Great Wolf Lodge Cares

A few weeks ago our family visited The Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington Minnesota. This was a big thing for our family. Huge actually.

Just like most kids, our boys love swimming. They love lazy rivers and wave pools. They love going places. And they love the idea of staying in hotels.

But, and it’s a huge but, it’s not that easy for our family.

Our oldest has autism. And while he loves to swim, it’s often overwhelming for him.

Waterparks are crowded and loud. There is a lot of waiting and standing in line. There can be a lot of whistle blowing by life guards. And it typically feels like the staff of these big places don’t understand autism. Or care to even try.

We have other issues too.

Staying in a hotel feels impossible. We can’t keep Cooper in the room. He is constantly trying to ‘escape.’

Our son doesn’t eat at restaurants. He wakes up at 4 am or doesn’t go to sleep at all. Not to mention the anticipation of going. It often causes meltdowns.

All of this is hard when our other son just wants to swim. And go to the arcade.

Because of all of this, our family has avoided going anywhere for years.

It’s just too much for Cooper. And to be perfectly honest, it’s not any fun for Jamie and I as parents.

But, he’s been having huge wins lately. Huge, monumental wins. And we finally feel like it’s time to get him and our family into the community.

So when Great Wolf Lodge reached out to me to tell me they were committed to helping families with autism enjoy their property I was intrigued. And skeptical.

But, it was close to home and I figured we could always leave if it didn’t work out. Which we’ve done in the past.

I worked with them to figure out the least busiest time for our family to visit the waterpark and spend the night.

We chose a Monday after spring break.

What we experienced was amazing. Of course the hotel was beautiful. The water park was fantastic too. But it was more than that.

The staff really did seem to understand autism. I was impressed.


For example, the second we entered the water park, Super Cooper entered the child’s play area with a huge belly flop. His excitement was through the roof.

I ran up the stairs of the giant play structure watching as Cooper slid down the mini waterslide. I heard the lifeguard say something to him but I couldn’t make out what it was.

I quickly said to her, ‘He is autistic and nonverbal, so he may not understand waiting if there are lines.’

She smiled at me and said, ‘He is doing great. Don’t worry mom. I’ll help him out.’

I let out a sigh of relief. And not because she said he was doing great. But because she understood.

I knew instantly that she had experience with autistic kids. It felt good.

There were other instances too where the staff went above and beyond.

When you are at a waterpark you need to wear a bracelet. As you can imagine, that doesn’t go over so well with Cooper. He took his bracelet off three times. Which meant a trip to the front desk. And each time they gave us a new one. With a smile.

At one point the lady even reassured me that we could come back at anytime for a new one. And that it was no big deal.

One of the trips to the front desk we had to wait longer than usual. So a staff member kindly told us that we could wait over by the couches and that she would bring the bracelet to us.

When she arrived she bent down and asked Cooper if he liked to swim. He was struggling but stopped long enough to smile at her and say ‘yes.’

Lastly, we very cautiously, with low expectations, made our way to the restaurant for breakfast. Cooper hadn’t been to a restaurant since he was 12 months old. I read in the brochure that there was a buffett. And we had no food in our room.

We needed to eat.

We quickly learned that the buffet was closed because it was a Monday. So we sat at a table. Our anxiety as parents rose rapidly. Our son doesn’t sit. But, the place was practically empty so it was a perfect time to try.

Our waiter Juan was fantastic. Patient and quick.

Our family successfully ate at a restaurant. Together.

Honestly, I think that was the highlight of the trip for me.

Overall, we swam, bowled, ate, and went to the arcade. All successfully.

We did have one small issue though. The waterpark didn’t open until 10 am on Tuesday morning. Our kids were up at 6 am. Keeping them distracted until 10 am felt like a lifetime. 10 am was too late I thought. But we did it!

I also want to say that I know for a fact that our families huge success had a lot to do with how empty the hotel was. Less people means less pressure. Less waiting. Less noise.

I was so scared to go to a hotel. Our family needed a win. And I want to be clear. We all needed one.

Cooper needed to have success in our community. Sawyer needed to play with his brother and see how fun he can be. And Jamie and I, well, we needed to get out of the house. As a family. With all three of our children. Years of splitting up has taken its toll.

Great Wolf Lodge cares. They were kind and patient. It was very clear they had experience with autistic children.

If you are looking for a place to go with your family, please look into Great Wolf Lodge. They did a great job with our family!

Click HERE to visit their website.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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