|Disneyland train! Disneyland train! (Feb 2013)|
Leo is singing a song about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck right now, because all things Disneyland are never far from his mind. He asks to go to Disneyland every single day of his life, and if he hadn't been singing that song, he'd probably have been watching California Screamin' roller coaster videos on YouTube, or looking through pictures of his own 2011 trip to the Land of Mouse.
Leo really, really loves Disneyland. Really loves it. It is his happy place, one of the few places I know he will have a good time all day long, one of a handful of not-our-home places I feel fully comfortable taking him.
That is why I am so downhearted about the recent announcement that the park will be discontinuing the Guest Assistance Card that made Leo's trips to Disneyland possible. If Leo doesn't have a GAC, we can't go. End of story.
I've written about Leo's adoration of The Happiest Place on Earch before, and why the Guest Assistance Cards matter.
Leo's visit was a huge success, and Disneyland turned out to his Land of Yes. He got to do exactly what he wanted all day long, directing the action according to his interests and impulses -- an unprecedented freedom for a boy with a heavily structured life. He was also never bored, which can be an issue for people with communication challenges. Because of a Guest Assistance [Card] the Mouse thoughtfully provides for people whose behaviors make it difficult to wait in lines, Leo could get right back on any ride he liked, as many times as he wanted.You have to understand: our love of the GAC is not because we get to skip lines and blow raspberries at all the chumps who don't. Skipping lines is not a convenience but a necessary accommodation for our boy. Because he is autistic. Because of his specific disability.
Leo can wait in lines, but not always. Not lines of Disneyland length. Not without melting down due to the crowds, the noise, the expectation based on previous experience that he will not have to wait in lines longer than 20 or so minutes. Without the GAC, Disneyland is effectively barred to my son.
Even with the GAC, it can be difficult -- there is no GAC for park entry lines, so when those lines were longer than he was used to the last time we visited, Leo ended up having a spectacular meltdown. Please believe me, he really does need GAC accommodation; he doesn't deserve to be a public spectacle just because of his neurology.
I understand that Disney is planning an alternative to the GAC: the Disabled Assistance System (DAS), which includes a system of going to kiosks to get return times for the most popular rides. Which incorporates back-and-forth time for DAS users only. People with disabilities and their families only. Which means additional complications and fewer ride times for those for whom going to Disneyland is already much more complicated and so already includes fewer ride times.
I have heard from several different sources that Disneyland discontinued the GAC because people were rampantly taking advantage of it, either falsely claiming disability or in some cases hiring disabled people so their non-disabled kids could skip lines.
|Happiest boy, happiest family (Feb 2013)|
There are so many other things that make Disneyland wonderful for Leo: Hotel pools that open at 9 AM. Cheerful and accommodating staff. Beer in California Adventure (OK, OK -- that one's for me). But the GAC is the Disneyland matter that matters most for our family. I will continue to monitor the DAS as it develops, and learn from others about whether it could work for us. I hope so, because I had just started to plan our next Disneyland trip. If we shouldn't go, I need to know soon.