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How a Mall Carousel Makes a Difference for My Son With Special Needs


A double-decker carousel in the middle of a shopping mall is probably on my son Nick’s top five list of best things in the world. Walking around a mall while Mom cycles through her favorite admonitions — “Dont touch that,” “Ssshhh!” and “No we can’t buy that today” — is probably on his top five worst things in the world list. So, you can see the stark contrast between the two is like an oasis in the middle of a sandy, hot and annoying desert.

That would be enough reason to return to this particular shopping mall whenever we visit our family in Florida. But there’s more: This carousel has a policy that anyone with special needs can ride free whenever they want for unlimited times. Their caregiver gets to ride for free, too. That seems like a really small thing in a life of really big issues. But it’s huge! Why? The carousel costs a couple of bucks. If I’m about to drop five on my ritual Starbucks latte, then the carousel certainly fits in my budget. But it’s priceless!

Melanie Gomez the mighty.3-001

I don’t know the motivation behind this generous gift, and I don’t know why all other carousels don’t offer this same perk, but I promise you it’s huge! The owners of this carousel don’t know me or my 15-year-old son with a rare genetic disorder. They don’t know on some days I have to shop for something and need to take him with me. We both dread the entire experience. They probably don’t realize that a carousel is unique among all the other mall amusements because his 6-foot-tall body can actually fit on this kiddie ride. I want them to know they’ve provided an oasis in the middle of the mall for both of us; it shuts down my crabby and turns on his joy!

I’m writing this post to publicly thank the generous people who have such a policy. If you know of one, please send them this post! I want the carousel owners to know that not having to pay for the ride several times in a row is a priceless experience for my family. It’s not really the money. It’s the VIP treatment that makes the difference.

When we’re at any other mall, I usually give in and dig through my purse to come up with the fare. But somehow when that’s not part of the equation, it’s so much better. I also usually regret paying for the carousel at other malls because I end up spending the next hour saying, “No, we cant do it again,” about a hundred times. In this case, I let him spin until he can’t spin anymore, and we both go on with our shopping refreshed and renewed.   

I’m also hoping other business owners out there might read this and think, “Hey, that would be pretty easy for me to do with my (insert cool thing that kids of all abilities enjoy here).” This isn’t the only time I’ve run into this policy, but it’s certainly rare. One other time, Nick was given unlimited pony rides at a fair while he was with his grandma. She recounted the story to me with tears in her eyes and told me how much it meant to her, Nick and the sweet old man who operated the pony rides. Joy all around. It’s so simple to make someone’s day. Thank you to everyone out there who spreads the joy, especially to the double-decker carousel owners at the mall.