The happiest place on earth.

by statia on January 18, 2011

We’re planning on a trip to Disney World in the spring.  Given that the Mini is a chip off the old block (Daddy), he has sensory aversions to big crowds, so we’re trying our best to prepare him as the date nears.  For now, we’ve told him the basics.  We’re taking a trip in the car and we’re going to go to Disney World to see Buzz Lightyear and Woody.  But the conversation somehow took a turn south…er… souther, when the Mini started asking questions.

Him: Are there tigers there?

Me:..? Um, yes, in the Animal Kingdom

Him: Can I pet the tigers?

Me: No, baby, they’re in cages, behind glass.

Him: Do they bite?

Me: Well, yes, if you were able to pet…

Him: I don’t want to go to Disney World, I’m scared.

Me: (inner voice) *Holy, mother of fuck? How the hell did we derail…?*  Well, there’s a really cool place where you can learn about science, called Epcot, and you can ride in a giant golf ball.

Him: I don’t want to learn about science,  I don’t want the tigers to bite me.

Me: *exhales* Well, you know, we don’t have to talk about this now.  We can show you pictures and talk to Grandma, she LOVES Disney World.  And nothing ever bit her while she was there.

Him: No, I don’t want to go.

Somehow, we went from briefly explaining, to him having full blown anxiety over tigers.  And thinking these tigers walk around Disney World willy nilly, just biting preschoolers.

When we had the Mini evaluated, the developmental psychologist/ nurse practioner had said that he would most likely lose his PDD-NOS diagnosis, and that most likely, it would manifest as anxiety as he got older.   I had a hard time envisioning my carefree child, who seems to not pay attention to his surroundings, with an anxiety issue, but if there’s anything I’ve learned with kids, it’s to expect the unexpected.    As he gets older, I’m more convinced that he isn’t truly on the spectrum, but he’s got a processing disorder, be it language, or auditory.    Either way, it doesn’t matter.

But sure enough, the anxiety has started to rear its ugly head.  Part of this is age.  They’re learning real fears now.  The closet door has to be closed.  The hallway light needs to be on.   There are things that he’s become afraid of.   It’s heartbreaking to watch, and discrediting those fears, makes them seem as if they’re not important.   They’re important to him.   They’re based on his own limited life experience.

My problem is trying to help prepare him and ease the fear on going to visit the Happiest Place On Earth.   We just keep talking about it, complete with jazz hands and confetti.   I don’t think he’s convinced.

{ 12 comments }

divrchk January 18, 2011 at 9:14 pm

You will have an awesome time! Disney gives preference to autism as in you get a head of the line pass. I’m not sure what you need, i.e. doctor’s note… but, you should totally work that angle :-)

statia January 18, 2011 at 9:23 pm

It’s not technically a head of the line pass. It’s called a Guest Assistance Card. Basically, it allows him to wait in maybe a shorter line (like fast pass), or in a more secluded, quiet area. Which is fine, so long as there aren’t tigers sitting next to him. They save the front of the line passes for terminal kids. :)

Melissa January 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Nicholas seems to have a lot of anxiety too. It is so hard for me because no matter how hard I try, to relieve his fears, it never works. The sentences you wrote about the closet door and the hallway light are Nick, TO a T! Nicholas’s other issue is noises. But don’t even get me going on that.

I hope mini starts to get excited about the trip soon! Have you tried the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cartoon on Disney?

:o )

Siera January 19, 2011 at 12:43 am

I have no idea what to expect when my son starts talking more. I had anxiety as a child. I am sure he we will have some too. I just replied to you in Shannon’s comments that Dj Lance terrifies him. Phase 2 of his assessment is coming up in the next few weeks. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Fawn January 19, 2011 at 6:01 am

Sometimes you have to stop and think when did I lose control of this conversation?? When my son was 3 or 4 I attempted to have a more indepth convo about strangers. I’ve always been pretty straight forward with my kids and my son is very talkative with everyone he meets so I figured a little healthy fear of “bad people” was the way to go. I told him there are bad people who could want to take him away from me and keep him. I told him that a stranger was anyone whose name he didn’t know. He listened quietly and then said “well do they have pizza?” I only managed to scare him a little by telling him they would only feed him dog food and he spent the next few months saying “HI,WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” to everyone he met.

Shelly January 19, 2011 at 8:23 am

If it’s any consolation, in the billion times I’ve been there, I have yet to see a tiger.

Lions, yes, but no tigers.

statia January 19, 2011 at 10:59 am

Don’t you love how they find ways to abuse the system? Even at this age?

Mamma Pants January 19, 2011 at 11:53 am

Okay, Moms. Here’s the answer to those bizarre fears your kids have. Trust me – I used it and it works. Make something up. Tell him that you and Daddy drank a magic drink and you now have the ability to scare tigers away. (you might have to drink something to convince him but you should have fun with that) When my babes were little, we faced all bizarre fears with some kind of entertaining action and resulting magic. Ms. Pants had nightmares, but if I gave her ‘magic kisses’ and sang the (really stupid) song I made up about it, she knew she could sleep safely and without bad dreams. Sometimes we had to have ice cream for breakfast so something would or wouldn’t happen. We had a ‘rainy day box’ that you only got to play with in the rain (it had the same stuff as the crap in their rooms but it was the magic that counted). At some point they’ll start to deal with their fears more rationally — and then you will miss your ability to do magic.

Lynne January 19, 2011 at 12:05 pm

We’re going to disney in the spring too! The anxiety issue is hard, we wrestle with it here as well. The magic bit never worked for us because G’s brain is so factual and concrete, he needs to know why things work before he’ll believe it. So we pull up photos to show him what we’ll be doing, (maybe you could show him photos of disney so he can see there are no tigers) where we’ll be staying, draw up a schedule of events so he knows what he’ll be doing and when he’ll be doing it.

And wherever possible, we give him control. When he feels in control of change, he’s much less anxious about it. For our disney trip, we’re renting a house in kissimee. (better for sensory breaks than a hotel and it has a kitchen so we can eat what and when we want) DH and I narrowed our choices down to three we found acceptable, and then we let G choose. Sounds ridiculous to let a 7 year old have that kind of decision making power, but it really helps him feel secure and all of the choices were good ones.

Good luck!

lynnes January 19, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I meant, show him photos to prove there are no tigers wandering among the crowds, not lie and tell him there are no tigers whatsoever. Maybe show him a map so he can see where the animal kingdom exhibit is, draw huge fences so he knows the tigers stay there, and promise you will not go to that section of disney.

Shanna January 20, 2011 at 8:33 am

I know people hate to lie to their kids but sometimes parents need to stretch the truth a bit. So, I would tell him that Disney just sent me an email saying that all tigers will be on vacation the week you are there and that unfortunately none will be available to bite small children.
You have to do what you have to do to get through the trip and if that will ease his fears for now do it. Plus, he is your kid so therapy will be necessary in his later years anyway, right? ;) KIDDING! Hope it all works out and you have a blast.

Deirdre February 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm

So I’m coming to the party late on this post, but we just got back from Disney. My son is 3.5 and he loved it, but was also completely overwhelmed. What I did not realize is that I should totally have been strategic about which rides/shows to go on/see first. One of the first shows we saw was A Bug’s Life at Animal Kingdom. NOT A GOOD CHOICE. In fact, many of the shows wigged my kid out because they were too dark, had a 3-D component and were very loud–and my kid doesn’t have sensory issues. I recommend every kid who’s 4 and under(on the spectrum or not) start with the Playhouse Disney show at Hollywood Studios, especially if they are familiar with Mickey, Handy Manny etc. But what I like most is everyone sits on the floor (free to get up and move around and not feel “trapped”), they don’t make the room too dark, and the voices aren’t overly loud. Plus, the live show sticks to the same general format as the cartoons, so it was more comforting.

I can’t help you with the tigers. I didn’t see any in the safari when we were there, so perhaps you can tell him you called and checked and they don’t have any after all? And maybe don’t go on the safari. But I’ve been there–where a conversation gets totally derailed by some “irrational” fear. And you’re like WTF just happened???

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