma doesn’t seem to notice the smell and loves the penguins.  She presses her body and face right up to the glass as she watches them swim and strut about on the artificial land mass.

The puffins were next, a lesser attraction and so relegated to a tiny enclosure.  In the past the puffins have been no more than an exit marker, but this time she did something I’ve never seen her do.  She went right up to the window and stood perfectly still with her up-stretched arms flat against the pane.  A single puffin swam up to her and put his beak to the glass and then idled there, barely moving.  It was bizarre and beautiful.  I was so excited this photo is horribly out of focus!

Emma and the puffin stayed facing each other for a couple of minutes before Emma was pulling me out the door just in time for the 4:00PM feeding of the sea lions.

I wanted to ask Emma about the puffin.  I wanted to know what she thought of him.  What was she thinking and feeling as she stood there?  What was the experience like for her?  But other than to say, “Puffin.  I like it.”  I could get no more from her. Perhaps there are no words for what she felt standing there face to face with this curious creature who seemed so intent on being as close to her as was physically possible.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Emma’s self portrait!

To read my most recent Huffington Post, click ‘here.’

To read my guest post on Special Needs.com, click ‘here

Handwriting and the Joy of the Yellow R Train

First off, you’ll notice to the right of these words a blue “badge,” which, if you click on it, will show you a line up of all the blogs nominated for the “Top Autism Blogs for 2012.”  To vote for Emma’s Hope Book, click on the “like” button.  At the time of this writing Emma’s Hope Book was in the #4 position!  Very exciting.

Below is the “story” Emma wrote yesterday morning in preparation for our much anticipated day.

I had to help Em with some of the words such as shower, Elite Gymnastics and she wanted to write – After lunch will go zoo – so I had to help her with that too, but otherwise Emma did most of this on her own.  To recap, a year ago Emma had just finished learning how to form all the letters of the alphabet and we were in the initial phase of beginning to work on reading, writing and typing actual short words.  She’s come a long way, baby!

As her writing stated, after lunch Emma and I went to the zoo.  “Just Mommy and me, together,” Emma reiterated several times that morning. “Yes, just you and me,” I confirmed each time.  “Going to take the yellow R train,” Emma said matter-of-factly.  Emma loves the R train.  She refers to it as the “yellow R train,” because the letter R is in the middle of a yellow circle.  All the subway trains here in New York City are designated with a number or letter within a colored circle.  Whenever possible, Emma requests the R train, which is fine, except that this is not the train closest to our home and a few months ago the R train wasn’t running on the weekend, much to Emma’s consternation.  As we made our way to the station, I cautioned Emma that we had to take whichever train came first.  “Yellow R train!” she insisted.  The very prospect of riding the R train, almost more than she could cope with, caused her to bounce up and down.  She beamed at me.  “Okay, but Em, if a Q or N train comes, then we’ll take either of those too.”  “Take the yellow R train,” she responded.  “Em…” I started, but before I could say more she cut me off and said, “Okay, okay, okay.  Maybe take the yellow R train, maybe not.”  Then quietly she muttered, “Take the yellow R train!”

Another train flew by on the express tracks, so fast I couldn’t tell which train it was.  But Emma knew with barely a glance. “Look, there’s the yellow Q train,” Emma said, pointing as the train whizzed by.  “Yeah, that’s the yellow Q train with blue seats,” she said.


“The yellow Q train has blue seats.”

This was news to me, not the sort of details I notice, but exactly the kind of details Emma notices.  As I was pondering this, Emma said, “Look!”  Then she grinned.  “It’s the yellow R train,” she said with a kind of reverence, as though greeting an adored and much admired friend.  As the train slowed to a stand still, Emma found us both a seat and giggling said, “We’re sitting in orange and yellow seats!”

“Is that why you like the R train?” I asked.

“The yellow R train makes me happy,” Emma said, before peering out into the dark tunnel and grinning at her own reflection.

And so it does.

Coming tomorrow – The Central Park Zoo and The Puffin.

To read my most recent Huffington Post, click ‘here.’

To read my guest post on Special Needs.com, click ‘here