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Joy Ride: A wagon is a safe space

By Christine Denise

Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments


My son Louie has never met a stroller or a wagon he doesn’t like.

Even when it’s not his.

If we ever go to a park, or anywhere for that matter, where someone has an unoccupied stroller or wagon, and we’re not watching, Louie is bound to try to get in it.

I feel the need… the need for speed

Now that he’s nearly 10 years old and about 55 pounds, he still tries to sit in an umbrella stroller whenever he sees one.

We’ve graduated to a collapsible wagon that we are so fortunate to have found since he’s gotten older.

For Louie, the sensory experience of feeling the ground shake underneath him when a stroller or a wagon is in motion is one of the best feelings for him.

Safe space

More importantly, I believe the wagon has become a safe feeling space for him, too.

It has four sides that surround him, and he can curl up inside it.

We were at a soccer game recently, and he was very unsettled sitting in the bleachers with me. He wanted no part of being on them. He kept trying to walk away from me, taking me by the hand and wandering aimlessly.

He is also nonverbal, so I tuned into his behavior, trying to read what he was trying to say.

When he takes my hand, he’s trying to lead me somewhere. I followed him and could tell he was happy I was following him, but was very uncertain about where he wanted to go.

I brought him to the car and got his wagon. He instantly got in it, content as ever. I left it in the car, thinking he might like being in the bleachers.

Not so.

So, I wheeled him back to the game.

And he sat contently in his wagon, jamming out on his iPad to his favorite songs.

Now, we use that wagon everywhere we go.

Mommy’s helper

It serves so many purposes.

First, he obviously loves the sensory experience it gives him.

For us, it also helps us feel like we can keep a better eye on him.

He loves to elope, and the wagon seems to stop him from doing that.

Some families who have children with autism have recently told me their insurance is covering the cost of a stroller or wagon for their children.

They are viewing it much like a wheelchair for a child who cannot physically walk. A wagon or stroller helps a child who may not have the courage to walk continue to be part of the world around them in a way that helps them feel safe.

I don’t so much care about the stares we get, when people see our nearly 10-year-old son riding in a wagon or trying to climb in a stroller that someone lets him sit in.

I’ll admit I used to be one of those super judgmental people whenever I saw a larger child in a stroller or wagon.

Now, I smile at my fellow parents still carting their older children around in strollers or wagons.

They’ve discovered another piece of this autism puzzle that fits for their child and their world.

And that is one of the greatest feelings. 


Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.

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