Utter Autism

February 26, 2015

Doing Disney Differently: Using a Wheelchair

From that very first trip to Disney World with Adrian, we learned a very important lesson that not only changed our vacation strategy but also our life at home.  Adrian could quickly become overstimulated (and then aggressive) in certain environments, especially Disney. But when he was seated and buckled into the stroller it worked like magic to help him be calmer and enjoy it all without being overwhelmed.  When he outgrew the stroller we switched to the wheelchair and found it had the same positive effect.

Ever since, we’ve owned a wheelchair for Adrian and we always use it traveling with him. Besides helping keep Adrian calm and patient, it makes it easy for others to recognize he has a disability.  Autism is invisible except for the behaviors.  Adrian looks just like any other 18 year old young man.  The wheelchair immediately let’s others know he has a disability which makes them more likely to give us a break.  No one is surprised when they see him act in strange ways.  People around us are more accommodating, understanding and patient.

Now I know some would say that he should walk if he can walk.  But if the point of the vacation is for us all to relax and enjoy it, then it makes sense to do what we know works.   The couple of times we did let Adrian walk around this time just confirmed for me that it is the right choice for us.

Adrian has no sense of personal space and when he’s walking around he often plows through groups of people, bumping them as he goes.  At nearly 6 feet tall and a hefty build, I’ve seen him nearly knock people down just passing them.  His size makes it very hard for me to guide and steer him.  I’m only just over 5 feet tall and no match for his momentum.  In stimulating environments Adrian has a hard time hearing and following verbal directions.  So you’ve basically got an out of control tank in a very crowded place.

Besides the benefit to parental stress levels and everyone around us, Adrian just seems happier using the chair as well.  You can see his body relax and his energy become calmer as soon as he clips that buckle in his chair.  He takes it all in and enjoys the ride.  He’s not overcome by a need to constantly stim like when he walks.

Fortunately Disney World is very easy to navigate with a wheelchair.  Most of the queues are wheelchair accessible and cast members are very helpful.  Using the wheelchair for Adrian is one way we do Disney a little differently.

February 25, 2015

Back from Disney!

We’re back from our trip and I am happy to report that it all went really, really well.

A local snowstorm caused a bit of stress getting out of NY.  We had to sit on the plane for nearly an hour while they sprayed the plane with deice gel twice and blew hot air at the ice in the engines.  It was the only time the entire trip that we had to turn to the emergency meds.  And I admit, I probably did so a little preemptively knowing there was another 30-45 minutes of sitting there on the plane going no where.  No regrets.  He waited it out patiently and we were soon underway.

The rest of the trip was splendid.  Adrian was calm and happy throughout.  My husband and I were a bit surprised by how relaxing and enjoyable it was.  In many ways it was much less stressful than traveling with 3 typical kids with all their typical sibling fights, typical complaints and typically different ideas about what we should do next.

No.  This trip was just for Adrian.  So we went from park to park, ride to ride – only ever going on the things Adrian liked best.  We used maps and apps to allow him choices about where he wanted to go and what he wanted to do or eat.  But even when we were doing the planning, he went along happily and patiently.

There was not one aggressive behavior incident.  No pinching.  No fits in the car.  No fits in the restaurants.  Just happy and calm.  It was amazing!

That’s not to say that he wasn’t Adrian.  He did get silly once or twice.  He took a whole box of Cheerios and ran the the bedroom and closed the door, laughing hysterically.  But then without the stress of having to deal with other kids too, it really wasn’t a big deal.  If he wanted to eat Cheerios in bed, why not let him?  We opened the door and left him right there in bed watching tv with his snack.  I think even he was shocked that we were so chill about it.

Now that we’re back and I know how well these trips can go, I’m definitely looking forward to taking him again in the future.  I’d love to make it annual but considering how much it costs… well it might be every other year instead.

Still.  So happy to have returned to say it was a super successful trip and we can’t wait to do it again!

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