Finally, a break in our family storm. Our oldest son, diagnosed on the autism spectrum at the age of 3 1/2, had recovered enough health and stamina that we gleaned the courage to take a family vacation.
When the boys, ages 8 and 6, my husband and I all came to the agreement over dinner that we would take a chance and travel to the magical kingdom of Disneyland, there was no going back. If you say it to your autistic kid, you had better mean it.
Almost instantly comes down the family calendar, pick the days, fire up the computer, check out Expedia, press go and it is now our family’s vacation fate and this promise to the boys is sealed tighter than a blood oath.
The days are marked off very carefully each morning by two excited siblings. We parents are just as anxious, considering every possible outcome, pitfall, unanticipated event, or hairy pin turn we might come up against. Again, we are not the most adventuresome people, having just learned to move as a “cohesive-ish” group.
The VIP pass provided by Disney is totally the bomb. Middle of July, no waiting in line. We had the freedom of rock stars, stepping up, flashing our badge – and escorted to the front of any and all lines. How cool was my family? Oh, we were ALL that, and a bag of chips.
The sensory overload on our oldest had to be monumental. The sights, sounds, colors, smells, textures, temperature, climate, crowds, all of it – for anyone – total sensory overload. I have to hand it to him, he was holding it together, and still excited to be there after the first hour.
Then, came the moment most kids would have waited for, taking their first Disney ride! Well, our oldest shot down the first three offerings we provided. Our youngest son, was getting more than a little annoyed. We then decided to start in the little “kiddy” area – Toon Town.
Toon Town was one of our sons favorite cartoons, he belly laughed at Roger Rabbit, watching the videos over and over and over and over…..
Arriving at Toon Town, towards the back of the entire facility, was where we were going to start. We approached the building where the “ride” was housed. I could feel all defenses in my oldest son flaring up to high alert. Just before the entry door, he balked. I went Ninja, people. I grabbed him, startling him throughly, and executed my no BS now, I am your Mother, you are going in, you are going to sit on the ride, I don’t care if you are autistic, you are going to LOVE THIS!!!!!!
Throwing him into the seat, he was now terrified. I breathed deep, and in the very sense of love I held him, and went still. I calmly (vice grip) held him down as he was screaming bloody murder. We were attracting ALOT of attention. I didn’t give a shit. My husband and younger son had evaporated. The train started at the childish pace it was meant to render, my son, gotta love him – started to relax. My efforts were rewarded when he began to trust that I wouldn’t knowingly kill him on a Roger Rabbit ride.
Exiting the Toon Town venue, with a relieved younger son and husband, was myself and our undamaged oldest. He bought in. We were all smiling and happy. Across the lane, witnessing the carnage, was Kobbe Bryant, his mouth agape, mumbling something to his wife. I can only wonder what was being thought by the witnesses that day, about the bi-polar family who’s tortured kid is screaming entering the building to exit later all smiley and ready to roll?!?
We finished that first day visiting 16 attractions and enjoying the best dinner as a family we’ve ever sat down to. I was served my first Mint Julep, and it was divine. And together, as a family, we learned that sometimes we have to trust enough in each other to overcome our base fears to hopefully discover something sheerly delightful.
Life is good. ~ Wendy Frye