Disney with Special Needs Parks Breakdown: Surviving Main Street U.S.A.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about getting ready for a trip to Disney. We’ve talked about picking the right resort, packing, and even planning ahead for what to expect by watching videos online. We’ve also gone over some coping mechanisms for dealing with special needs once you hit the parks. Most of those coping mechanisms, however, are fairly general. When thinking back on my last trip (and the one before that, and the one before that…let’s be honest, just every time that I’ve been), though, I realized that I have different needs for different parts of the park.

So here I am to introduce you to our next sparkly blog series…Park Breakdown. Together we’re going to explore different areas of the parks and different rides so I can tell you what to expect, what to look out for, and how you can cope with these things in all your super hero glory.

There are countless ways that I could have started, but I thought that the best place would be the spot where most families begin their magical experience with Disney…Main Street U.S.A. There’s nothing quite like approaching the train station and knowing that in a matter of moments, you will be standing inside the Magic Kingdom. That excitement can get tempered, however, when you notice the somewhat chaotic energy around you that can get even worse when you actually make it onto the street. This is especially true if you are visiting during one of the busy seasons.

So here we go…

The bustling train station. One thing that often comes to mind when thinking about train stations is all the people and the craziness. That can definitely be the case when you are traveling under the train tracks and onto Main Street. If you are swept up in the insanity and feeling overwhelmed by the masses, keep in mind that you can step out of the wave of people and into the calmer inner part of the station. It is only a few steps away, but because this area is mostly about getting in and out of the park, a lot of people don’t bother going into this area. This works out well if you are trying to enter along with a big group. Just step aside, take a breath, and join back in when you feel ready

The sheer abundance of it all. There is something magnificent about seeing Main Street U.S.A. for the first time — whether it is your first first time or just the first time that trip. Along with that magnificence, though, can come a sense of being overwhelmed by it all. The crowds, the trolley, the smells, and, of course, the castle, can be just a bit much if you are already feeling over-stimulated. If this happens to you, bring your focus in. Rather than trying to take in all that is the street, break it down into smaller pieces. Focus ahead of you and look at the flag and the decorations of the center circle. Choose a side and focus on City Hall and the Fire Station, or Town Square Theater, then make your way down the street. Focusing on each element can allow you to see the details and enjoy it without feeling like too much is happening around you

Go with the flow. Main Street is how you get both in and out of the park, so you will see people going in both directions as you make your way down the street. Sometimes it can be difficult to decide how you should be walking so that you don’t find yourself feeling like a battering ram trying to get through the rest of the crowd. If you’re like me, there’s nothing quite like getting touched by a bunch of strangers to take the magic out of your morning. Fortunately you can lessen the chances of this happening just by stepping into the middle of the street. Stand in the middle of the street and spend a couple minutes watching the crowds. You’ll see a pattern forming showing you which side of the street has the most people heading in the direction you want to go. When you’re ready, hop in and go with the flow. If you need to stop, whether it’s to look in your bag or because you lost people, avoid stopping on the sidewalk. Step back into the street and then dive back in when you’re done

Smells, smells everywhere. When it comes to sensory overload, all the senses are fair game. For Bubba, and me to a lesser extent, smells can be very challenging. He loves Main Street smells, but I have heard of those who are very overwhelmed when they get around the Confectionary. Sneaky insider tip — they pipe the smells onto the street. That’s why when you hit the sidewalk on that side of the street, you are immediately surrounded by the scent of cotton candy and caramel apples. Go a little further and the Plaza will hit you with waffle cones. If you are concerned that you will be overwhelmed by these smells, just take the first opportunity to cross the street. You may need to spend a little time in the middle of the street or fighting the crowds, but you won’t be able to smell the treats

Lose yourself in it. Sometimes not getting overwhelmed by all that’s going on around you is as simple as getting involved in it. Find something to do every few steps so that you can make each of these segments of the street its own experience. Look for PhotoPass photographers to get the perfect shot of you, stop with your family to grab pictures at different iconic spots like outside of Casey’s, buy a Mickey head balloon, grab a coffee or a snack. Enjoying the experience of walking down the street is a fabulous way to keep this special part of the trip from becoming a throwaway or just a means to get to the first land

Hit the shops. The final Hail Mary (hubby tells me that’s totally a thing and that I’m using it correctly) move when Main Street gets the best of you is to take advantage of the fabulous shops that line the sides. If you dip into the Emporium, you’ll find that you can make your way all the way down the street inside and away from the crowds. You may even find that irresistible souvenir while you’re at it. This is also fabulous for when it starts to rain or you need a moment or two of air conditioning, though you might find that a few hundred of your new best friends come with you. Fortunately, there is enough space in the shops that you can still navigate comfortably.

Next week we’ll start talking about some of the big attractions and what you might want to prepare yourself for so that you can enjoy them to the fullest.

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Taryn was born and raised, and still lives in Richmond, Virginia. Neither she nor her husband ever had the opportunity to visit Walt Disney World when they were children, but when their daughter Avalon came along, they decided she was not going to follow in their footsteps. They brought Avalon for the first time when she was 3 and have been hooked ever since. Now along with Taryn’s mother and equally Disney-loving older brother, they go “home” at least once a year, and by the time she is staring longingly at Cinderella Castle from the ferry on their last night, Taryn is well on her way to planning the next trip. As a group consisting of two adults with Asperger’s, including one who is also vegan, a very accommodating husband, an only child, a senior, and a service dog, they are a pretty special family, but Taryn is excited to show that the World really is The Most Magical Place on Earth and that there is a place there for everyone. When she isn’t thinking about her next Disney adventure and trying to come up with a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party costume that will beat her Oozma Kappa nerd look, she is a professional blogger and novelist, but Taryn also likes to indulge her Disney passion on her Etsy shop It’s Better in Vinyl.

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