My best friend Jodi has a son the same age as James. Sam has autism. I’ve written about him before. The new changes to Disney’s Guest Assistance Card will significantly impact their family. She agreed to guest post about what it means to her.
Most of Jenn’s readers know about me. I am her best friend. She is mine. We met on babycenter.com. We have daughters the same age and son’s the same age. We are both working mothers. We both have a love for the South and sarcasm. We both are pretty funny if I do say so myself. Other than the fact that she is a democrat and I am a republican, we are a lot a like.
The biggest way we are different (yes even bigger then the political crap) is that my son has autism and her’s doesn’t. Jenn has watched me struggle through the emotional roller coaster that is having a special needs child. It hasn’t been easy to be my friend during this I am sure. Sometimes I don’t want to talk to anyone. I go through grief that no one really understands unless they have been through it.
I am having a hard time right now. I just found out that Disney is changing the way they will handle guests with disabilities. You see my family can’t do a lot of things other families can do. We don’t go to birthday parties, social events, weddings, funerals or even church together. We can’t wake up and say “hey, it’s Saturday let’s go to the mall.” All the things that most families just do routinely are very complicated for ours.
We have never taken a family vacation that hasn’t been at Disney World. There is reason for this. Other typical family vacation places have not been able to accommodate my son in a way that makes sense to spend the money. When I say that I mean if you spend money on a vacation and you only get one a year like I do (because I own a small business) you want to be somewhat sure it will be enjoyable. If I spend my hard earned money and end up in a hotel room trying to keep my son calm while my daughter and husband have fun, well it’s depressing and awful and points out with glaring big bold letters: YOU AREN’T A TYPICAL FAMILY!
Disney World was the one place we could count on. This year when I got down about my son and his future, I could hang my hat on the idea that I had Disney coming up this Christmas. I could look forward to that week of happiness. My little boy would be a different kid for that week. He would laugh more, smile more, and so would I.
He asked for his first toy ever this past February at Disney World. It was the first time he ever did it, and he was four at the time, almost five. He became mostly potty trained during that same trip. All through the magic of Disney. Those memories and the certainty of more good times to be had got me through the sad times where my son was hitting me, and I would have to restrain him. I needed those thoughts. I need them.
Those thoughts are gone now. They have been replaced with the knowledge that this is one more thing my baby can’t do. All because some people thought it was a free way to beat the system and skip to the head of the line. Worse yet are the other people think its unfair that my son gets BETTER access for the same money than they do all because they aren’t disabled.
Do I think disabled children and adults should get special perks? Darn right they should. They should get a little freebie to replace all the times they are told no where you are told yes. How dare anyone say that’s not fair to their normally functioning minds and bodies! Next time you are in line and you see a mother with a child in the special needs area of any place remember that although you may have to wait a little longer that mother would probably take a bullet to the head if she could change places with you. I would.
If God struck a bargain with me right now and said, “Jodi it’s you or him. You can be taken right now, and he will be just like every one else.” I would choose to die right now. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for him. Can’t you just let him skip the line? Can’t you guys with no issues find it in your hearts to let him skip the line? He will never get this anywhere else. He will not be on the carousel at the mall even. Let my baby and all the babies who live with the day in day out misery that is a disability skip the lines at Disney World.
This Christmas when my entire family is in Disney World together the odds are good that my son and I will be at home. I can’t risk putting him through a horrible situation at the park. I will wait and make the final decision after the program rolls out but it doesn’t look good for us. Of all the losses we have faced as a family related to his autism losing Disney is the hardest for me.
I don’t know why, but I feel like Mickey Mouse himself just told me that he doesn’t want my boy. It breaks my heart every time I remember its true. I forget for a little while then I remember that dream is done and it hurts all over again. Disney just rejected us. Our beloved safe haven of Disney just slammed the door in his beautiful face.
If you are reading this and you want to help, write to Disney guest services (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Bob Iger (CEO, email@example.com) and tell them you don’t mind waiting for disabled children to go ahead of you. Or if you are in a park and you see a parent or family struggling and you have a fast pass consider giving it to them because they may be headed to the hotel at 11 am where as you can be there all day.
You see we pay full price for tickets, and we don’t get near the use out of them that most families get. We have to leave when our leader (my son) says its time to go (by freaking out). We are at the mercy of a little guy who is at the mercy of his autism.
PS. There is a special place in hell for the cheaters that would lie and say they have a disability or their child does just to skip a line.
For those of you that don’t know, Disney had Guest Assistance Cards at Disney World and Disneyland. People with disabilities could get a card that provided them special entrance to attractions. Due to abuse of the system (i.e., people without disabilities obtaining a GAC in order to skip the line), Disney has disbanded the program. No one really knows what the new program will look like when it is rolled out, but Disney has said that guests will now be required to obtain a type of fast pass. This will not work for Sam and other kids like him.
Jodi is working on a special project that would allow people like me and you to help families of kids with special needs be able to visit amusement parks and other places. When I get more information about it, I will let you know. Until then, please consider what it is like to be the mom or dad to one of these kids. Kids that can’t go all of the fun places you take your kids. Consider having one place you can go. Only one. And then consider what it must be like to have that taken away from you.