We Survived Disney!

Even after our difficult trip to Florida last year, which I touch on here, we went back.  Mostly  because that’s where my inlaws live.  But also to take G back to Disney.  This year we did things differently.  We had a highly structured plan for which parks we were going to visit on what day, although we prepared G for changes due to weather.  We created an excel spreadsheet showing G visually what he would be doing.  I’m going to try to insert it here, lets see how it goes:

(note the nana night and nana day – DH and I escaped for a night in a hotel!)

We also printed maps of each park and put everything into a folder and named it the “Folder of Fun.”  Each night G would check the schedule, select the appropriate map and study for the next day’s adventure.  When we went to Aquatica (Seaworld’s water park) he knew where every ride was and the order he wanted to see them.  We just followed his lead and inserted snack/lunch breaks.  It was pretty incredible!

The first day of our theme park adventure had us going to Epcot in the afternoon so we’d be there in time for dinner at one of the country themed restaurants.  Upon entering the park, we headed straight for Guest Services.  I had G sit on a bench with DH and my inlaws while I went to the desk.  I didn’t know G had decided not to sit but to follow me, until I let the lady behind the desk know that we were visiting with a child who had autism and suddenly heard a proud voice say, “Yes.  And *I* am the person with autism!”  The woman told G she was happy he was here to see the Disney parks in a very respectful and dignified way.  It was such an incredible exchange, I almost cried.  We quickly got a red card to carry around the park and we were on our way.

The red card was magical.  If we had gotten one last year, I think our major meltdown could have been avoided.  The card helped us find shorter lines by using the disability access points and even more importantly, the disability lines were quieter.  When there was a fast pass system, we used the card to access the fastpass return line.  Which was difficult but do-able – we’d hand G his ipod so he could sink into a game and we’d herd him along whenever the line moved.  It was very similar to our Olympic experience where we found using the disability security checks and shuttles extended G’s tolerance for crowds and waits to almost typical kid levels.  (not quite, but damn close)   G was able to see and ride enough to feel like he was getting a great Disney experience and we were able to keep his emotional temperature in the manageable range. 

Aquatica and Seaworld do not have such an extensive and helpful system for people with disabilities.  But their parks were much less crowded and chaotic, so it evened out in the end.  At Aquatica, we paid extra to rent a deluxe cabana.  It was in a quieter corner of the park and came with a fridge full of water.  We brought our lunch and snacks there instead of eating in loud restaurants to get quiet breaks in the shade.  Those breaks gave G the ability to recharge enough that he was able to tolerate waiting in lines for the rides.  And the lines were never very long to begin with, so it worked great.

The last thing we did was limit our time in the parks.  Instead of going with the typical persons attitude of staying all day and hitting every ride, we got there at park open and never stayed past 2pm.  That was more than enough time for us to see plenty without taxing G beyond his limits.  We rented a house in Kissimmee with a small pool in the backyard instead of staying in a hotel which gave us the ability to create a quiet bubble for G when needed.  G has always been a water baby – even before we knew he was autistic we’d figured out that baths were soothing for him and would often spend entire afternoons watching him play in the tub.  So the pool was an excellent way to calm down and recharge in the afternoon after our mornings in the park.

All in all, I’d say we not only survived Disney, we conquered Disney!

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Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. WOW. Sounds like a really successful trip. I am so glad you got a chance to do that and even more glad that G had a good time. I might have to borrow these tips in a couple of years when we go. Hope you don’t mind 🙂

  2. Of course I don’t mind! I’ve learned a lot from other people’s blogs, it’s nice to have a tip of my own for once. 🙂


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