November 20, 2013

Disney Revisited

Posted in Fun Stuff, Life's Little Moments, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , at 10:25 am by autismmommytherapist

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Last week I wrote about my family’s first vacation ever, which happened to take place in Disney World. I spoke briefly about our experiences there, and talked mostly about Disney’s new Disability Service Access Card (DAS card), and how the system needs to be improved to accommodate all families with children with special needs. As I indicated last week, the new program worked for us. I am certain however it would now preclude some families with autistic children from taking a trip to Disney, or would simply make it prohibitively difficult to attend.

I’d like to share with you that I did eventually get off “hold” with the corporation and was able to speak to a live person, who actually listened to my concerns, took my suggestions, and indicated the possibility (again, I stress the possibility) of accommodations being made in the new year on a case by case basis. I’m not sure if this will come to pass, but my fingers are crossed, and yes, I’ll be calling them back down the road (squeaky wheel and all that jazz…).

So, while I wrote a lot about the new disability program last week I didn’t tell all of you much about our trip or share photos (trying to keep the kids alive is not conducive to picture-taking, had to wait for my sister-in-law’s fabulous zip file). I just want to go on record as saying I have never been more proud of my eldest son, who unfortunately caught a bug the day we left for Florida, but was a trooper none-the-less.

This same ten-year-old child who had never flown before and has spent a total of three nights away from his bed in the last seven years flew the friendly skies like a champ, and slept through four consecutive nights (a fact for which his mother is eternally grateful). Although it was quite clear he wanted to go home (grabbing my face frequently and saying his approximation of the word was a good clue) he hung in there, and when he began to feel better he clearly liked the rides, and even enjoyed a few of the attractions.

I’ll admit, he seemed the happiest on the morning I started packing, but I’m hopeful that now he has Disney in his “repertoire” he may enjoy it more when we go back, which I hope to do in a year or two. Justin was basically out of his comfort zone for five straight days, which for him is an incredibly stressful situation. He was so brave, and I’m so grateful he was, for this enabled our family to truly partake in the magic that is Disney.

I’m including a few photos of our trip. I hope you enjoy them, and if you are a family with a special needs child and are considering Disney as a vacation spot, I truly hope you can make the new system work for you, and that you have a fabulous time!
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My boy was such a trooper…

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Could I be any happier?!

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Zach seeing the castle up close and personal for the first time

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Can’t wait to go back!

April 4, 2012

“Traveling with your Autistic Child”

Posted in Fun Stuff, My Take on Autism tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:21 am by autismmommytherapist

It’s been almost six years since the McCafferty clan took a family vacation together. This is in part due to the fact that more than half a decade ago we relocated from Washington, DC back to the Jersey shore, which when not obnoxiously crowded, is a vacation in and of itself. We also eschewed travel because within months of taking up residence in the Garden State, I found myself quite unexpectedly pregnant

For obvious reasons, the prospect of a trip with a young son with moderate autism, coupled with an infant, was terribly unappealing to both me and my spouse. Finally, just as we were beginning to consider leaving the house again our youngest son regressed, losing almost all of his speech and his spark in a matter of weeks.

Let’s just say at that time, travel wasn’t at the top of our priorities.

It’s been a few years now since those wretchedly grim days, and although Justin has chosen to enter a decidedly challenging phase, I’m beginning to feel I must heed the call of Disney. Zach will be almost six this fall, Justin is pushing nine, and I’m beginning to think we have a window in which to attempt this, and it’s starting to slowly close. Given that I’m pretty tired these days, I may not be pushing it open in the near future. It’s time to bite the bullet and give it a go.

So happy they still serve wine on planes.

We’re beginning to gather our resources for the trip, showing Justin ancient VCR tapes from his grown cousins that describe the myriad pleasures of the resort, and most importantly, have a “run-through” planned at a Philadelphia airport (I will write more after it takes place this month). Quite honestly I will discuss the possibility of sedatives for the plane ride (no, sadly, not for me), as there is not a chance in hell we’re all driving to and from Florida together.  If we can pull this off, I intend to fly there and back with the same amount of kids with which I started.

I know. Those extravagant dreams again.

There is one resource that will be an integral component of our trip, what I like to call my “travel-Bible”, a gem-packed list of travel tips for travel with a child on the autism spectrum. It’s called “Traveling with your Autistic Child” by Babette Zschiegner, and I will have this tome practically adhered to my body throughout our entire stay. Yes, in the interest of full disclosure, the author happens to be my friend, is in fact one of the actresses in my play, “Raising Autism”. It’s still a great book, and I anticipate it will be saving my sanity on at least several occasions as we attempt this adventure.

That, and of course, that glorious wine.

There are several wonderful features about her writing. First of all, she’s the mother of two children on the autism spectrum and she’s traveled extensively with both of her sons, so none of her ideas are mere conjecture. Second, she explains in great detail how she and her husband conquered each stumbling block to family fun along the way, generally suggesting more than one solution to each problem that arose. Last, she condenses all her fabulous tips into an easy-to-find guide at the end of the chapter, for those times (and in this household, there are many) where we need a condensed answer, and fast.

Quick is key around here.

The author has broken down her tips into eight easy-to-read chapters, and covers such topics as where to go, what to bring (I will be memorizing this list), and special diets. She even devotes a number of pages to handling a child who wanders, which is a particular concern to many families with children on the  spectrum. My personal favorites however, and the two that convinced me that we should give this travel gig a go, are the two centering on dealing with challenging moments, and sleep.

The latter segment being my personal fave.

In her chapter about handling challenging moments, she reminded me to always have a Plan B in place (sometimes C and D are helpful too), and to remember that there will frequently be difficult moments in life, moments which (hopefully) will eventually end. Perhaps my favorite reminder for “happy travel” came at the conclusion, where the author reminds us all that we can’t control what others think about our child’s behavior, and most importantly (and happily), we will probably never see those people again.

I employed that one a lot in Justin’s early days, and it’s one maxim that continues to ring completely true.

I don’t want to give too much away (no spoiler alerts here), but I recall as I read her work the first time I kept wondering if she’d answer all of my questions, and eventually, she did. Of course there are some strategies that won’t work for either of my children, as all of our offspring are so different. The vast majority will be incredibly helpful however, with some adaptations to be expected.

Trust me, on this trip, “Traveling with your Autistic Child” will remain in my carry-on.

If you’re considering travel with one or more children on the spectrum, I highly recommend Babette Zschiegner’s book. To purchase or read more about it, please see the link below:

http://www.lulu.com/

Best of luck to you, and happy travels!