Our family’s previous trip to Disneyland had been a little disheartening for me, but this last trip was great! So, I really want to share what worked to help our children on the Autism Spectrum feel comfortable and truly make the most of our visit to Disneyland Resort. I should mention that this trip was just as the resort was starting to test out the new Disability Access Service, but had not started issuing the cards that have the guest’s photograph. In our situation, we had the old Guest Assistance Pass, but honestly we didn’t use it that much. The biggest reason we didn’t need the pass was because of the time of year that we went. We went the second week of September. For my children on the Spectrum, it was the ideal time to attend Disneyland Resort. It was a time of much lower attendance rates, and the lower “crowd pressure” made a huge difference. The other reason we didn’t use the pass as much was because our children were older, and understood the concept of taking turns and waiting in line better.
One memorable time that we did use the pass was on the Matterhorn. We really appreciated the way the Cast Members handled our needs. They gave us a return time, and when we did return we were asked to wait for a few minutes in the alternate entrance. I don’t like the idea of just walking up to an attraction with my pass and then walking straight onto a ride, bypassing all of the other guests that have been waiting in line, and I don’t want to teach my children that they are somehow too special to wait their turn. The way it was handled made it so that waiting our turn was a bearable experience, and I appreciated the thought that has gone into the new system.
Another thing that made our trip so fantastic was consciously paying attention to our boys' concerns. Our older son has a really excellent memory, so even though it had been 2 years since our last visit, he was still reluctant to enter buildings. The first building I took him into was a restaurant at a slow time of the day. As we first walked through the doors, he stopped and said “whoa.” I immediately stopped and talked to him about what we were doing and what he could expect when we entered the next set of doors. I was also able to promise the reward of milk, which may be what actually got him in the building. However, when he was able to see that what I had described was real, and the interior of the building was non-threatening, he was able to relax about entering other buildings throughout the resort. He was even able to ride “Soarin’ over California” a couple of times. That was huge step for him, compared to our last trip and the rewards of the ride made it worth riding again.
Our younger son, is very adventurous, but didn’t like to ride by himself. We learned this by riding the Matterhorn, where he had to sit in a seat by himself. He wasn’t fond of that, and we didn’t make him do it again. I have learned my lesson, and did my best to not push my children into too many stressful situations. If there was something that was upsetting to them, i.e. sitting by himself, being in the dark, we didn’t repeat that even on another attraction. When we did encounter a stressful situation, we would counteract that by spending some time doing something that was familiar and comforting. For my boys it was riding their favorite rides, usually multiple times in a row.
That brings me to “Favorite Rides”. “Gadget’s Go Coaster” is featured on a video game we have and both boys were excited to ride it as their first rollercoaster. That excitement turned into a bit of an obsession. I lost track of the number of times we rode, but it was at least 15. The movement was something that was really comforting to my boys. We found that their favorite rides tended to involve deep, strong movements. Things that spin in a circle were a huge hit: Astro Orbiter, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, both carousels, and the Mad Tea Party. Strong movements especially in an outdoor setting were also very well received: Gadget’s Go Coaster, Goofy’s Sky School, Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, the zip line at Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and the Jumping Jellyfish. We discovered our younger son really likes being high up in the air, because he insisted on riding Mickey’s Fun Wheel. I was nervous, but we all went and both boys enjoyed the ride. Like I mentioned earlier, my younger son is adventurous and his complete favorite ride was Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, probably because he was controlling the movement of the ride vehicle. Which brings me to Autopia; what child doesn’t love to drive their own car? Mine are no exception. Our older son really surprised us with his love for Soarin’ Over California, there was a building that we had to walk into, there was a line that we had to wait in, and then we went up in the air; all stressful things. He loved it. We didn’t get to ride it as much as he wanted, mostly because his brother was too short to ride, and Aaron got tired of us leaving him with the Grandparents. There were plenty more attractions that we enjoyed, the above were the SUPER favorites, the ones we had to ride more than once or twice. (Can I mention here how much we loved going in early September?)
Since I had our previous trip on my mind, we had only purchased three day passes for my husband and older son, while our younger son and I had 4 day passes. I expected Ian and Dad would need some time off. I was wrong. Fortunately, they were able to go to the ticket booth with their three day passes and extend them to include a fourth day. They had to be present for the cast member to be able to do that; I couldn’t go and extend the passes for them. So keep that in mind if you decide to try that out for yourself.
We still had a couple of trouble spots, neither boy could stand the idea of watching World of Color, and we left early from that. Also, our younger son’s obsession with the color green became a problem when we couldn’t ride in the green tea cup. As a result of his temper tantrum, we exited the Mad Tea Party attraction without riding. We went and had some lunch, rode the Mark Twain Riverboat, which has a calming effect on my boys, and discussed his behavior before we went on any more of his favorite attractions. I had broken one of my rules and had let the little one get overly stimulated and hungry. Since it only happened the one time, I still feel very successful.
Like the title says, this was our best trip yet!