Puzzle Heart
Puzzle Heart

Autism Awareness

The Wileys go to Legoland (Video Interview)

As of March 2023, the Legoland New York Theme Park and on-site hotel are now a Certified Autism Center. On the days leading up to this announcement by the company, my family was invited to provide insight about the challenges experienced by families with children on the autism spectrum when visiting theme parks.

It was a no brainer for us. First, Legoland is one of our favorite parks to visit with our kids and it recently got even better in its accommodations for people on the autism spectrum. It now has resources such as a quiet room, sensory guides for all attractions, and certified staff.

On the other hand, it was a great opportunity for us to discuss and give our point of view on what the big challenges are. I personally loved the short video they produced, which is posted on their Twitter page.

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Our family

My wife Perla and I were blessed for the first time in July 2012 when our son Juan Alonso was born. Then, our little princess Ava Isabella was born in 2015. It was around this time, when Juan was 2 1/2 years old, when some of our relatives flagged something to our attention: he was not making eye contact, seemed distracted or distant and was not talking as much as he should. In short...

Juan was a little different.

It turns out it was easier for them to notice as they only saw him every few months, than to us that live with him. A diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) followed, along with a barrage of questions and doubt.

How different was our son? What should we expect?

Would we have noticed earlier if we had just been paying more attention?

Was it something we did?

In due time, we found (some) answers. Mostly, Perla doing extensive research, finding a school district with the right special education program and so on. We are also blessed by having found a robust support network, including family, friends and school staff.

At age 10, our son has flourished in so many ways: he loves learning new things and responds well to receiving praise. He is great at building massive Lego sets and plays videogames. Over the last year, he was encouraged by his teacher to participate in the School Chorus and the Student Council. He might not be fully aware of everything he is doing and I'm sure he perceives the world different to most people but he understands enough and you can tell he feels proud of his own accomplishments, as he well damn should.

The kid works hard!

In our family, we don't take anything for granted. We have seen the effect of early intervention and special education. As we have done so, we have gotten more involved with the local special education community. We feel that we are now in a position to give back and it will make us very happy if -once it's all said and done- we can leave this community with greater autism awareness and a knowledge base with more and better resources for newer parents as they start their journey.

More to come on this front. Stay tuned!

Juan C. Wiley

April 2023

The Wileys (2016)


The Wileys: Juan Carlos, Perla, Juan Alonso & Ava Isabella (2022)


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