A few weeks ago, Chad attended a conference in Orlando on, of all places, the Disney World campus.  Chad couldn’t bear the thought of being there without his sidekick, Nate, and Nate and I couldn’t bear the thought of Chad being at Disney World all alone with no one to accompany him on It’s a Small World over and over again.  Though we just visited Disney last September, it was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.  Part of the trip would be covered by Chad’s workplace because of the conference and it’s likely our last chance for escape before Chad starts graduate school (simultaneous with his full-time job) this summer.  We had to go.

Chad being involved in a conference, however, meant one huge thing: I would be solo parenting for four very long days at Disney World.  Normally, I think parents would be thrilled at the thought but it sent shivers up my spine.  Nate is still nonverbal, he doesn’t respond to his name, and he now runs at lightening speed toward whatever catches his fancy.  The parks are packed with people and it’s hard to find someone once they get a few steps ahead of you.  I was kind of freaked out that I’d lose Nate.  To make sure he was safe, Nate was only allowed to be in his stroller or in my arms–no walking allowed.  But that led toward other issues — like how do I balance a tray full of food plus frosty beverages (it was in the upper 90s — we needed frosty beverages!) plus carry Nate and/or push a stroller?  It was hard, tricky, difficult – but we managed and, in the end, I felt like a champion. Yup.  I can solo parent at Disney World.  But do I want to do that again?  Not a chance.

This marked Nate’s third trip to Disney World (mine as well).  Our first trip was taken when Nate was wee; Chad won the trip as part of an employee recognition event where he works.  It was first class all the way.  We stayed at the Polynesian Resort, which has its own monorail stop, ate more than we normally do in a month.  Our second trip last September was more on a budget level.  We stayed at the All-Star Movie Resort in the 101 Dalmatians wing.  This time, we stayed where the conference was being held, the Coronado Springs Resort, which was more of a mid-grade hotel.  It was lovely, had an awesome pool with a Mayan temple waterfall, and was also hosting the Miss/Ms./Mrs. American Spirit pageant, which was being judged by two former Bachelorettes (Gia & Jessie), so I had fun trying to find them at the hotel.  (We only found Jessie at the buffet once….never did see Gia but, if I had, I think I might have asked her what happened to Wes…)

We go to Disney World for many reasons: they’re family friendly, they make a lot of accommodations, and, if your kid is melting down, chances are that thirty more around you are doing the same so you’re in good company.  But most importantly, we go because of this:

(This is a random internet photo; I can’t find Nate’s card at the moment.) People on the autism spectrum can receive a pass that allows them to jump in the Fast Pass lane without having a Fast Pass ticket.  Normally, you have two options for rides: a) get in the regular line and wait (some waits were 90 minutes) or b) for those that offer Fast Pass you can get a ticket that allows you to come back during an allotted time slot (often three to four hours later) to get in a line with less folks.  Once in the Fast Pass lane, the wait is about 5-10 minutes at most; sometimes we didn’t wait at all.  Nate can’t manage the crowd situation because his senses are so enlarged: he is much more sensitive to light, sounds, and smells than the average bear.  So being pressed up against sweaty people for 90 minutes to ride Winnie the Pooh just once doesn’t work.  But the pass allowed our whole family to enjoy the park and do things like go on the Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan rides more times than we can count.

Disney is also a complete break for our family: there’s no therapy, there’s no schooling, there’s no nothing.  And we’ve found that, when we come back, the experience has freed Nate up to pick up some new tricks.  While in Florida, Nate started developing a few new quirks though, including wubbie modeling.

Nate also started to color things in completely, something he hasn’t done before.  Now, that’s all he wants to do.

Nate made some new friends, including Stitch.  (Nate sort of freaked when Stitch snuck up behind him but then Stitch gave Tater a massage and all was right in the world.)

Nate finally got to go golfing outside.

And at Disney World, it is always acceptable to skip right to dessert at dinner.

Nate used distal pointing to score himself a pretty sweet basketball, signed by all the Disney characters.

He also used distal pointing to get the attention of a scuba diver and scored himself a kiss.  (Nate leaned in for the kiss first!)

And, despite his guest assistance card, Nate’s favorite ride was the flat escalator  that leads up to Tomorrow Land’s People Mover.

All of this was magical and wonderful and truly an escape from the world but we had one most magical moment….which I’ll share in my next post!

Hop on over to Nate’s Facebook Fan Page and be his friend!