The Happiest Place on Earth
We did it. We went on our very first family vacation. In the month leading up to this, I was unsure and uneasy about going. In fact I was almost in a state of depression due to worry and stress. Disneyland… the stuff of children’s wishes and dreams. We were going to go for 2 days (with a day of driving to and from) I wanted this to be some of the best memories for my boys! Of course there was crying, and some fights, and tired children and parents, but nothing that other families don’t experience. And after being back home for a week, I can see that we (Mom and Dad) deserve a pat on the back! It was a blast, super fun, and we got to do almost everything we had planned out. We learned a few valuable lessons and we relied on our gut feelings.
Our first night there we went to Medieval Times. So much fun. Although my older son wouldn’t eat a thing for dinner he had the best time watching the show
He was amazed at the horses, the knights, the hawk flying around, the lights, and the noise level! Here is what I learned. If I made it ok for him to plug his ears, or lean against me, or if I covered his ears for him…. He felt safe! He was able to tolerate the noise after getting use to it. And the best part???? It was loud enough that he could be loud without anyone batting an eye! Huzzah!!!!!!!!!! We did make sure we were on the end of the “table” in-case we needed to leave in a hurry. But there was no need. I was greatly pleased. He did very well. As we drove back to the hotel that night he told us this was the best sleep over EVER! I had the biggest smile too. Next up buddy…. Disneyland
There they are! My happy little guys, meeting the main man of the park, Mickey Mouse. My older son has always been frightened of costumed characters. But as soon as we got into the park, those fears were gone and he was running to hug and meet Mickey, Goofy, Donald…… it was amazing. We have worked so hard on his bolting issues and I’m happy to report that there was only 1 bolting incident. (end of the day, totally exhausted… not wanting to go back to the hotel. And when he was told that we weren’t chasing him and we were leaving with or without him, he ran right back over to us) Here are a couple of other things we did to try to control *situations* that might arise. Each of the boys got a Disney Gift Card from their Aunt for Christmas. So when those certain rides ended ~I’m looking at you Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster and Star Tours~ and emptied into a gift shop, well they had to use their gift card to buy anything. (much easier to do with my 2-year-old then my 5-year-old but we stuck to our guns) And we put a limit on the cost of anything. My son likes to think in terms of “gold” so we would say “you may only spend 5 gold in this store”. He is so good with numbers that it becomes a game to find a toy for that price. I packed every snack food and drink that I know he will eat and lugged that into the park. It made things much easier then trying to force him to eat something he hates, or to just skip eating all together, which he has been known to do. We also used a timer to let him know when we were done and ready to move on from an activity and made sure he knew he could ask for a break at ANYTIME. We would even go back to the hotel room if need be. And we did the first day when his circuits were overloaded. We spent 3 hours in the hotel room. At first I was annoyed because I had a schedule, things I wanted him to see, do and ride………. then I became aware. Hello? He needs this break. He’s overwhelmed and when overwhelmed he can’t enjoy or do anything. And when he can’t…. the rest of us can’t either. Autism means going with the flow. It means getting over myself too. Valuable lesson there.
We did have the safety net of “Disney” helping us out too. Everywhere we went, from the hotel, to the parks to the restaurants, they were so helpful. While checking in, my husband asked that we have a room with no one underneath us because our sons are on the spectrum and love to run and jump so it would be super loud. So what do they do?? Upgrade us to a bigger room with no one under us…. wow! As soon as we got into the park we went to guest services and got their Disability Access Card for help with the lines. You may have heard the controversy over this in the last year as Disney changed their policies due to some abuse. In the past if you had a Disability card you could skip the entire line. Now you need to schedule a time to go on a ride. It’s like a fast pass but can be used at any ride in the park. There is still some waiting, and that was a bit hard on my boys. But they are working out the kinks as this is a new program. Every single “cast” member was kind and helpful. Always asking us, “what can we do for you” and really meaning it! It was a pure relief to see that kind of attitude. We found it so easy to ask for help. It’s all we need, just a little bit of help. And on top of all of this, I used an app called MouseWait on my smart phone to keep me up to date on how long the wait was on the rides, show times, and how crowded either park was. That was a lifesaver too.
Can I tell you my proudest Mommy moment?? The Jedi Academy… yes… It felt like a graduation. And it really was of sorts. Let me explain. At this Jedi Academy there are lots of children that want to get picked. To get picked, the Jedi Master finds the ones that are following directions. Anyone that knows my little guy is very aware this is one of his challenges. He can’t sit still for very long and following directions can be fleeting. To my shock and awe he did everything the Jedi Master asked. He got to train and fight Darth Vader. A dream come true for him… his dad.. and for me.
Yes I had tears when I was watching him do this. How could I not??? 6 months ago he absolutely could not have done this. He has come so far. And he never ceases to amaze me.
We did it. We had the family vacation I wasn’t sure we could have. We were exhausted and sore every night, but in a good we-had-fun way. My boys got to go on lots of rides, meet all the characters, laugh, scream, eat treats, and have good old fun. I can’t wait to do it again! Better start saving my energy now…