Article first published as Special Needs and the Magic Kingdom on Technorati.
Several parents have talked about their experiences taking their child with autism to Disneyland. Some parents have shared their experiences and advice which I have always found helpful. In fact, I've posted about this previously myself. But I really wanted to share my recent experience.
Last weekend we went to Disneyland and California Adventures with extended family. On the last day for the extended family, we went to Cars Land. While their kids were in (a very long) line to have their pictures taken with Lightning McQueen, we went around the corner from the Cozy Cone to have our son's picture taken with Red, the fire engine.
While in line, witnessed something amazing that sort of outlines why we go to Disneyland every year. A young lady with special needs, all dressed up, went right up to red and gave him a hug (at least as best as she could). The character assistant had a huge smile, the cameraman was snapping pictures like crazy. I started to tear up. She took a good 5 minutes or so to interact with Red, and Red responded back (I'm still not sure how they do that, I think their might be someone inside the vehicles). It was awesome.
Disney, with their theme parks, cast members, hotels, vacations, etc. seem to have this policy that every experience with Disney needs to be magical for everyone. It doesn't matter who you are or what your abilities are, they treat everyone as special guests. And it's infectious, as many guests try to keep that same tenor that makes Disneyland the happiest place on Earth.
My own experience comes from hearing my sons' excited squeals as we go from place to place. They both dance for joy, run to the characters they love so well from countless shorts, and give each one a hug. And the characters even play with them! It's heartwarming to know there is always one place they can just be themselves, and enjoy such a crowded, public place.