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Dec 22
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by Doug Goldberg

We just returned from another successful trip to Disneyland.  If you don’t live in California, you might not realize that our latest Disneyland trip coincided with the largest 4 day thunderstorm that Los Angeles has ever seen.  At times the rain was falling at 2 to 3 inches an hour and the breaks in the rain were few and far between.  So how could we have had such a successful trip?  I will get to that later, but first I need to explain how Disney has provided my family with so many miracles.

If you have kept up with my blogs my son is 9 years old and in his short life he has had speech delays, fine motor delays, gross motor delays, sensory challenges, growth challenges and more.  We started bringing him to Disneyland multiple times a year since he was born.  There were many rides he couldn’t go on because of his sensory challenges but he fell in love with Disneyland from the very beginning.  As a matter of fact, we started noticing that every time we brought him to Disneyland he would overcome one of his challenges.  One of his biggest challenges was learning to speak. He was a little over 3 years old and had still not uttered his first word yet.  That is, of course, until we took him on another trip to Disneyland.  As we waited in line for the Storybook Land Canal Boats, he raised his finger, pointed, and said Duck!  That was it, my son finally uttered his first word, he still needed 6 more years of speech therapy but Disneyland had sprinkled some pixie dust and started him on his way.

The next miracle happened when we were trying to potty train him.  We had spent months trying to get him out of diapers, but it took a trip to Disneyland to put him on the right path.  As we walked around Disneyland every time we saw a bathroom, we would take him in and put him on the toilet.  We must have visited every bathroom in Disneyland a half a dozen times that trip, but by the time we left he was starting to tell us on his own when he needed to go.  Disneyland had struck again. 

As I previously stated above, my son has problems with sensory overload.  Loud noises, bright lights, and dark places would make him lose his mind and scream uncontrollably.  We found this out the hard way the first few times we took him to Disneyland and went on a ride that didn’t work for him or tried to watch the fireworks.  We started getting rooms that overlooked the park so we could watch the fireworks from our room.  As he fell in love with the fireworks, we were able to bring him down from the room and start watching from the park.  He still covers his ears sometimes, but that’s okay.  The same thing happened with the rides he couldn’t go on.  One by one he would choose a new ride to try each trip and learned how to comfort himself when the noises became too loud or the lights too bright.  One of the hardest rides for him to be comfortable with was Pirates of the Caribbean but now that is his favorite.  He is now at the point where he can go on almost every ride including the roller coasters.  The amazing thing is Disneyland has taught him the skills he needs to deal with his sensory challenges in his day to day life as well.  Disneyland once again provided him with a little magic. 

So now we return to our most recent trip to Disneyland.  When I saw the weather forecast I suggested we postpone until the weather clears up but my wife and son wanted to give it a shot.  I was skeptical because my son hates getting wet outside of a swimming pool or a shower.  In my son’s mind, there is a proper time to be wet and walking around Disneyland was not one of those times, or so I thought.  I should have known we would have another Disneyland miracle.  As we sloshed around Disneyland with our rain gear and umbrellas my son was wet, smiling, drenched, laughing, sopping and unstoppable.  We had a great time.  At one point the wind got so bad, I turned to my son in my best fatherly voice and said, “Do you want to go back”; I wanted to call it a night.   His response floored me, because I don’t think he was talking to me but rather himself.  He replied, “I know my umbrella can make it, I know it can, come on!” I laughed so hard I had to keep going, and that is how the trip went for three days.  We had a blast and my son learned another valuable lesson.  When you want something bad enough you will figure out how to get it done.

My son turns 10 in February and he has already told me he wants to go back to Disneyland and stay at the Disneyland Hotel.  How can I refuse taking him to the place that has provided our family with so much magic?  I just can’t wait to see what happens next.

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5 Responses to “The Magic of Disney has Always Provided Miracles for my Son with Special Needs”

  1. I am really glad I read this. We took a trip to Disney World this past April and it did NOT go well for my daughter.
    I LOVE the idea to get a hotel room where you can see the fireworks, that is brilliant. And choosing one new ride instead of the added pressure to do more. We used the disability pass when we went, which helped tremendously, but these ideas are great!

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    • Thanks Jen. Getting our kids comfortable with anything is a process. The key is to find the process that works the best for each individual child. With my son his visual memory is a strength so he memorizes the parts of each ride that are difficult for him so that he can be prepared for them.

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      • Walt Disney World works better for us because there are far more educational opportunities with four parks and a transportation system my autistic girls were able to navigate on their own. by the end of the week, they were even able to meet their own nutritional needs be it snacks or a meal.
        Doug, Why not ask him if he’d prefer going to Florida. They’re offering a meal plan for the time you’re thinking of going. I have three autistic youth who’ve been both places. All we had to do was plan, pace and be willing to follow their lead as to what was too overwhelming.
        I’d love for you to pick my brain regarding a birthday trip for your son.

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  2. Hi Rochelle,

    He loves Disneyworld as well. We have been twice, once in 2008 and most recently this last summer. He could spend hours on the monorail system they have there. He loves Mickey’s Philharmagic and Monster’s Inc Laugh Factory.

    Next time we go I will need to pick your brain.


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  3. What a great post! I absolutely love Disneyland myself, and it makes me so happy to read about your son’s great experiences there! Thanks for sharing, as always.

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