The Race for the Exit
Remember the scene from Cinderella, when that forgetful girl looses track of the time. The clock begins to chime, reminding her that she is going to be walking home if she doesn’t leave the dashing prince and head for her coach. So this is me! I have been that forgetful lady, way too many times. Here’s the scenario. We are having a super time at the Magic Kingdom when from some where in Adventureland we hear, “Happily Ever After fireworks extravaganza will be starting in 5 minutes.” My face now looks like Cinderella on that first chime. Of course I don’t have time to think because my autistic, horse loving son, is in full Kentucky Derby run. So what does any responsible parent do? Chase him. It’s not hard to find him. He’s the kid screaming, “No Fireworks!” with both hands pressed against his ears, on a dead run for the exit. I would like to be able to say that this has only happened once. But no. The plot to my movie would be Cinderella meets Ground Hogs Day. On a good night we would make it into the Monorail before the explosive crack can be heard. On a bad night, we would take cover in the back of some gift shop, preventing the poor cast member from closing the store. Sensory issues in the park are something that we must pay attention to, if our kids are going to enjoy their vacation. Here are a bunch of tips on how to help them.
Even at 16 years old, last weekend we did the mother-son pre-firework run out of Epcot. I deserve a medal at this point. I’m sure my total miles ran is equivalent to runDisney marathon. For us the finish line was when we were sitting happily inside our car in the parking lot, watching the beautiful display from the car windows. Here, Andy would admire the sprinkling lights, sometimes still cupping his ears.
It was about two years ago, when my daughter, Jennica moved back home from Utah, that our park experience made a change. She was intent on teaching Andy to manage the parks without the grand climax at the end of the evening. I don’t think I will ever forget standing on Main Street USA taking turns holding Andy’s ears after he agreed to stay for the show. We were all having to tip toe to reach his ears, but we managed to muffle the sound enough that he stayed around for the entire show. He was fascinated. We were tearful. It just seemed like such a milestone for all of us.
Of course our next move was to get him to wear noise cancellation headphones. That didn’t take too long to master. Soon we were watching fireworks with all the other families. Unless, we forget the headphones, which would explain our 9pm jog out of Epcot last weekend.
Beyond the comparison to Cinderella, I think this story is analogous to my experience raising my autistic children. There are times when I am so focused on what is happening now, I’m not thinking about the trouble yet to come. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. We really were having a great time in Adventureland before the announcer called the fireworks warning. Had I remembered, I might have missed some fun filled moments inside the park. At the same time, the race is real. The struggle to exit is comparable to the moment you misunderstand what your autistic child wants, or when his meltdown goes on for hours, or when you are repairing his bedroom wall once again.
Indeed, if we could just stand still and watch the “Happily Ever After” in our kids lives, I am sure the struggle we experience now would seem well worth it. Unfortunately, those images are yet to be revealed, and until they are, the race continues.