Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Magical Moments - Doing Disney with Special Needs Children

There comes a time in life when you stop and realize just how blessed you are.  Although such moments come easily when standing on Main Street while gazing at Cinderella Castle in the background, they also come when you pause a moment and look around you – wherever you are.  The blessings of family, kids and friends are a special kind of magic that even Disney can’t reproduce. 
Such is the case today as I pause to ponder how special I am to have friends like Jennifer and Jeb who also share our Disney passion.  Moreover, their three beautiful children allow us to view the Disney parks in a slightly different way – but I’ll let Jennifer tell you more about that…
Hi, I'm Jennifer. Wife of Jeb. Mom of Caden, 7, John Luke, 5, and Ella Kate, 3. I was raised to love Jesus, cheer for Alabama, and go to Disney. When my husband and I got married, I was able to bring him over to "the dark side." It really is more fun and magical over here. He even agrees wholeheartedly now.
Having a child with disabilities can be tough. Disney does their part to make your vacation just that...a vacation. Going out of town with a special needs child can be unnerving at best. At Disney, they try to accommodate every need you may have. There are many different types of special needs and each one affects families in different ways. Disney addresses frequently asked questions on their website. While every special need is not the same, I can tell you our experience.
We have been blessed and entrusted with a special needs child. Our family has always been a big fans of Disney. We like to go a couple of times a year, and having a deaf daughter wasn't going to change that. Ella Kate is 3 years old with bilateral cochlear implants. She also has some sensory processing issues causing her to have more trouble than a regular child being still and not running off into the masses.
Taking small children on vacation can be quite the feat. Taking a child with disabilities on vacation adds a whole new level of needing to be prepared and organized to the mix. While Disney can't follow us around making sure we don't lose one of Ella Kate's "ears," ensure they don't get wet, or we don't lose her AND her ears they do all they can to make our vacation easier.
When we first get to Disney we visit the guest relations building at the first park to which we go. There are a few different cards they issue, but we typically get the "Guests can use an alternate entrance where available" card. This card is somewhat like a fast pass. For any rides Ella Kate would be able to ride, we are all granted access to the Fast Pass lane (or to use the exit as an entrance).
photo courtesy of butyoudontlooksick.com

If you have young children, you can also use their stroller as a wheel chair. This allows you to either take their stroller on the ride, or go into the wheelchair lane and transfer them to the wheelchair ride vehicle. We have only used this one time. It was before Ella Kate was walking. Now she walks fine, so we don't use the wheelchair access.
Photo curtosey of without a care in the world

I, personally, have been hesitant to take our little family to different places because it's hard to navigate with a special needs child. Disney goes above and beyond for munchkins with special needs (and I'm sure for adults as well...I just have experience with my little princess). There was even a time we had forgotten to bring back up rechargeable batteries, so the Disney Vacation Club representative in EPCOT used his computer area to plug our batteries in and charge them for us.
We are so thankful for Disney and the special little perks we get when we go on vacation.
Ella Kate is able to have all the fun she could imagine. She works HARD all day every day to hear, understand, and respond to everything. Disney has given us a gift by giving us a "vacation" from the daily struggles of Special Needs.

When going to Disney, we really are able to leave our troubles behind, and that, is PRICELESS.

If you're interested in reading more about our journey, I blog at www.theaccountofourarrows.com. I don't get over there as often as I'd like, but I still try to chronicle our journey through life. I'd also be happy to answer any questions you may have. If you have a special needs child and were trying to decide whether a Disney vacation was right for you, I hope this has encouraged you to give it a try! You will cherish the memories, I promise.