I don’t know about you, but I love stock shows, rodeos, real cowboys and cowgirls, western art, and having fun. So, I can’t think of a better place to go than the National Western Stock Show (National Western) in Denver, Colorado. For 109 years, this stock show has been providing fun and entertainment, as well as western competition and education. But, with over 780,000 people in attendance, it can be a daunting place for children with Learning Differences.
Part of the mission of the National Western is to educate children about agriculture. They have an organized School Visit Program that hosts more than 20,000 students, teachers and parents. This program is geared towards first through sixth graders and is free if attending through the School Visit Program. All others can attend by paying admission. Prices vary depending on the deal you get.
Teachers, if you have children in your class with Learning Differences, please take the following precautions:
1. Prepare parents ahead of time for the event. Send home links to the National Western website as well as information about what events your class is planning on visiting and the schedule for the day.
2. Have a way for the parents to let you know what types of accommodations may be necessary to ensure a successful day for their child. This may be as simple as packing the right kind of lunch or as complex as ensuring that the parent go as a chaperone.
3. Think of the needs of the children as well as their likes and dislikes when grouping them for the event. Having children with differing interests can make it hard on the children as well as the chaperone.
4. Make sure that all chaperones know the schedule and understand the maps. They can be very confusing.
5. Make sure that chaperones know if they have someone with Learning Differences in their group and the accommodations that need to be provided.
6. Anyone can have a bad day. Make sure that everyone knows what to do if:
- A student becomes agitated.
- A student is not following the rules.
- A group or student gets lost.
- A health emergency arises.
This can be a very fun and educational event if planned with everyone in mind.
Going to the National Western as a family can be a very bonding experience or a very trying one. To make sure that it is a fun memory, here are some things to keep in mind.
- As always, make sure to do things your children are interested in. My husband likes to watch the herding dogs compete, but my son with ADHD considers this as boring as watching paint dry. Talk to your children about what is available at the National Western and see what they are interested in doing. Remember, it is okay to decide that this is not an activity that is appropriate for your child. You can always let yourself off the hook and go with your spouse or a friend.
- The schedule is your friend. Look at what is being offered and when. See if it meets your child’s needs and interests. Break the day up into two parts. Leave the grounds for a while to give your child’s senses time to regroup. It may be better to go for shorter periods of time over two or three days.
- If your child has difficulty with crowds, try to go during the week day. There tend to be less people during the work day.
- If the animals are on the event schedule, then they are in the holding pens during the day. This is a very calm way to see the animals up close and talk to the owners/handlers. However, it can be very odorous.
- Use the School Visit Program for ideas about what your young children might be interested in seeing.
- If your children might become overwhelmed by noise, try the holding pens, the western art exhibits, a livestock competition, or an auction. These venues tend to be less noisy.
- Make a family plan for what might happen, even with the best of plans. The following things should be considered.
- Helpful medication.
- Designate someone in the family to take part of the group home or for a break in a quiet.
- Determine a meet-up place in case someone gets lost or disconnected from the group.
- Determine a cell phone strategy. Cell phones can be used to stay connected, but they can also be used to text a message that someone does not want to say out loud for fear of upsetting the family. For example, Little Joe may not be enjoying something, but Little Janey is. Little Joe can text Mom and let her know that he is feeling uncomfortable and Mom can take she and Little Joe to a quiet place to discuss the problem or text him back that there is only a little time left in the event. This way Little Janey does not get upset by Little Joe’s comments and Little Joe’s needs are addressed as well.
- Determine how long you will stay at an event that is upsetting someone in the family. Sometimes the beginning of an event can be overwhelming as people are making noise and finding their seats. Having everyone agree that they will give each event at certain amount of time before saying that they can’t handle it can alleviate this concern.
As with any event, it costs to get in to the grounds. However, you can find discount tickets around Denver and buying a family package may work very well. Also, if you pay for a big event, like the rodeo, you get access to the grounds for free. Go to the ticket page for more information.
My family and I found some of the big events to be fun. The nice thing is that you can just come to these events and go home.
1. Super Dogs – held this year on January 19th and 20th. It’s hilarious and held in the Events Center which has good seats no matter where you sit.
2. Rodeo – The rodeo is an awesome time. The animals and riders are extraordinary.
3. Grand Prix – Horse jumping at its finest to be held this year on January 19th.
To check out these events and more, go to the Events Calendar.
Remember, any large event like the National Western can be fun if you are willing to find a way to make it work for everyone in the family!