Over the last month or so a lot of people have asked my opinion about the new Disability Policy at Disney. My answer has been pretty consistent: I never took my kid to Disney. I haven’t used the old system. I don’t know enough about the new system. I’m waiting to hear the verdict from friends who get a chance to try it out and report back.
I also say that I feel really lucky that we will probably never need the Disability system. When we went to Sesame Place a year ago, Graham needed the special needs pass. But if we went now? I wouldn’t get it. He’s not great at waiting, but a lot of 4-year-olds aren’t. And his ability to be redirected and distracted has increased hugely. His understanding of rules and lines and fairness have made amazing strides. He could tolerate it, we’d have to plan accordingly, but he’d be okay. And unless I see signs that he needs real assistance in the future, my plan is to stick with being a typical guest.
One thing that’s bothered me in these conversations is that people have expressed concern that special needs families are entitled or spoiled. That Disney is a luxury and we shouldn’t be so hung up on it.
I’ll be honest, I felt the initial response to Disney’s change in policy was pretty strong, especially when details were very slow to come out. I tend to be a wait-and-see person, an evidence-based person, and press releases make me skeptical. I knew it could be a horrible program it could be a nice program and I wasn’t ready to holler until I knew which. But I also understand that big reaction, the initial fear and worry that this is another thing that’s going to make life harder.
What I don’t understand is the reaction of people who think we are being hysterical or entitled. Special needs parents are my people. I have never met a single one I’d call entitled. (We do kind of excel at hysterical, though.)
Yeah, Disney is a luxury. And the fact that they give any kind of accommodations is something to be celebrated.
But let’s think of all the places where our kids DON’T get accommodations. The grocery store. The pharmacy. The mall. The playground. The museum. The airport. The places we take them every day. We have to do it all on our own, we have to do our best to prepare our kids for a world that is a constant struggle. They never get a break from it and neither do we.
And the accommodations we do get? We get one sensory-friendly event a month, maybe, if we’re lucky. And you don’t get a lot of choice about it. There’s one movie showing in one theater at one time.
We have to fight to get accommodations for them at school and then fight to get follow through. Fighting is kind of our default position.
So yeah, Disney is a luxury. And it’s MORE of a luxury for a special needs family than for other people. Because going somewhere that treats us well, that lets us do things the way we need to do them, this isn’t exactly an everyday occurrence for us. It’s also a luxury that requires a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of preparing our kids for what is by no means guaranteed to be a successful or happy visit.
If you responded to the news about the Disney disability policy change by thinking it’s just a luxury and we shouldn’t feel entitled to it… maybe consider that we don’t feel entitled. It’s just that every loss, every thing in our lives that’s that much more difficult is one more thing we can’t do.
For a little more on how things are shaking out now that the policy is in effect and how autistic kids in particular manage parks, take a look at this post.