Disney with Special Needs: They Say It’s Your Birthday

What could be more magical than being at Disney World? Celebrating something special at Disney World, of course. December 29 is Tutu’s birthday, so in honor of her, I thought we’d talk about getting celebratory at Disney when you also have to manage your special needs. This isn’t just about birthdays. Anything is worth celebrating when you’re at Disney and we’ve done birthday, anniversary, and milestone trips. We’ve seen people celebrating everything from finishing school to getting a new job to finalizing a divorce. That last one might be the most depressing celebration, but if you’re going to celebrate, go for it at Disney!

Let’s blow out some candles and get to partying…

Make plans ahead. Referring to making plans ahead of time has always seemed strange to me. Of course you are making them ahead. You can’t plan when you’re already doing something. That’s just…doing it. Anyway, when it comes to getting ready for a celebration at Disney, you want to make sure that you are planning well in advance. Knowing that your plans are in place ahead of time will take stress out of your trip and ensure that you will be able to celebrate in the way that you want to and that is most meaningful to you without having to worry about battling crowds, contending with long lines, or sacrificing big portions of your day to hold out hope for a table. Hop on your My Disney Experience and make those reservations and FastPasses. Take a cue from me and grab more reservations than you might need so that you can talk about it for a few days and decide which are really important to you before releasing the unneeded ones into the world for others to grab. Be sure to tell them about your special occasion! You aren’t guaranteed to get anything special out of it, but you just might!

Wear your button with pride…maybe. You can’t swing a Mickey plush on Main Street without hitting someone wearing a celebration pin, and that’s for good reason. Everybody feels like they are celebrating when they are in Disney because it’s just so magical and wonderful, and when you have something you want to celebrate, that’s the place to do it. Whether it is a birthday, an anniversary, an achievement, a first visit, or just that you are there, wearing a celebration pin is the way to show off to everyone else around you that you are excited. It’s also a way to get a lot of attention. That’s because everyone around you, especially cast members, want to celebrate with you, too. When you’re wearing one of those pins, you are going to get well-wishes, congratulations, and cheers everywhere you go — and maybe even a few special treats, too. This can be a blast, but it can also be overwhelming. Decide whether you want people talking to you, asking you questions, and overall making a fuss over you before you put on your pin. I, for one, have always loved wearing my pins and my shirts, but I will admit that there have been times when I’ve shied away from the attention. Just remember — you can always take the pin off during the day if you want to blend

Take your time. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re celebrating. You want to do everything and see everything and make your day as big and eventful as you possibly can. Don’t overdo it, though. Especially when you are traveling with a senior, slowing down and taking your time is important to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy their trip as much as possible. When you are celebrating, this is especially important. You don’t want to finish up your day and know that you did so much — but not remember any of it because you are so exhausted. Take your time and allow yourself to experience each thing. Take plenty of pictures, but don’t live your day through your device. Rather than making that next POV video on Space Mountain or filming the fireworks, just experience them. Allow yourself to be in the moment and experience it with all of your senses. For me, this can be difficult sometimes. I tend to become fixated on one sense or drawn into what is happening around me rather than what I am experiencing. This means that there was a time when I knew exactly what Wishes sounded like, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it looked like, and I remember the family in front of me in line for Splash Mountain the first time that was wearing matching tie-dye shirts more than I remember any details of the cue. Remember that the quality of each thing that you do during your celebration is much more important than the number of things that you do

Hit the path less traveled. Here’s a seemingly little-known fact — you don’t actually have to kiss in front of Cinderella Castle on Valentine’s Day or eat at Le Cellier on your anniversary. It’s not a Disney law. I’m joking, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind. There are some iconic moments of Disney experience that tend to happen during celebrations, but they are iconic because so many people do them. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do them. In fact, that might be the very reason that you want to do them. You want that classic picture or that experience that you’ve heard about so much. At the same time, though, it is because these are so popular that you might want to steer clear and make your own way for your celebration. For example, if we were in Disney for Tutu’s birthday, we wouldn’t be heading for the Castle for dinner. We’d go straight for San Angel Inn. This not only makes the experience more “real” to us because it is about us and not a recreation of the experience of others, but also lets us have a calmer celebration because we are away from the hustle and bustle of the most popular places.

Remember your coping skills. Celebrating at Disney is pure magic, but that doesn’t mean that the same challenges you might face on any other day aren’t still going to be there. In fact, the excitement and stimulation of your celebration might make it so that you are even more prone to being overwhelmed by the thrill of what is going on around you. As you are enjoying your special occasion, don’t lose track of how you are feeling and what is going on with you. If you notice you are starting to feel anxious or stretched too thin, don’t feel “obligated” to keep going because it’s a special occasion. Even us super heroes need a break sometimes, and that counts even when it’s our anniversary or birthday. Remember your coping skills and use them to calm down, ease your anxiety, and bring yourself back into the present moment. Once you are feeling good again, dive back into your celebration. Even if it means you have to make a few adjustments to your plans, know that it is more important that you are present for and really enjoy what you do than it is to do everything you planned.

I hope everyone had a wonderful 2017 and that 2018 is magical and bursting with pixie dust! See you on the other side!

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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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