When Magic Kingdom just isn’t so magic! Our (not so) magical stories of Florida!
Ok, that may sound a little harsh. Disney’s Magic Kingdom really IS magic, especially if you have never been before. I distinctly remember the first time my mum came with us to Florida, she stood at the top of Main Street looking up towards the Cinderella’s castle, and she cried… she was 58 at the time!! Just goes to show, all ages are touched by Disney magic.
However, when you take an autistic child to Disney, its a different story.
The first time we took both children, Ellie was seven and her brother George was three and we went the first two weeks of December. We left on a dark Thursday evening to travel up to Heathrow on the train and stay overnight to catch our flight in the morning.
Being the last day of November, we were naturally all dressed in coats, hats and scarfs when we boarded our flight… and we were to find out that this would be to our detriment by the time we got off!!
Thankfully, flight went reasonably well. Typically, George fell asleep on take off for his first ever flight! For most of the flight the kids were glued to their tv’s, and they killed time by going to the toilet multiple times. Ellie was also eating most of the way there (anything to keep her occupied). I swear it took is at least four hours to watch one bloody film!
On the landing George once again fell asleep! He was absolutely out of it and we really couldn’t wake the boy up! So trying to get out of the plane was a real struggle. Hand luggage, coats, scarves and a sleeping three-year old in my arms. We felt likethose donkeys in Spain cruelly being forced to carry luggage up a hill! Add to that, Ellie was really nervous and worried about what was coming next as we went into the airport… little did we know!
As you can imagine, the terminal is full of people queuing to get through customs. Lines and lines of passengers moving at a snail’s pace. Already Ellie was starting to get agitated. Then she asked “do you have Bellagio Bear?”
Now, Bellagio Bear (aka Daniel) was a special bear given to Ellie by her godmother and had travelled all the way from the famous hotel in Las Vegas. This bear had sat for a good few years on the shelf being ignored, but all of a sudden, he was in the limelight and had recently made it onto the Ellie’s bed and into Ellie’s arms. That’s like ‘soft toy goals’!
However, looking around, neither of us had Daniel with us. George is still snoozing and feeling like a lead weight and we are looking frantically through four sets of hand luggage for the bloody bear – nothing! Cue the whaling! Yes, the whole flight looked around to see what the screaming was about… “Daniel is gone” she wailed! We quickly had to establish with the people around us that Daniel was indeed a bear and not another child!
We knew exactly where we were sat on the plane but when the crew went back to look, Daniel was gone! I often wonder what part of the world Daniel ended up in!
For our trip I was mega organised. List after list, after list! I drew up visual itineraries for everything to help Ellie, the travelling to the hotel, the travelling on the plane and then details of where we were going each day. I also ordered a book from Disney called The little Big book of Magic which she took everywhere. It gives details about absolutely everything from the parks, to the restaurants, to the hotels and by the time we were half way through the holiday, Ellie was reading out details of the amenities in each Disney Hotel!
I also had a letter from the doctor to say that she finds queuing very difficult etc. I always worry that we’ll go into customer services and Ellie will be all smiles, greeting the staff by name and making us look complete frauds… so I go prepared. I needn’t had worried. Ellie was shaking when we went to get our Guest Assistance pass and they didn’t want to see my paperwork when I offered it up.
Thankfully, the parks are very helpful over in Orlando. The assistant passes meant that our queue time was very short so there was little chance of Ellie getting stressed. They were a godsend.
This was put to the test when we had to wait 20 minutes to get into the Beauty & the Beast attraction. By the time we got in there, Ellie was in such a state and we had to stand at the back and try and calm her down whilst other kids were getting involved with the characters and having a lovely time. It was heartbreaking.
What didn’t help that holiday was that George was also having a time of it… mainly being a difficult little 💩! I don’t know whether it was the tiredness of the holiday, or as hubby had Goggled…that boys have a surge of testosterone every six months that makes them impossible (and he’d just hit 3 1/2 years). Either way, him constantly wanting to do the opposite of what we wanted and dragging his feet under his buggy was not cool! I distinctly remember walking past families looking at us and shouting ‘Hi’ in a loud and cheery manner like some crazy woman!!
So, what happens when you book a beautiful meal with the Disney Princesses in Epcot that costs a small fortune? Well, I didn’t expect our seven year old to have a meltdown about what food she was going to eat and complaining that it was all going to be rubbish!! I don’t remember the details but the moaning and groaning really started to piss me off and I wondered why we bothered! By the time the waiter came round for our order, all I wanted was a huge glass of wine! I was fraught and on the verge of walking out, so an overpriced wine was what I had!
As soon as I took a distraught Ellie up to see the food buffet that she would have for her starter, everything changed. She knew that she would have a belly full of food and suddenly all was fine with the world! 🙄 The rest of the meal was fine and the kids met a number of Disney Princess’s. Alls well that ends well I suppose!
Most of the holiday continued with strops about queuing up, meltdowns about doing the opposite of what we wanted to do; the thing hubby and I started to look forward to the most was getting back to the appartment at the end of the day for an ice cold beer!
The truth was, Ellie was most happy when she was at the appartment, the pool or chilling in the hot tub. When you think about it, something like Disney is overwhelming for children as it is… throw in the sensory issues and I can’t imagine how hard it must be.
I remember coming home to the UKm just as exhausted and when we left, and vowed that next time it would be better… how wrong I was!
Until next time,
Love and hugs xxx
NB: when we got home, my lovely mum had searched the Internet for something that looked like Daniel Bear. A little cream bear greeted Ellie when she arrived home ❤🐻