We are in our way home from a wonderfully magical (albeit exhausting) trip to Disney. My first time there with kids. Knew it would be intense but had reservations about how 4A would do with the crowds, the noise, the walking, and the disruption to our normal routine. Her Asperger's Syndrome makes things that are wonderfully fun for most kids (like Christmas, for example) a nightmare because they necessitate change, excitement, and unknowns.
4A's pediatric neuropsychiatrist (Dr. G) gave us a letter to present at Disney's guest relations to get what was described as a "special needs" pass. Dr. G specifically asked that they help us reduce her wait times. So, I envisioned, as did Dr. G, a "fast pass" of sorts.
Before we left, I talked with 4A about how hot and and crowded it was going to be, and we looked at pictures and videos online (thank GOD for YouTube!) of what the lines would look like and average wait times for rides. I told her that Dr. G wrote a special letter for us to get 4A help if she needed it, but we talked (for the gazillioneth time) about patience and keeping complaints to ourselves so that others can enjoy themselves. Aspies, because social connections are hard for them, tend to be extremely self-focused. Add to that the Aspie lack-of-filter-on-all-thoughts, and you've got yourself a SUPER miserable time. Constant whining and complaining. In the most magical place on earth?!? I was SO hoping not.
So, after three days of driving and a two-day visit with family, we headed to the park for our first day, in MONSOON rains. I checked in at guest relations with Dr. G's letter. To my amazement, no letter was needed. I described 4A's tendencies to frustration and anxiety in unknown situations and hypotonia (poor muscle tone, which often accompanies autism spectrum disorders, and which gives her a very objective reason to be uncomfortable with lots of walking and standing). We were given a pass to allow our stroller to serve as a wheelchair, which effectively meant that we were able to keep it with us up to the very last moment until boarding a ride in case 4A needed to rest. I explained to 4A that she could use the stroller if she needed a break from waiting in line and that Dr. G and the Disney folks said it was okay for her to use it whenever she needed it.
In a moment of social recognition that always overjoys me, she was HORRIFIED at the thought of sitting in a stroller "like a baby." I told her that was her choice but that if I heard even one word of complaining, she was going in.
Do you know that kid didn't complain even ONE time over THREE days in those parks? Through flooding rains, sweltering heat, body-to-body crowds, constant walking and waiting....conditions so intense at even the grown-ups in our group were making complaints. Absolutely AMAZING!
Even more amazing, when we complimented her on our last night at how well she had done without complaining, she said, "Well, I complained inside my head a million times!" Bingo, kiddo!!! Bingo! So proud. SO proud!
Because she enjoyed herself and was able to flex (something that every vacation requires), we were ALL able to enjoy ourselves.
Of course I had heard how wonderfully accommodating Disney is of special needs, but I was honestly blown away. Each time a chef visited our table because of 4C's allergies, we were able to get whatever we needed for 4A (read copious amounts of plain pasta) at the mere mention of her autism. No drama, no problem...pure enjoyment for parents. When 4C necessitated a specially-made, allergy-free dessert, we were given four just to make things easier. Exquisite!
So, would we go back? In an absolute heart-beat. Now, does this mean that I'd drive the whole way again, stay outside of the park, spend $55 on forgotten rain ponchos, and go in August's heat and crowds? No way!! But, we'll be going back...and soon. Enjoying a vacation with our Aspie made every mile and every penny so totally worth it.