Thursday, March 15, 2012

Disneyland and special needs.

Disney is amazing. Their customer service is completely over the top. Did you know if your Disney balloon pops or your ice cream falls in the park, you can just go get another one for free? You take the remains, show it to a cast member, and voila! No more tears. They work to literally make it the happiest place on earth.

And the way they treat families with special needs is exceptional. I have been impressed by them before, but this year more than ever.

Storey is a three year old obsessed with princesses. Her biggest goals at Disneyland were ride Toy Story Mania and meet princesses. Which poses a little bit of a problem when your older brother has three mortal fears: the dark, babies, and PRINCESSES. Knowing this trip was coming and understanding Storey's great passion for the fancy ladies, we asked Jakson's therapists for some help. The last four trips to therapy were solely focused on getting to the root of and hopefully alleviating his debilitating fears. But Jakson is a stubborn guy (and Zak believes he has a deep rooted fear of commitment that this all stems from. Always the jokester) and our attempts to help him failed. Miserably. In fact, every time we read him the social story his therapists had written entitled something along the lines "Princesses are not monsters" Jakson would put his head down and sob. His therapists felt like this was another important fear to face and encouraged us to go ahead with our princess plans.

On our first day in the parks I went to Town Hall to talk to guest services about getting Jakson's guest assistance pass. While I was there, I spoke with a wonderful cast member and explained our other situation. The princess debacle. She promptly called the head of entertainment to see what could be done, but let me know that she couldn't promise anything. Because she wasn't sure how long it would be before something could be arranged, she took my phone number and said she would call.

Not five minutes later I got a call letting me know that they had set up a private meeting with a princess for Storey. Would we please come back to Town Hall where they had a room set up for us? I was blown away. Disneyland is HUGE. There are thousands of people in the park every single day and they made an extra effort to do something memorable for one little three year old girl. One.

Without telling the kids what was going on (we didn't need a violent meltdown all the way down Main Street), we headed back. Megan and I ran into a shop along the way to grab a little car. Our hope was to slip the princess the toy and have her "give" it to Jakson. Maybe that would help ingratiate her to him?

We walked into the room and found not one princess, but Cinderella, Ariel, the Fairy Godmother, and Perla (one of Cinderella's mice friends). All for Storey. I think she was seriously in shock. Storey is NEVER silent-but she was almost completely mute for 45 minutes straight. They looked at her pins, talked to her about her trip, let her lay all over them,. hugged her, made best friend pinky promises, asked if she had glass slippers, sang was AMAZING. I've never been emotional about princesses before, but I think every adult in the room teared up at some point. Having a brother with special needs means she gets overlooked more than I'd like, so I was thrilled that Storey was able to have a moment just about her. It was definitely magical.


Cinderella giving Jakson the car.

Unfortunately, Jakson wasn't feeling the magic. Zak held him in the corner where he cried, screamed, and begged to leave. Cinderella gave him the car, but he kept his head down and took it without saying thank you (very uncharacteristic for him). After about 15 minutes, we decided he had fulfilled his duty and he left the room while Storey stayed and hugged the princesses for about 20 minutes longer. They didn't rush us or make us feel like they had somewhere more important to be. The way they acted, Storey was the only little girl in the entire park.

I could not be more appreciative of the way we were treated. Jakson facing this fear in a public place with hundreds of other kids looking on would have been miserable for everyone, not to mention humiliating for him. In this intimate setting we were able to accomplish both of our aims for Storey and Jak with very little drama. I am one very happy mother.

And this is why we plan a vacation to Disneyland year after year.

I do realize that most people will not want to watch this (and I'm not offended), but for those that do, here are a few minutes from the time we spend with the Disney Princesses. Notice Storey's uncharacteristic silence.


cj said...

Even though I don't have kids yet and can't totally relate, I have always noticed and loved how Disneyland goes above and beyond in so many ways. What a wonderful memory for your family! And all those hugs, over and over, was hilarious!

Ginny said...

That is sooo made me tear up just reading about it and I wasn't even there!! So glad you guys could go to Disneyland. You are one amazing mom!

Leanna said...

preciousssss. I can't believe how quiet she was! that was crazy

hillari said...

This was totally making me cry, and I was just reading about it! So glad they went above and beyond to make it awesome for her.

Christina said...

What a happy memory for Storey!

Veronica said...

That was FREAKING amazing!!!

Emskyrooney said...

Totally made me cry too. Perhaps it's because I'm pregnant and hormonal but I love that Storey got this special time with the princesses and I love that Disney made it happen.

Beth Ann said...

Disney is awesome and there is a reason why Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth. That is so awesome that they went out of their way with all of the cast members to make her trip even more memorable! And I wasn't crying, I had something in my eye...I mean I was chopping an onion...

Jen said...

Oh my gosh Bethany. I bet you just cried. What a treat for Storey. I had no idea Disneyland would be so accommodating. Good for you for asking, too. I like that about you. You don't accept society's fear of people that are different.

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