Thursday, 21 August 2008

Disneyland Paris

We had a fabulous time in Disneyland Paris, the weather was wonderful, the hotel was great and the kids were fabulous and just enjoyed it all so much. It was a really great holiday. However I there was an incident that happened while we were out there that really frustrated me and made me realise that even with the best intentions even places like Disney can get it so wrong and I have to say I thanked my lucky stars that Josh is only mildly autistic and realised how different a holiday it would be if he were more severe.
Let me explain what happened. While Ellie and I were queuing to get on the Flying Dumbos a little boy and his family came up the wheelchair entrance to the ride. The boy looked about 7 or 8 ish and his sister looked just a little bit older. As the boy was wearing industrial strength headphones over his ears I made the presumption he was autistic and had auditory sensitivity hence the headphones to reduce the noise level.

Anyway the ride stopped and a "cast member" let the family in. However before they could get seated they opened the gates for the people to get on who had queued up. The mum with the Autistic child had tried to get him on the nearest Dumbo which happened to be a blue one but unfortunately for her but he needed to go in a purple one. So as she went to find a purple one with him, the dad and sister got into the blue one together. Because the cast member had already let everyone else in, by the time they got round to a purple one someone had already got in it. Now anyone who has had any experience with Autism will know that when a child with autism decides only a particular colour will do, then it really does have to be that colour or not at all, and before you all start shouting "Oh it's just because they are spoilt. I'd just make him go in the blue one and have done with it" Let me explain that forcing that little boy to sit in the blue Dumbo would be like forcing you sit in a bath full of whatever your biggest phobia is. You would scream the place down with fear and that is exactly how the autistic child would react. It is nothing like having a spoilt child!

With all the kerfuffle the mum ended up going on with the little girl and the boy had to wait behind the barrier with his dad. When the ride stopped the Mum did exactly what I would have done and stood by a purple Dumbo and motioned for the dad to bring the boy in. He did and they both got in and were ready to go. Now I wasn't close enough to hear the what was said but a Cast member came over and had a conversation with them and made the boy and his dad get out.

At this point I have to say I wanted to leap over the barriers and slap the cast member I was feeling so frustrated for the poor family. So all four of them had to go back behind the barrier and wait again. When the ride stopped again the cast member still wouldn't let them get on the ride and in the end they left without the boy getting a turn at all. I was really upset and wished I could have done something to help even if it was just to tell the family that I was feeling their frustration but I was stuck in the middle of the queue and they'd gone by the time Ellie and I got to go on.

Why the cast member just couldn't have let him go on the purple one second time around is beyond me but it really shows that although they have access for kids with special needs there is still the lack of understanding as to how specific those needs can be. I did keep a look out for the family for the rest of our time there but I didn't see them again after that. I just hope that the rest of their experiences in Disneyland were much better and that was the worst they had to go through. Like I said at the beginning it made me feel very lucky that Josh is the way he is. Don't get me wrong he has his problems. It wasn't totally plain sailing for us either - we had to come out of Armageddon as in the build up to it we had to practise being scared and screaming and that gave him an auditory overload and he couldn't cope with it and we had to leave. Peej also took him on the Tower Of Terror and they loved it so much they decided to go on again, they just got seated and Josh freaked out and said he wanted to get off so they had to release the seat belts again and let them off. He also refused point blank to do the "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" and there were a few other minor incidents that happened as well but these are just little things and didn't really affect the holiday at all. We can just go with the flow and work round it. We certainly don't have the pressure of having to go in a certain colour. Josh is absolutely fine with queuing up to go on rides and most of the time the general noise in the park doesn't bother him, one or two songs got on his nerves but he coped really well with it but it could so easily be a very different story.


Casdok said...

Glad you all had a wonderful time dispite some frustrations. Theres always something isnt there!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, i didnt even know Paris had a Disney !! Looks like you all had an awesome time . Miss ya girl :) ANd that was so nice of the blogger girl to do that for you, im amazed at what great people i have met through the blogger world. Truly fascinating !
Enjoy your weekend !
Jenn :)

ScrapMomOf2 said...

Oh my, I feel so bad for that family! What a frustrating experience for them! I'm glad you had a wonderful time! That photo of Ellie and Josh with Pluto and Mickey is fantastic! You could "erase" (photoshop?) the people out of the background, and it would make a great Christmas photo for your relatives! Totally cute photos!

Dawn said...

Aww Fiona
\What brilliant photos looks like you had heaps of fun - what an experience too for Josh and Ellie.
Your mum looks so happy too what a great holiday for you all to have.
What a terrible shame for that wee boy and his parents - soemtimes you just feel like complaining to a higher authority and making it known how you feel.


Dee said...

Yeah............. we had a great time. Like Fe I hope the families holiday wasn't spoilt by that incident. I didn't see the incident but felt just as frustrated as Fe when she told me. I just hope the family weren't on a day pass and it put him off for the rest of the day, lets hope not anyway.

Having an autistic Grandson puts life in a different sphere and has taught me not to pre-judge parents and screaming children in shops etc... after all, they may not be having a temper tantrum.

Josh is very special, we're lucky to have him - I love him and Ellie to bits... and you too Fe LOL

Mum X

Anonymous said...

Lovely pics of your time in Paris. Congrats on you DT place with RR too, look forward to the sketches!
Carole ;o)

Deanne said...

I'm so happy overall you enjoyed your trip to disney.
As you say there may be the facility for disabled people but the lack of understanding overrides it all!


ScrapMomOf2 said...

I forgot to wish you and Max good luck with the class! I'm sure you'll both be brilliant!!

Anonymous said...

Lovely photos of your trip to Paris.

I'm glad you all enjoyed it and what a shame that the poor family had to suffer on the ride.

There isn't enough general information available for people to understand children with special needs and there really does need to be so the children don't mis out or suffer unecessarily.

Ana Baird said...

Lovely pictures of your trip! Looks like you had a great time!

Cazzy said...

I'm glad you had a good holiday overall. Shame on Disney for the other incident to happen, I hope they read your blog and do something about it.

Bee said...

This episode at the dumbo would have infuriated me too. But I have to admit that we have !een to Disney quite a few times last year (we live like 2 h from Orlando, so we took a yearly pass) and even though they give us an handicapped pass without any problems due to Noah's autism, the people at the attractions aren't always so cooperative or understanding or helping. Most of them don't have a clue about what autism is, and they don't care, they just want the ride to run smoothly. Sometimes you even get weird looks because you are taking the handicapped entrance when your child isn't in a wheelchair.
But it is still good that there are some kind of arrangements made, it's a beginning...