Life with MS & EDS

August 11, 2009

Disney with Special Needs Kids, Part II

Our daily plan was to arrive at the park at least 30 minutes early so that we could get through the most popular rides before the park became crowded.  Touring Disney in early August was a gamble, but by arriving early each day we made out very well.  Our first two days we had “Birthday Fastpasses” for 6 of the people in our family because we were fortunate enough to be there during my brother-in-law’s birthday and his son’s.  They got on far more rides without waits than they ever expected to.  My husband estimates that they saved over an hour and a half of waiting in line.  The rest of our trip we had to use regular Fastpasses and wait in line more, which the older kids were not used to.  It didn’t matter for Little Sister because she wasn’t doing any of these rides anyway.

Day Three: Animal Kingdom a.m., Downtown Disney p.m.

There’s not a lot of stuff for a sensory-challenged kid to do in Animal Kingdom….

Opening – Each park does its own special opening routine.  Animal Kingdom’s was cute (it had Mickey, Minnie, and other standard characters), but the music was overwhelming, so this brought on tears from Little Sister.

Kilimanjaro Safaris – We headed here first and got on almost right away.  It was one of the only rides the whole family did together.  Everyone loved this ride.  We saw so many animals!  It was great! 5 stars!

TriceraTop Spin – This is Dumbo, but with dinos instead of elephants.  She loved this, but there was no shade and It was really hot! 4 stars

Boneyard – This was a HUGE hit!!!  We had to ask for directions to find it, but as part of this section in Dinoland there’s a big sandbox where kids can uncover a huge fossil.  She had no interest in uncovering the fossil, but had an awesome time playing with the sand.  We had the whole place to ourselves for the first 30 min. we were there.  The cast member there was fantastic.  Little Sister was hesitant to get started in the sand, but the cast member went in the sandbox with us and started making castles and pizza with us.  I had a great time talking with her.  We spent well over an hour here. 5 stars!

Festival of the Lion King – Little Sister flat out refused to go to see this.  Screaming and crying began at the mention of the idea.  I really wanted to see this, so my husband took her to see characters nearby instead, which she loved.  After seeing Lion King, I know she would have hated it, so I’m glad she didn’t join me.

Character Greeting Area – 4 stars.

We didn’t have a stroller this day and she was very exhausted by mid-morning.  By the time we were ready to head out of the park, we ended up taking breaks at almost every set of benches on the way out.

Rainforest Café in Downtown Disney – After resting at the house that afternoon, we headed off to Downtown Disney to shop and have dinner.  We all had a great time shopping, but Rainforest Café was the biggest disaster yet!  I had a feeling it was going to be a challenge, but knew the older kids would love it so we took the risk.  Little Sister spent the entire time SCREAMING as loud as she could and crying.  She was a total mess.  Sadly, my husband and I just had to laugh.  What else could we do?  I was either going to be in tears with her or laugh.  I chose to laugh.  We even captured the meltdown on video.  Not sure I’m going to post it anywhere, but I’m pondering it.  My husband eventually took her out of the restaurant.  She refused to eat anything while we were there, so we took her dinner with her and she ate it around 8 p.m. when we got home.  I highly recommend never taking a sensory challenged kid to Rainforest Café!  Zero stars!!!

Day Four: Magic Kingdom

The second trip to Magic Kingdom went much better than our first.  By this time Little Sister knew what to expect and I was better able to predict her reactions.  We immediately split off from the rest of the family and headed to just the things she wanted to do.

Cinderella’s Carousel – She loved this!  She wasn’t as excited about this as she was about Dumbo, but she really enjoyed it.  I helped her onto the horse and then she didn’t want any other help.  She made me step away.  Her balance has improved a lot, as has her confidence. This gets 4 stars.

Dumbo – She cried at the start of this because the purple Dumbos were already taken and we had to ride in a red one.  This was upsetting, but she did calm down pretty quickly.

Tinker Bell’s store – We had to go back to get more pixies dust, of course!  This time we got even more dust and it’s still not out of her hair!  Mine finally washed out after a few shampooing.  She asked the cast member for the bell this time and was so excited to see Tinker Bell again!

Toontown – We met up with the family in Toontown, which wasn’t supposed to open until 10 a.m., but we got there closer to 9:45 and it was already open.  It was pretty empty.  I tried to get Little Sister to meet Tinker Bell (her second favorite after Cinderella), but she wanted no parts of it after seeing the location.  There’s a Hall of Fame where there are 2 lines to meet characters: one for the Princesses and one for the Fairies.  The entry is a well-lit store that is very inviting.  Then the trouble began.  The hallways back to the characters are dimly-lit, so the screaming and crying began and would not stop.  So, we left.  We went over to Minnie’s house.  We had the place almost to ourselves and she LOVED it there!  She had so much fun playing with everything in there, especially in the kitchen.  She couldn’t wait to give her sister and cousins a tour of the place when they arrived!

My husband took Little Sister to look around the store and other parts of Toontown while I waited in line with the other 3 kids to get the Princesses’ autographs.  At least they didn’t mind the atmosphere.  Of course the area where the characters are is bright and inviting!  I wish I could have slipped Little Sister in through the exit!  I even mentioned to a cast member in the store that she was afraid of the waiting area (this was when she was still crying), but they didn’t offer us another way in.  I read about a special pass they will give to people with special needs, like children with Autism, but since she’s not autistic and doesn’t have any visible disabilities (unless you look at her DAFOs), I didn’t think we could have gotten one of those cards. Also, I never in a million years expected her to have this many problems, so I didn’t think it was worth the hassle to try to get one.  Now I know better!  I think having that card may have helped.

Anyway, I had a great time seeing the Princesses with the other kids.  When we were done, all of the kids, even Little Sister, rode on the Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacres Farm, a perfect first rollercoaster.  It was Big Sister’s first rollercoaster when she was 2 and she loved it, so we took our chances with Little Sister.  Turns out Little Sister liked the rollercoaster and asked to go right back on it.  This time I joined her!  I’ve not been on a rollercoaster since I was 21 (quite a while ago!)  It was fun!  I’m glad she did something adventurous.

Toontown Town Hall – 0 stars

Minnie’s House – 5 stars!

Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacres Farm – 4 stars

It’s a Small World – On the way to It’s a Small World we finally got to see the White Rabbit.  We spotted him just before the downpour during our first stop here, but he had to run when the rain picked up.  We walked up and the cast member had just closed the line.  I explained that we had already seen Alice and just missed the White Rabbit when the rain started and thankfully she let us be the last in line.  Then we ran off to It’s a Small World and she enjoyed the ride again.

Dream Along with Mickey – This is the show that is staged in front of Cinderella’s Castle that runs throughout the day.  We missed the first few minutes, but we got to watch the princesses and princes dance, which she loved.  Then things took a turn for the dark when Captain Hook came out and then Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.  At that point she demanded we leave, so off we went.  Only 2 stars!

Tom Sawyer Island – Next we met up with the family again and headed over to Tom Sawyer’s Island.  By now it was getting hot and everyone was tired, but we thought the kids would have fun.  I was getting tired and it was way past lunch time, but I plugged along.  The kids had fun exploring the island and Little Sister did fairly well.  Her endurance was beginning to wane at this point, so we cut the touring short and departed for home.

The Railroad – We took the railroad back to the front of the park.  Little Sister thought riding the railroad was really cool!  She loved the train ride.  4 stars!

Oh, I forgot to mention in the previous post that she went on the Tomorrowland Indie Speedway.  She road with her aunt, who operated the “gas” peddle, but Little Sister “drove” the car and had a great time!  She was annoyed by the loud noises, but it was bright and sunny, so I guess she was willing to overlook the noise level to have the opportunity to do something “grown-up,” like driving a car. (I had a car to myself, which wasn’t easy.  I had to drive left footed and that was surprisingly really difficult for me!)  4 stars!

I was starting to get tired, but was still hanging in there!  The afternoon breaks really helped.

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