To the people in attendance Walt Disney is quoted as saying...
"To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future. Disneyland is dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and the hard facts that have created America, with the hope that it will be a source of joy and inspiration to all the world."
~Walter E. Disney, July 17, 1955, 4:43pm
Walt Disney died December 16, 1966. In spite of this, the Walt Disney Company continued to expand his vision in Lake Buena Vista Florida. The second park, Walt Disney World, opened on October 1, 1971.
Today, when you hear a friend say "I'm going to Disney World" it could mean that they are planning to visit any one of four theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom or one of two water parks: Disney's Typhoon Lagoon or Disney's Blizzard Beach.
In celebration of our daughters 12th birthday (January 23) my husband and I took the twins, Selena and Sabrina, to the Magic Kingdom on January 19th 2013. This was their first visit to any of the Disney Parks due to the fact that both girls are autistic and have difficulty with the repeated bumping, pushing and sounds produced by large crowds of people, but also because instant gratification (no line waiting) is a necessity if we, as their parents, plan to have a "good day."
Each stage of our trip needed to be carefully planned out to ensure the best possible outcome. I bought four of the Florida Resident 3 day park tickets for $509.96 online and reserved a room at the Knights Inn Maingate Kissimmee 7445 W. Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, Fl 34747 (407) 396-4200 for the night of the 19th. Disney does not have printable tickets anymore so if you buy them online you will need to pick your tickets up at Will Call and you can expect to be standing in line for 20-30 minutes just to acquire them. Additionally, the hotel was fine for what we required however although it is one of the closest hotels to Disney World you may wish to make reservations at a more upscale hotel if you plan on staying for a while as the TV did not work and we had significant difficulty with our key card lock and door.
Why am I telling you all this? Well although my daughters birthday and the grand opening of the new Fantasy Land is a good enough reason, I'm telling you because I want to help other families like my own get the best experience possible.
When we finally entered the Magic Kingdom, I made a short (10-15 minute) stop at the Town Hall and explained my unique situation to the cast member behind the desk. When I mentioned this was our first visit to Disney World, she handed over two buttons for the twins, when I said the visit was for their 12th birthday two more buttons appeared.
I then explained that both my daughters were autistic and that they were wearing name badges with our name and cell phone number on them. She asked me about the nature of their disability and with out hesitation I told her that one of my daughters suffers from Pervasive Developmental Disorder and the other has Rhett's Syndrome. Neither of them like crowds, nor being touched, bumped or jostled around. She asked me how many people were in our party (4) and then reached up under the desk and came up with two cards.
Disney calls this the Guest Assistance Card. We were given one for each of our daughters in case we needed to split up for a period of time but unless you have two disabled children you'll likely only require one as long as there are no more then eight people to your party. Basically this card allowed us to use the "alternate attraction entrance" (the entrance wheelchairs use) on rides and shows that have an alternate entrance... Not all do! It's a Small World, Enchanted Tales with Belle, The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, Swiss Family Treehouse and Pirates of the Caribbean are among those that DO NOT.
Please Note: This does not grant you immediate access to the rides. Most of the time there is still a line only shorter as many times the alternate entrance is the "Fast Pass Line."
Throughout the day we were able to take the girls to:
- The Walt Disney World Railroad
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (x)
- Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Carribbean (x)
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Tom Sawyers Island
- Haunted Mansion
- Peter Pan's Flight
- It's a Small World (x)
- Under the Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- The Barnstormer
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Mad Tea Party
- Space Mountain
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (x)
- Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
- Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
- Stitch's Great Escape
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.
And for $52.00 additional dollars all four of us got to go to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe for a burger, fries and a coke!
The list of things we accomplished in one day, is a great feat for any family dealing with a child with disabilities who is out of their comfort zone. While we did not get to see any of the parades, the character shows, the fireworks (which are a big no no for us) or the electrical parade, our Guest Assistance Card truly helped make our day a memorable one, free of meltdowns and tantrums and for that my husband and I are most thankful.
We even brought home a few memories..
Even though I am a member of numerous autism groups, I am active in the disabled community and attend the Family Cafe and Governor's Summit on Disabilities in Orlando almost every year I had never heard of the Guest Assistance Card. I hope that in sharing our experience at Disney World, other families in our situation will have a similar pleasant experience.