As a child, the best vacations I can remember were spent at a Disney Park. We would make our annual pilgrimage from St. Louis to Orlando in the family station wagon, loaded down with everything but the kitchen sink, during the hottest part of the summer. We would stay in some off the wall motel in Kissimmee, visit Xanadu – The Home of the Future, play some miniature golf, beg to go to Medieval Times and spend a few days in the parks. Despite the despicable heat and the waiting in extremely long lines, my love for (more like an obsession) all things Disney, began.
Fast forward to many years later – I’m pregnant with our son and we talk of all the things we will do with him, the places we will go and how we can’t wait to take him to Disney World and see his face light up the first time he meets Mickey. But then our son is born and all our plans changed. To make a very long story short, our son had breathing complications at 8 days old and had to be hospitalized. At 11 days old they had to put in a tracheostomy tube to enable him to breathe – he still has the tube today. Along with the breathing issues, he is non-verbal, is significantly delayed in all areas, has a moderate hearing loss, needs specially prepared meals, has autistic tendencies, and has mobility issues that often require him to use a wheelchair. With all this, how would our little boy ever enjoy the magic of Disney? Then in 2003, our son had a wish (to meet Mickey Mouse) fulfilled by a children’s wish granting organization – and then we knew!!!
Friends and Family often ask me why I love Disney so much and why it’s always our vacation destination (we’ve TRIED a few other destinations, but the experiences weren’t all that great). In one word – Magic!!! Because of our son’s abilities and limitations, he is often unable to experience all the things a healthy child would, but at Disney World, he knows no bounds! Disney Cast Members are very helpful and accommodating and often go out of their way to make things easier for him (and for us) so he will have the same experience as any other child. With the help of a lot of planning (I love that part), a great touring plan, a Guest Assistance Card (noting his needs) and some pixie dust – we are able to see and do everything (and more) on our “Must Do” list, often multiple times!!!
Vacationing at Walt Disney World is a no-brainer for us! Everything (with the exception of the TTA) is so accessible! When our son is having a bad day and a rough time with the crowds – it seems there’s always a Cast Member to move us to a less stressful place to wait! Just miss the cut-off to wait for our favorite princess? More often than not, they will still allow us to get into line! An email address and phone number to speak with someone who can take specific dietary requests and follow through with all the preparations? What an awesome idea and it saves us from having to drag a bunch of prepared foods into the park! Want a few extra minutes with Mickey? Yes, please! Would he enjoy the show more from the front row? Yes, he would! Thank you!! And I love how the characters and the character handlers are always so patient and don’t rush us and just seem to understand that he made need just a minute to get comfortable with a new situation and how some Photopass photographers go the extra mile to bring that smile to my sons face…… Also, our son has been lucky enough to have been the recipient of so many Magical Moments that I have been brought me to tears more times than I can count – and not just from the sight of Cinderella’s Castle!! Often the gestures are just little things like a sticker or maybe a maybe a special pin, but to a parent of a special needs child, they’re huge! The customer service is amazing and most Cast Members are friendly and compassionate people and want to give a little extra magic to a child (and family) that may need it, helping to make their visit everything they dreamed it would be and more!! And this is why we continue to return as often as possible and because Walt Disney World is our Happiest Place On Earth!!!
A little bit about me: My name is Michelle and I eat, sleep and breathe Disney!! I am a stay at home mom of one very special boy! In my free time I love to scrapbook our past Disney vacations, plan our upcoming visits and also help friends plan their Disney adventures!!!