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Strict Standards: Declaration of truethemes_gallery_walker::start_el() should be compatible with Walker_Category::start_el(&$output, $category, $depth = 0, $args = Array, $id = 0) in /home4/kathyrn/public_html/wp-content/themes/Sterling/framework/theme-specific/navigation.php on line 154

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Star Wars Weekends Planning with Autism – 059

Kathy discusses Star Wars Weekends planning with friend and fellow Autism Spectrum mom, Anne Marie Norton.

Jedi MickeyPhoto:

Star Wars Weekends – Join the Rebellion

Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, May 15 – June 14, 2015

STAR WARS WEEKENDS are a series of special events held on select Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World resort in Florida. Activities normally include celebrity appearances, trivia contests, event-exclusive merchandise, a daily parade featuring celebrity guests from the Star Wars franchise, a special fireworks presentation (Symphony in the Stars), plus photo opportunities and character dining with a Star Wars theme. Whew!

These weekends are extremely popular and often sell out. Many Star Wars fans in attendance come to the park dressed as Star Wars characters and Hollywood Studios is very crowded during these events. Since autism and crowds do not mix well, we cover some special planning considerations for experiencing the event with someone on the autism spectrum.

TIP OF THE WEEK: This week’s tip is for guests who pan to use Disney’s Disability Access Service card (DAS). As soon as you obtain your DAS card, take a picture of it. Make sure you include the QR code in your photo! This way, if you happen to lose the card, all you have to do is pay a visit to Guest Relations and show them the photo. The Cast Member can then scan the QR code, confirm your identity by looking at your picture in the photo, and quickly issue a replacement card. Taking a moment to get that picture can potentially save you quite a bit of hassle down the line if you lose that piece of paper!

MOUSEKEEPING: We will be having a Listener Meet-Up at Walt Disney World in May! Details to follow.

Thanks for listening,


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WDW Marathon Weekend 2015 Wheelchair Racing Report! 058


Mike and Kerry, two wheelchair racing participants, share their 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon stories.



Kerry Kingdon

Kerry is from San Lorenzo, California. She is a runDisney veteran who completed the “Dopey Challenge” using a push rim wheelchair. That’s  5K, 10K, Half- and Full Marathons in one weekend!



 Mike Greer

Mike is from Ontario, Canada. He is new to runDisney and completed the 5K and 10K races using a push rim wheelchair.

Both Mike and Kerry discuss these aspects of wheelchair racing at Disney events:

  • Planning for a runDisney trip
  • Availability (or lack thereof) of pre-race information for wheelchair racing participants for the WDW Marathon Weekend
  • Racing wheelchair equipment
  • Nutrition and hydration during wheelchair
  • Weather and race clothing considerations
  • Race day transportation for wheelchair racing participants
  • Training
  • Motivation
  • The atmosphere of support and encouragement for wheelchair participants at Disney racing events

For information on Disney marathons and running events, visit the official website, runDisney.

You can connect with Kerry Kingdon on Facebook, or visit her blog, Dare to Be. You can hear more about Kerry and her runDisney experience in this past episode, You Can Run Disney in a Wheelchair!

You can connect with Mike Greer on Facebook and Twitter. He is a contributing writer at You can hear more from Mike in this past episode, Cruising with OI and a Wheelchair on the Disney Cruise Line.

You can also connect with Kerry, Mike and a bunch of enthusiastic Disney fans with a variety of special needs on Facebook in our Private Discussion Group. Simply leave a comment on our page and I will contact you!

Thanks for listening,


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Our Listener Community: Meet Bill! Traveling “The World” in a Power Wheelchair


Bill K.


Note: this article originally appeared in my ‘Faces in the Queue’ column on WDW Fan Zone.


The lift groaned softly as it hoisted its precious cargo higher and higher into the air. Three hundred-plus pounds of man and machine (mostly machine) locked into position with a shudder and a snap.  With mounting excitement, Bill prepared to board the Magical Express bus while seated in his power chair.  He chuckled to himself as he looked down… w-a-a-y down… at his nervous fiancé staring up at him from the pavement below.

Tracy caught sight of Bill’s face, saw the twinkle in his eyes, and realized she had been holding her breath. She exhaled deeply, willing herself to relax.  “I have to stop worrying so much,” she thought as she smiled up at her Prince Charming. Bill could always make her feel as though everything would be all right. “But I will never get used to seeing him hanging off the side of the bus like that!” she thought. Once he was safely inside, she boarded the bus that would take them to the Pop Century resort. But instead of sitting next to Bill, she pulled out her camera and slid into the front seat!  She just had to get that perfect shot of the sign welcoming guests to Walt Disney World!

Bill watched her making her preparations and smiled. Then his smile grew to an all-out grin as he anticipated her reaction to the flower arrangement that would greet her as she entered their room at Pop.  This romantic gesture had become a tradition for him and every trip it produced a satisfying flood of happy tears from his sentimental fiancé.

Bill had introduced Tracy to WDW in 2006, just a little over a year after they had begun dating.  Although he had visited the World several times previously, she had been a bit apprehensive before their trip and had thrown herself into a flurry of research.  Thirty-six years of living with the effects of Cerebral Palsy had strengthened Bill both mentally and emotionally, but Tracy wasn’t entirely sure he would be up to it physically.

Cerebral Palsy is caused by a brain injury that affects the way the brain controls muscle movements. Not everyone who has CP shares the same number or severity of symptoms, but all have problems with mobility and balance. Bill’s CP affects his muscles to such a degree that he is unable to walk and must be physically transferred in and out of his wheelchair. He has muscle spasms hundreds of times each day and constant pain in his right ankle. He only has the use of his left hand because his right hand stays closed and that arm is prone to sudden, involuntary movements… he calls it “Wild Thing!”

Every single activity of daily living is a challenge for Bill.  Yet here he was, asking his girlfriend… a self-proclaimed worry-wart… to go on what she thought would be a grueling theme park vacation! He used his best powers of persuasion and eventually Tracy decided it was useless trying to resist. “I look into those deep blue eyes and I just melt!” On that vacation she fell in love with Walt Disney World almost as quickly as she had fallen in love with him.  Four years later they took their eighth trip to Disney together.

I caught up with Bill recently and asked him about his passion for Walt Disney World and what his thoughts were on Disney’s extraordinary ability to accommodate guests with special needs.



KATHY:  Bill, you recently visited WDW for the thirteenth time; I suppose you could say you’re a big fan!


BILL:  Yes I am a big WDW fan. My first time was my 10th birthday and enjoyed every minute of it.


KATHY:  I’d like to talk about how and why you’ve developed a passion for the World.


BILL:  The main reason is it is very wheelchair accessible. When Disney creates a new ride they always try to design it so users can stay in our chairs.


KATHY:  You have multiple physical challenges because of your CP: muscle spasms, balance & mobility issues, and speech that can be difficult to understand for those who don’t know your speech pattern. How do you manage all that and still have such boundless energy and enthusiasm for WDW?


BILL: I don’t let my disability get the best of me.  I try to live my life to the fullest, there is always a way to make the muscle spasms not as severe.  When I get to WDW I forget about the pain, there is so much going on my mind doesn’t focus on it.  As for having enthusiasm for WDW, I feel normal there.  Most CM’s [Cast Members] go out of the way to make me feel special but not because of my disability.


KATHY: Tracy has said that you two love Disney because you are accepted for what you are and not what you look like. Tell me more!


BILL:  People don’t talk down to me there, like I have a mental disability as well as a physical.  That happens a lot in the “real world”.  Many people in our town shy away from people with disabilities; they don’t know what to say so they don’t say anything.  At WDW people, both guests and CM’s, talk to each other.  No one knows a stranger, people say hi, if you have a button on you are congratulated.  People talk to me about my pins, if I am having a good day in the park, and ask me questions about accessibility.  I have even been mistaken for a CM 3 times in one day and that made me feel wonderful.  It let me see that people were more accepting of CM’s in wheelchairs.


KATHY:  Do you see yourself working as a Cast Member one day?


BILL: That is a dream of mine.  I would love to work in special events, coordinating the accessiblity of things.  It would be wonderful to work in the department that deals with accessiblity in the parks.  If we ever move to Florida Tracy and I really want to volunteer for Give Kids the World too.


Kathy: That’s an amazing organization.

[Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.]

 Kathy: Another thing that I find amazing is that you’ve earned not one but three college degrees and recently completed you Master’s in rehabilitation management. Whew!


BILL:  I did get burned out at times, but I wanted to complete my degrees.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of my family and Tracy.  I am hoping with all my schooling a potential employer will look past my disability and see my mind, my personality, and that I go after what I want.


KATHY:  You’re a big, big Star Wars fan… and a fan of Yoda in particular. He’s known to have said, “Try? There is no try… do!  Do you think that describes your personality?


BILL:  I have that tee shirt, yes it describes my personality.   I don’t take no for an answer.  If there is one way I am not able to do something, I find other ways of getting it done.  A teacher once told our class “if you want something you have to go to it, it won’t come to you” and I always remembered that.


KATHY: I’m sure that this kind of attitude is born from a lifetime of overcoming so many obstacles that able-bodied people don’t have to contend with.


BILL: I was very lucky, my parents always supported what I wanted to do and helped me overcome things that got in my way.  I want to summer camps with persons with disabilities and it helped me see I could do things.  The object of the camp was to help me grow as a person and not be shy.  They helped me to see I could do many things if I worked hard enough.


KATHY: Yet our differences seem to blur at Walt Disney World… why do you think that’s so?


BILL: There is a common bond, our love for Disney.  They make it where able bodied and persons with disabilities can enjoy experiences together.


KATHY: And that’s why you’ve been back thirteen times! Tell me, how was your last trip compared to that first one way back when you were ten years old?


BILL: The parks are a lot more accessible.  When I went there when I was 10 there was only Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  Magic Kingdom wasn’t very accessible; the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] wasn’t in effect yet.  I transferred out of my chair so much more back then. I am more comfortable now since I can stay in my own wheelchair.  I feel a lot more independent now, I could go to the parks by myself if I wanted and ride many things.


KATHY: I think that’s the way Walt would’ve wanted it! Tell me about one special memory of Disney magic.


BILL: Tracy’s birthday special this trip, so I enlisted our friends Toni and Terry who were in WDW at the same time as us to help me.  Terry went with me to the Boardwalk area and I got Mickey head earrings and a necklace for Tracy.  Toni helped by arranging with the manager of `Ohana to let [me] have flowers delivered there.  I picked out the arrangement, gave Toni my [credit card] number and she made it happen.  I didn’t want Tracy seeing me ordering from the Disney Florist.  The day Toni and Terry left they had breakfast at `Ohana and dropped off the jewelry to be ready for Tracy’s surprise.  When the host took us to be seated, the flower arrangement was on the table with the two jewelry boxes opened.  We had a table with a great view of Holiday Wishes and had a wonderful evening.  It was perfect.


KATHY:  How romantic! And to think, you met Toni and Terry online at a Disney fan site! How do you think the social network… Discussion Forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc… has affected the way we approach our Disney vacations?


BILL:  For us it has added to our vacations.  Tracy is the one that goes on the DISboards, Be Our Guest, etc., and formed friendships there that evolved into wanting to meet people in the parks.  Our first DISmeet was with you and your wonderful family and showed us how you really could form a bond with someone over a common love for something such as WDW.  We have been blessed to meet amazing people that we would love to see again and again.


KATHY:  Well, Bill, I know the Special Mouse readers will enjoy meeting you! Okay, let’s finish with some rapid-fire Q&A about your WDW favorites, all right?


BILL: Okay!


KATHY: Okay…. your favorite park?


BILL: Disney’s Hollywood Studios


KATHY: Favorite thing to do at the Studios?


BILL: Toy Story Mania is my favorite ride for all the parks. We also have to see Beauty and the Beast.


KATHY: Okay! Now… your favorite resort?


BILL:  Port Orleans French Quarter.


KATHY:  Favorite non-park activity?


BILL:  Eating, LOL!  (Just kidding)  Resort hopping and buying pins in DTD [Downtown Disney.]


KATHY: I think I already know the answer to this next one… favorite Disney restaurant?


BILL:  `Ohana. [The Polynesian Resort]


KATHY:  Ha! I was right!  How about counter service eats?


BILL:  Sunshine Seasons. [The Land Pavilion in Epcot]


KATHY: Tough one, now… favorite Disney character?


BILL: Buzz Lightyear.


KATHY:  And finally… you’ve visited WDW at many different times of the year. What’s your favorite time to visit and why?


BILL:  After the Christmas decorations are put up.  There is nothing like going through the parks seeing the beautiful decorations and hearing the happy Christmas music.  The lights on the Castle are just amazing, it is beautiful.


KATHY:  Thanks so much for giving up so much of your Sunday night to talk with me! Would you like to add anything else?


BILL:  In my opinion, no theme park compares to WDW in accessibility and customer service.


KATHY:  I agree, completely!


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The next time you visit Walt Disney World, keep a sharp eye open for Bill. It should be easy to spot him… he’ll be wearing a lanyard full of pins on his chest and a huge grin on his face as he zips along in his Quickie P-222.  Go ahead… say hello! Take some time to talk a little Disney with him. Just like you, Bill is one Special Mouse!



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TSA Tips for Air Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions – 057

If you are flying to your Disney destination with a disability or medical condition and have concerns about TSA security requirements, this episode is for you!



In this abbreviated episode, Kathy shares a valuable resource for  air travelers with disabilities and medical conditions in the Tip of the Week segment, as well as a touching thank-you letter written by the grateful parent of a child with multiple disabilities who received kindness and consideration from the flight crew during their recent Southwest Air flight.

Tip of the Week:

One of the most stressful aspects of modern air travel is the security screening process. This is especially true for travelers with disabilities and certain medical conditions. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s official website offers a wealth of information for travelers who wish to prepare themselves for the security screening process.

Transportation Security Administration – Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Conditions

Travelers with disabilities and medical conditions can call TSA Cares, a toll free help line (1-855-787-2227) with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. The TSA recommends that passengers call the help line at least 72 hours prior to travel.

Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline. Passenger Support Specialists receive specialized disability training provided by TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement.  Training for Passenger Support Specialists include how to assist with individuals with special needs, how to communicate with passengers by listening and explaining, and disability etiquette and disability civil rights.

The TSA website offers specific information for travelers who:

TSA_service dog

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Many thanks to one of our listeners for sharing (with permission) a heartfelt thank-you to Southwest Airlines, written by the parent of a child with multiple special needs:

Sunday, December 28, 2014
Thank you Southwest Airlines
S. and I want to say thank you to Southwest Airlines, and specifically, the pilots and crew of 12/27’s flight 2748 from Las Vegas to Portland. They went above and beyond last night to help (our son) and us get home after a long, rough day.

By the time we boarded our last flight of the day, (our son) was tired and raw. We’d been traveling for 12 hours. During our three hour layover in Las Vegas, (our son) was over stimulated by all of the slot machines on the concourse, and he was stressed because he couldn’t understand that kids weren’t allowed to play those video games.

The minute we took our seats on the plane, (our son) started to escalate. He didn’t want to be on the plane. He definitely, didn’t want to have to stay in a seat belt.

I won’t say he was yelling at the top of his lungs. But if you’ve never heard how loud that is, you can be forgiven for thinking he was. He alternated between saying that he didn’t want to be on the plane or in the seat belt and yelling “I want milk!” (The first time he’s ever fixated on that.)

We boarded early and his tantrum continued well after everyone was seated. His yelling could clearly be heard throughout the plane. After about 5 minutes, one of the flight attendants came by to see if there was anything we needed. We asked for milk. Unfortunately, she said, they didn’t carry any milk on the plane. But she came back a couple minutes later with some water.

A couple of times, she came by and just quietly kneeled next to our seats. The way she handled it was perfect. She was clearly present and attentive but gave us the space we needed to work with (our son). At one point she asked, “Is he special needs.” I nodded, “Yes.” And she walked off to talk with the crew.

A few minutes later, I had started to think about everything that would be involved in removing (our son) from the plane, physically carrying him past all of the slot machines in the concourse and getting a hotel for the night.

I saw one of the pilots coming out of the cockpit and walking towards us and thought that we would certainly be asked to get off the plane and try again tomorrow.

Much to my surprise, the pilot stopped at the row in front of us and talked to a man just in front of (our son’s) seat.

The man must have complained to the flight attendants a few times. Because when the pilot approached him, the man said, “This situation is intolerable.”

The man must have asked to have us removed from the plane, because the pilot said, “That child is going to Portland tonight.

The man repeated, “This situation is intolerable.”

The pilot said, “Have some compassion.” To which the man replied, “I have compassion, but this is intolerable.”

The pilot simply looked at him and said quite firmly, “That child is going to Portland tonight.” His message was quite clear.

For three hours, we had been trying to keep (our son) on this side of a complete “stripping his clothes off meltdown”. By that point we were harboring our own doubts about whether we were going to make it. The pilot’s message simultaneously quieted the man and gave S. and me the support and strength we needed to keep working with (our son) so we could get our family home.

A few minutes later, just as (our son) had started to calm, our flight attendant returned and handed us a pint of milk. “The captain went up and got this for you,” she said.


I don’t think (our son) knew where the milk came from. He seemed as surprised by its appearance as we were. The milk was just the distraction we needed to convince (our son) to take his meds. And the milk calmed him as much as the meds. Before too long he was stretched out between us with his seat belt on, watching a video. And a few minutes after that we pushed back from the gate.

Once he was calm, he did a fantastic job throughout the flight. He was a model passenger, We made it to Portland, and made it home with only a minor detour as (our son) decided he needed go shopping in the PDX airport. (He couldn’t understand why dad wouldn’t buy him that suitcase at Brookestone. It was green and it was “perfect”.)

So thanks Southwest. Thanks for sticking by (our son). Thanks for giving us the time, and space and support to work with him and settle him down. And thanks for the milk.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

See? There really are some good people left in the world!

Thanks for sharing that letter, it was just what we needed to hear!

And thanks for listening,


~ Kathy

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Walt Disney World with Type 1 Diabetes – 056

Everything you need to know about vacationing at Walt Disney World with Insulin-dependent Diabetes!

This father and son share more than fun - they both live with Type 1 Diabetes!

This father and son share more than fun – they both live with Type 1 Diabetes!


Hello and Welcome! A very Happy and Healthy New Year to you!

The podcast went on a bit of an unplanned hiatus during the holidays, but I’m back now with plans for lots of exciting topics in the New Year. Today we’ll be talking with my friend, Robyn Adams about vacationing at the WDW Resort with Type 1, that’s insulin-dependent, diabetes.

But before we jump into that discussion, I’d like to give a shout-out to several members of the Special Mouse Podcast community who will be participating in next weekend’s WDW Marathon events: Best of luck to Kerry Kingdon and Michael Greer who will be “rolling with the magic,” looking to earn some of that coveted runDisney bling. They’ve both promised to appear on the show later this month to give us first-hand accounts of their experiences.

If you’re new to the show, please visit our home base at for contact information as well as our community blog. And if you have a question or a suggestion for a future show topic, please drop me a line at

Walt Disney always said, “We keep moving forward,” so here we go!


Tip of the Week:

This week’s tip concerns making a wheelchair-accessible reservation at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review. Hoop-Dee-Doo is a vaudeville-style dinner show and all-you-care-to-eat dinner at Pioneer Hall in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

A member of our private Facebook discussion group asks:

“I am wondering if anyone can help me figure this out.We would like to make an ADR (advance dining reservation) at the Hoop De Doo Musical Revue. We will be on the dining plan and our daughter is in a wheelchair.   I understand that there are 3 different seating sections, with tiered pricing. I also know that there are 3 different show times.  (That is correct!)

I’ve read that only section 1 is wheelchair accessible, but that only sections 2 & 3 are accepted on the dining plan, for the 1st & 2nd show times and that Show #3 – the latest show time – opens all 3 sections to dining plan participants.

My question is, does anyone have experience making an ADR on the dining plan, for an earlier seating, for a party with a wheelchair? If we have to sit in Section 2 on the DDP, but have to sit in Section 1 if we have a wheelchair, what do we do?  Thanks in advance, etc.”

Well, that certainly does sound confusing!

Luckily, several group members who have had experience making this kind of dining reservation were able to jump in and answer this question for our listener!


According to Hoop-Dee-Doo’s ticketing office there is seating on the last row of the main floor (Section One) that is accessible for wheelchairs and, when booked as such, is considered category 2. Thus, it meets the requirements of the Disney Dining Plan AND Accessibility laws at no additional cost to the diner.

Some guests have even reported they had this policy waived and once they checked in were shown to tables closer to the stage. Naturally, this would depend upon availability.

Many thanks to Tracy, Sue, Dede and Rae for their valuable input! Now, bring on the strawberry shortcake!


Feature Interview: Walt Disney World with Type 1 Diabetes:

How an insulin pump works

How an insulin pump works

Some of the topics we discussed are:

  • The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes.
  • The role of insulin in the body’s metabolism.
  • Need to balance FOOD/ACTIVITY/INSULIN while on your Disney Vacation.
  • Pre-trip planning tips for people with diabetes.
  • Diabetic packing tips (SEE BELOW)
  • How an insulin pump works.
  • Air travel and thrill ride concerns with an insulin pump.
  • Importance of more frequent blood sugar testing.
  • Utilizing First Aid Stations
  • Requesting the DAS accommodation for Type 1 Diabetes
  • Robyn’s Diabetic “Mousketeer” Trips
  • Diabetic Alert Dogs

Robyn’s Diabetic Packing Tips:

*DOUBLE amount of testing strips, syringes, pump supplies, alcohol swabs, pens, lancets, EXTRA bottles of insulin (both types if you are on 2) – even if you are pumping, always bring an extra set of syringes and a bottle of the slower acting insulin (i.e. Lantus). You never know if you will experience pump failure. You may want to order a “vacation” pump.


*Pumpers – don’t forget your caps for your port sites while swimming.

*Cool/ice/FRIO pack for your insulin if you are taking it into the parks with you. The refrigerator in your room will have a TINY little spot along the top for an ice pack. We have used this spot for years – it works great.

*2 blood glucose meters

*Extra batteries for pumps and meters

*Flashlight for the midnight blood sugar check or download an app for your smart phone

*Fast acting sugar candy/glucose tablets. Bring things that will not melt or crush – i.e. smartees, skittles, starburst, Quick Sticks, glucose tabs, fruit snacks (not gushers or fruit rollups – these get too messy).

*Calorie King book or app for those pesky carbs we have to count!


You can connect with Robyn Adams on Facebook. She is an authorized Disney Travel Planner with Travel With The Magic.


Thanks for listening!


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Thanksgiving Episode: The Special Mouse Community Gives Thanks – 055

Friends of the Special Mouse Podcast share Disney memories for which they are thankful on this Thanksgiving 2014 Episode!

Thanksgiving 2

In the spirit of Thanksgiving — this quintessential American holiday – a day set aside to officially give thanks for the blessings we enjoy throughout the year – I have decided to do a feature on something for which I am sincerely grateful – YOU!

Yes, you, the listener!

I’m turning this episode over to YOU by featuring YOUR favorite Disney memories that you are thankful for, recorded on our new SpeakPipe App.

But first,Please let me express my own attitude of gratitude!

Over the past year our community has grown exponentially, mostly due to our incredibly helpful and supportive private Facebook group. To the 213 members of that group, I say, “Thank You” for carrying out the message of our podcast – “the magic is for everyone” – by providing a safe, welcoming place for members to gather and discuss their concerns related to Disney travel. I’ve been truly blessed to make your acquaintance.

If you are not a member of the group and wish to join, please visit our public page, and let me know with a comment.


Thank you to my friends on Social Media who consistently like and share Special Mouse content on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus! Especially Maureen Deal, Sarah Norris, Heather Ford, Main Street Fairy, Ericka Busser, Debi Dame, Rae Augenstein, Jim Tucker, Sandy Nye, Stu Hassis, Andrew Carrieri, Ed Russell, Tracy Brooks, Jeanette Lynn, and many more!

Liking and sharing our content truly helps to spread the word about the show!


Thank you to my fellow Podcasters who have graciously invited me to be a guest on their shows to talk about Disney Travel for Guests with Special Needs – Lou Mongello from The WDW Radio Show, Ashley & Sam Turner from WDW Happy Place, Bob Coller & Tim Scott from the podcast, Jaren Buckley from the Building Special Families podcast, Frank Rogers from Mr. Frank’s Wild Ride and The Disney Dream Girls themselves, Michelle Young & Jayne Phipps.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for sharing your audience with me!

If you would like to listen to any of these episodes, use the “As Heard On” tab, above.


Speaking of podcast audiences, I am sincerely grateful to those of you who’ve shared ratings and reviews of Special Mouse on iTunes this past year – not only because they are personally encouraging to me, but because each review nudges the show just a little higher in the podcast queue, making it easier for new listeners to discover!

Many thanks to: Don’t call me Jenny, Kima 861965, disneyfan 64, jenniferlyn 1085, bethcgreen, Bill Kaiser, fromlisa2, SkepticAlan, iceserraon, debcalloway, disneynut1985, Mark Vitek, ginnyxpotter, KaleenaScarlett, and many more.


And finally, before we get to our listener messages, I want to express just one more, extra-special thank-you to Michael J. Carrasco who has opted to support the show with a monthly donation via PayPal. Michael, your gift is greatly appreciated and goes a long way in helping me produce the show.

If you’re not familiar with podcasting, there are some regular monthly expenses involved – web and media hosting, editing services, purchase of software and hardware, and so forth – and so your financial support, whether through a monthly or a one-time donation – truly helps me to continue providing the Special Mouse podcast as a service to the Disney community.

Information about supporting the show in this way can be found at


And now, on to our Thanksgiving holiday feature – Disney Memories We’re Thankful For by The Special Mouse Listeners!

Wishing you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving,


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Managing Gluten and Celiac at Walt Disney World with Dr. Kendra Becker – 054

Dr. Kendra Becker, speaker at the Food Allergy and Celiac Convention at Walt Disney World, joins Kathy to discuss many issues related to Disney vacationing with food allergies and Celiac Disease.



It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. so it’s only fitting that today’s show revolves around food, specifically, food allergies. This Saturday, November 22, 2014, Celebrate Awareness, the first-ever Food Allergy and Celiac Convention, will be held at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. I was lucky enough to get one of the speakers, Dr. Kendra Becker, to be a guest on today’s show.

Dr. Kendra has integrated a Doctor of Naturopathy and an Advance Practice Nursing Degree to focus on her specialties, which include asthma, autism, allergies, and eczema. By and large much of the treatment for these conditions includes special diets.  She is a mother, wife and Organic Lifestyleist and lectures on various topics throughout the nation and has made various TV appearances to discuss the importance of naturopathic medicine. She practices in Connecticut and is publishing her first book in 2014, a healthy cookbook to help families jump start special diets.


Dr. Kendra and I discuss the upcoming Food Allergy and Celiac Convention and a myriad of issues surrounding food allergies and how they affect certain conditions such as Celiac, Asthma, Autism and Eczema.

Dr. Kendra is a self-described “Disney Nut” who loves Walt Disney World so much that she founded a travel company, Especially Magical Vacations, which specializes in Family vacations for families with special concerns!

You can contact Dr. Becker at:

Family Wellness Centre of Connecticut
181 Cross Rd
Waterford, CT 06385

You can also connect with her on Facebook.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Our Tip of the Week involves my recommendations for Food Allergy-related Disney websites you may find helpful when planning your next Walt Disney World vacation!

The first is Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free at Walt Disney World, by Sarah Norris. Sarah, who is co-creator Celebrate Awareness, is a Florida resident whose dietary restrictions include gluten and dairy, along with special considerations related to Chron’s Disease. She provides frequent allergy-free Disney dining reviews and tips for gluten- and dairy-free, as well as vegetarian, dining in Walt Disney World (and more recently, the Disney Cruise Line) via her blog AND podcast.

Another Florida local who blogs about allergy-free dining is Alexis Solerno at Gluten Free in Orlando: Gluten Free Disney and Beyond. Alexis’ dietary restrictions involve gluten and special considerations related to Celiac and Hyperthyroidism. Alexis covers not only the Walt Disney World Resort but all of the greater Orlando area with dining reviews, gluten-free recipes and product reviews.

Last, but not least, please check out Pixie Lizzie’s site, Allergy Free Mouse. This site offers trip-planning tips, food allergy-related Disney dining reviews (including many submitted by readers) and a list of allergy-free foods you will find at the restaurants in Walt Disney World, Disneyland and on the Disney Cruise ships. Allergy Free Mouse goes beyond gluten and dairy, including the top eight food allergies (Peanut, Tree Nut, Dairy, Eggs, Wheat/Gluten, Soy, Fish and Shellfish).


Please visit our new page at to leave a voice message from any browser!

Thanks for listening!


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Military Disney Tips – A Veterans Day Special! 053

Today we are celebrating Veterans Day in the United States. I’m honored to be participating in a project called Voices for Vets. More than 45 podcasts have committed to producing an episode dedicated to providing a voice for the stories of Veterans. These are stories of Veterans for Veterans… and you! Please visit the Voices for Vets website to listen to more stories from our country’s heroes.

Did you know? During the fall of 1918, sixteen year-old Walt Disney attempted to enlist for military service but was rejected because he was underage. Determined to do his part “over there,” Walt joined the Red Cross Ambulance Service and was sent overseas to France where he spent a year driving an ambulance and chauffeuring Red Cross officials. His ambulance was covered, not with camouflage, but with his own cartoons.

Walt Red Cross


Our feature Voices for Vets interview is with Steve Bell, creator of  A USAF Veteran and former Walt Disney World Cast Member, Steve continues to serve the military community by acting as their unofficial advocate to the Disney Parks and by helping them plan for, and save money on, their Disney vacations.


Some of the topics we discuss are:

– A little of Steve’s military service, both in the U.S. Air Force and in the Air Force Reserves.

– His experience as a Walt Disney World Cast Member.

– The origins of his website, created in 2008, for the benefit of active military and veterans.

– His advocacy for the military community regarding discounts. – The Disney Armed Forces Salute (resort and theme park ticket discounts for the U. S. military community.)

– The Shades of Green Resort, an Armed Forces Recreation Center located on Disney property.

– The daily Flag Retreat ceremony at the Magic Kingdom and participation by active military and veterans.

Flag Retreat

World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient Louis Lessure, 93, was visiting Magic Kingdom Park with his family when he was chosen to participate in the park’s daily flag retreat ceremony. (Disney Parks Blog)

– Steve’s best planning tips for military families planning to visit Walt Disney World.

– The impact of the Fast Pass Plus system on Military ticket discounts.

– Military dining discounts around Disney.

– What’s in store for the Military Disney Tips site.

Please visit Military Disney Tips and connect with Steve Bell on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.


Thank you for sharing this special Veterans Day episode with me. To all our Veterans, on behalf of the Special Mouse listening community, thank you for the sacrifices that you and your families have made to safeguard our freedoms. ~Kathy


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Should Your Special-Needs Family Take Advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours?


If you visit the official website, you will see that, naturally, Disney Parks guests are presented with a number of perks designed to persuade them to spend their vacation dollars on-site by booking their stay at a Disney resort. One of these resort-guests-only perks is Extra Magic Hours at Walt Disney World resort hotels and Magic Morning Early Entry at the Disneyland resort hotels.


These are touted as a major perk of staying on-site: “extended theme park hours that give you additional time in select Disney Parks with valid theme park admission.”  So, essentially, you’re getting more “bang” for your theme-park-admission buck.


Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Wrong!


For guests with special needs, the correct answer is: It depends!


Let me tell you how my family started out as EMH users and eventually converted to EMH avoiders.


I used to be a big believer in EMH, especially years ago when, like Disneyland, the perk was limited to early admission to a different park each day. Our children were small, so we knew we were planning to hit each park early and then head back to our resort after lunch so the kids could nap. Then, in the evening, we would hop to a non-EMH park for dinner and the nighttime fireworks or entertainment.


This plan worked well for us because of the simple fact that most guests – especially as their vacation progresses – find it difficult to get up early and make it to the park at rope-drop. So if, say, the EMH Park for the day was the Magic Kingdom, we would arrive at 8am and pretty much have enjoyed all of Fantasyland at a leisurely pace by nine. Interestingly enough, guests would still be arriving just before what would have been the “regular” opening time and after! By lunchtime, there was a noticeable increase in the crowd level but – no matter! After lunch we were out of there!


That worked well for several years until…


The Extra Magic Hours schedule changed! No longer did the parks taking turns opening one hour early. Now there was this mish-mosh of one park opening an hour early one day, and the following day another park would stay open three hours later. Well, naturally the evening EMHs worked well for folks who like to sleep in, but we found that the benefit of the additional hours was cancelled out by the huge increase in the crowd level. (Evening Extra Magic Hours are understandably popular!)


Also, staying out late the night before, added to the fact that our children had aged-out of afternoon naps, often made it difficult to get everyone up and out the door for rope-drop the following morning. Soon we discovered that we had better luck avoiding the early EMH parks! To me, it just wasn’t worth getting stressed out first thing in the morning because it can often set the mood for the entire day.


Sleeping Dalmation


So, here is where the controversy comes in: are Extra Magic Hours parks always the place to head when you want to get the most for your Disney dollar?  The answer is really a both a yes and a no. 


If you’re traveling with young kids with special needs I’d say, yes. Definitely hit the early morning Extra Magic Hours Park, but plan to high-tail it out of there after lunch and take that nap! If you have teens then perhaps you can entice them to getting up each morning by promising a “sleep-in” morning somewhere in the middle of the trip, followed by a visit to the park with evening EMHs.


For our family, it is important to avoid crowds because of my son’s sensory issues related to his autism. We find that “reverse psychology” works best. Most resort guests will instinctively head for the Extra Magic Hours Park, so that is the one we avoid.


As with most things in Life, there isn’t one clear-cut solution to fit everyone’s needs. So I say, play with it. Do some experimentation of your own and find out what works best for you and your travel party!



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Disneyland Trip Report with Aspergers and ADHD


Michelle Young from Disney Dream Girls and her son Ciaran join Kathy for a chat about managing Aspergers and ADHD on their recent Disneyland / DCA vacation. 

We get a lot of Walt Disney World trip reports here on Special Mouse and while I love Walt Disney World, I’m always excited when we can branch out and give you listeners’ experiences at other Disney Parks. Michelle Young and her 14 year-old son, Ciaran, join me via Skype from Yorkshire, England. I want to thank Ciaran for being so open when sharing about his particular vacation challenges related to Aspergers and ADHD.

The pair had a jolly holiday that included Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, Knott’s Berry Farm, lunch at Walt Disney’s favorite restaurant, The Tam O’ Shanter, and more! Included in our discussion is their experience using the Disability Access Service Card (DAS) at Disneyland and DCA and how the system varies slightly from that at Walt Disney World. And because Michelle’s son is a teenager, this TR contains a lot of dining reporting!

Connect with Michelle via the Disney Dream Girls Podcast and on Twitter and Facebook!


 Tip of the Week: 

This question comes from Allison.

Allison asks: “Where are some good locations to charge ECVs and electric wheelchairs in the parks?”

I would think that parking your ECV near an outlet while you are at a meal or show would be the most convenient option, but since I personally don’t use an ECV, I posed the question to our Facebook group and we got some useful tips which I will pass along to you now:

Bruce says, “Almost all sit down restaurants know where to tell you to plug in. Same with first aid areas.” “In the Poly, second floor, by `Ohana, next to the men’s room, there is a convenient outlet. Retaurants like Le Cellier and Cape May, I plugged my scooter right by the check-in podium, at their invitation. At Trails End, they have outlets near the golf cart rentals, I’ve plugged in there. The Grand Concourse at the Contemporary has outlets.”

He believes that “Ride times are too short to have a decent charge on a scooter. Same with counter service meals. Only decent time is when you are sitting down for a meal.”

Dede says, “When I ate at prime time, in Hollywood Studios, there is a plug a little ways from the outside door on the left. They told me to use that. I tried using a plug next to my table but they wouldn’t let me because of fire laws.”

(Yes, it’s very important to remember that ECVs and wheelchairs are not permitted to block certain exit pathways in public areas.)

Sharon says, “A good rule of thumb is, anywhere there’s carpet, there needs to be an outlet to plug the vacuum cleaner in!”

Rae says, “The Tangled “Rest Area” in Magic Kingdom has stumps with standard 3-prong outlets plus USB outlets hidden behind a little door. You will see people using the outlets. It’s a nice place to hang out. You can get lunch from Columbia Harbour House and eat at one of the tables.”

(This is a lovely spot, Rae. The area is extremely popular at mealtime, so if you plan to eat here my advice is to arrive well ahead of mealtime and claim your spot early!)

And last, in the “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” category, Tracy adds, “My boyfriend uses his own power wheelchair, I have been to Walt Disney World with him 12 times. He has never had to charge his chair during the day. He does a full charge each night and is good to go.”

Thanks, Group!

And for more information about ECVs at the parks, check out Podcast Episode 11, “FAQs for Scooter Newbies.”


Don’t forget to drop me an email at so you can add your sound bite to our upcoming Thanksgiving episode!

Thanks for listening!


~ Kathy


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Safety IDs for Nonverbal Kids to Wear on Disney Vacations

Lost parents sign

Over the years, with the help of ABA and speech therapy, our sixteen year-old with Autism has gradually gained more speech. He’s not quite conversational, mind you, but he can understand what is being said to him and is able to communicate his needs. And he can answer basic questions like “What is your name?” and “What is your phone number?”

This was not the case when we first traveled to Walt Disney World in 2003. At the age of five, he was practically non-verbal. So you can imagine how worried I was about the possibility of him getting separated from us in a busy theme park. Even if he did manage to find a Cast Member (we repeatedly showed the kids pictures of what their name tags looked like), he wouldn’t be able to answer any of their questions!

The most obvious intervention — one used by many parents of non- or low-verbal children — is to sew labels into the children’s clothing. Well, that idea wouldn’t work for Billy because of his tactile hypersensitivity – he couldn’t tolerate the feel of the labels in his clothes. They seemed almost painful for him. Ditto for any type of ID bracelet or “dog” tag.

My husband came up with the perfect solution. He ordered Billy a Road ID that could be worn on one of his sneakers. It was just like the one he himself wore when running. All of Billy’s emergency contact information could be placed on the Shoe ID and it would not touch his skin at all!

Billy tolerated the Shoe ID so well that when we returned home we just left it on his sneaker. It attaches with Velcro, so it can be easily transferred to another pair of shoes if needed.



If your child will tolerate it, the Road ID can also be worn on the ankle, the wrist, or as a “dog tag.”


My friend Heidi (also an Autism mom) developed her own version of sensory-friendly identification which she currently sells on Etsy. Safety ID Stickers for Kids hide your child’s personal information while still being highly visible if they need help. Just stick one on your child’s shirt and go! You pick from the many designs available for the outer sticker and Heidi custom prints the inner sticker with the contact information that you provide her. The stickers are weather proof and the ink will not run even when submerged in water. The stickers stay on until you take them off and leave no adhesive residue on the clothing like tape can.



They aren’t my cup of tea (because the information is so readily visible to strangers), but many parents choose Tattoos With a Purpose. Simply attach the temporary tattoo to your child in a visible area and using the provided marker write down a contact number on the tattoo in case your child goes missing.



Temporary tattoos are non-toxic, hypoallergenic, and can be removed with rubbing alcohol or baby oil.

Another ID system developed by an Autism mom uses smart phone technology. If I Need Help is a non-profit organization that provides a place where the multitude of information about a person with special needs can be kept in one place. This information can be accessed by whoever needs it at the time. Profiles can be accessed manually from any web browser or via scanned QR Codes. QR Codes can be read quickly by any smartphone. QR reader Apps can be downloaded for free from App stores.


These QR Code patches can be sewn onto favorite items of clothing or…


You can purchase a variety of clothing with the QR Code patches already attached.


Utilizing a Safety ID system for your non- or low-verbal child is an effective way to reduce the stress associated with touring a crowded environment in which the child may wander and become separated from you. Choose a system that works best for you and use it to have a more enjoyable vacation!

How about you? Does your family use a safety ID system that you like?

The first person to write a comment on this blog will receive one QR Code Patch compliments of Erin from If I Need Help!

Thanks for reading,


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The Disabled Diva Dishes on Invisible Disabilities and Chronic Pain at Disneyland – 051

Tips for touring Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure with chronic pain due to Fibromyalgia, Degenerative Disc Disease and Psoriatic Arthritis.


Today my guest is Cynthia Covert from Southern California. Cynthia is a wife, a mom, a self-described “Disney Addict” and author of The Disabled Diva Blog. We discuss living with chronic pain and how it affects the entire family. Other topics of discussion are tips for touring Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure with chronic pain and limited endurance, use of a wheelchair and wheelchair accessibility of the attractions, use of the DAS card at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure, chronic pain management with medical marijuana, what to pack for your trip and the importance of choosing a comfortable and convenient hotel room.

Cynthia’s blog is The Disabled Diva’s Blog. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Her books are available on!

Chronic Pain, It’s a Family Affair

You Don’t Look Sick! What not to say to people who suffer from chronic pain.


Our tip of the week comes from listener Melissa W. – “You no longer need to take a new picture every time you get a new DAS (Disability Access Service) Card. As long as you have with you the old DAS card that can be scanned, the picture is now saved and prints out on the new card. So quick!”



As you may know, I’m a big supporter of the Give Kids the World Village in Central Florida. The GKTW Gingerbread Run 5K is an annual fundraiser that will be run on November 8, 2014. Even if you’re not in the Central FL area, you can participate in the Gingerbread Run as a virtual runner. Visit and find out how you can register. All runners will receive an event t-shirt and a collectible Gingerbread Run medal. It’s a fun way to support GKTW and to inspire hope for families that need it most!


If you have questions or ideas for topics for future episodes, please send them to me at

Thanks for listening!



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Disney DAS Card Survey Results 050



Maureen from Autism at the Parks  joins Kathy to discuss the results of her informal Disney DAS Card survey, which was performed in September/October of 2014.  Maureen observes that, “The most significant conclusion drawn from the results was that almost half of the respondents are having difficultly using a system that is supposed to be helping them while visiting the parks.”

143 people responded to the survey. Elements of the survey included the following questions:

Demographics (age) of guest requiring the DAS accommodation.

How would you rate the difficulty of obtaining the DAS Card?

Did you receive any accommodations in addition to the DAS Card, such as the Stroller-as-Wheelchair Tag or Re-Ads?

Please indicate how difficult it was to use the DAS Card at the parks.

After we covered the survey results we discussed recommendations to help improve the DAS Card experience while remaining an equitable accommodation for guests with disabilities.


Here is the LINK to Maureen’s blog post where you can read about the DAS Card survey in detail.

You can connect with Autism at the Parks on TWITTER, on FACEBOOK, and on PINTEREST.




Congratulations to the following listeners who are advancing to Round 2 of the Disney Parks Moms Panel Search, 2015: James & Lisa Cameron, Didi Marie, Jackie Psarianos, Nora Stevens and Missy Sizemore. We wish you the best of luck! About the Disney Parks Moms Panel.

Listener Mark Sumonka shared that his service dog, Bingo, was featured on the Animal Planet TV Special, America’s Cutest: Disney Side Howl-o-ween.

And finally, the announcement you’ve all been waiting for, the winner of the Special Mouse podcast 50th Episode $50 Disney Gift Card Giveaway is — Matt Harbin! Matt is a disabled veteran who uses a wheelchair. He lives in the state of Washington and although Disneyland is his “home” resort, he is planning a trip to Walt Disney World soon. That gift card should come in handy then! Congratulations, Matt, and thanks to all of you who have supported the show throughout the past 50 episodes!


~ Kathy


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Chatting with Kellie, a Disney Lover with Down Syndrome


Kellie’s mother knew that something was up.  It wasn’t like her daughter to complain about aches and pains, and she seemed to be getting sick all the time.  Normally she was as bubbly and chatty as any other eight year-old girl; perhaps even more so.  She usually relished any kind of outing, whether it be shopping or going out to eat, and struck up a conversation with every single person she met along the way, always with the same question: “Have you ever been to Disneyland?”  Kellie made friends everywhere!  Now she seemed to be tired all the time… too tired, even, for a day trip to her favorite place in the whole world: the nearby Disneyland theme park.

So, Kellie’s mother took her to see the pediatrician.  Along with the genetic disorder, Down Syndrome, Kellie had been born with a heart defect and had undergone open heart surgery when she was very young.  Evette wondered if her daughter’s symptoms were cardiac in nature but another, more frightening thought soon took hold.  “Could it be leukemia?” she asked the doctor, hoping and praying that she would say no.  After all, hadn’t her youngest child been through enough?

Instead of rejecting that possibility the doctor opted to do a blood test, which Kellie endured without a complaint.  That night Evette and her husband, Lance, anxiously awaited their daughter’s test results.  The next morning, the doctor called.

“Which hospital do you want me to send you to?” she said.

Kellie was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Orange County, near Disneyland.  Further tests of her spinal fluid confirmed that she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the white blood cells, the cells in the body that normally fight infections.

According to the National Cancer Institute, ALL is the most common cancer in children, representing 23 percent of cancer diagnoses among children younger than 15 years of age.  It occurs in about one of every 29,000 children in the United States each year, with a somewhat higher incidence for children born with Down Syndrome.

Kellie took her cancer treatment in stride.  “I don’t think she ever grasped how very sick she was,” Evette recalls.  “She loved all the attention everyone gave her, at the clinic, the hospitals, etc.  She never gave me a hard time about going and having chemotherapy, spinal taps (‘poke backs’ as she calls them), and shots.”

Now a young woman of twenty-four, Kellie recalls that period in her life (late 1996 to early 1999) as sometimes being hard.  “I had a central line and had to take a lot of pills and once I even got shingles on my leg!” she says.  But she also recalls the thrill of a special visit from her favorite Disney character. “Goofy sat on my hospital bed!” she gushes. Then the Make-A-Wish Foundation chose her to be the recipient of a special gift. Together with her parents and her three older brothers, Kellie was given a magical trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.

The family began planning her Wish Trip in the summer of 1997.  “Kellie is moderately developmentally disabled and really had no real concept of what a Wish Trip was,” Evette related. “We kind of made that decision for her. We knew she would love Walt Disney World because of her love of Disneyland.  Living in Anaheim, of course, we had been to Disneyland more times than we can count.”   She recalled when volunteers from Make-A-Wish came to the house to interview her daughter.  Kellie turned the tables and began to interview them! “Have you ever been to Disneyland?” she demanded. ”What’s your favorite ride?”  Evette laughs, “They knew right away [the trip to Walt Disney World] was her own wish!”

Kellie’s original Wish Trip ended up being postponed; a few days before they were about to leave she came down with a fever.  This was potentially dangerous because of her central line (a catheter placed into a large vein in the neck, used to administer medication.)  Instead of a trip to Florida, poor Kellie took a three-day trip to the hospital for intravenous antibiotic therapy. “I wasn’t well enough to go to Disney World,” she says, “and I was very sad.”  But the story has a happy ending; eventually she was well enough to make the big trip in January of 1998.

What a thrill it was for Kellie to ride in a limousine to the airport!  She and her family flew to Florida First Class and before the plane left the gate the pilot announced that “a very special young lady named Kellie in Seat 1-A was making her first trip to Disney World!”  For Kellie, one of the highlights of their stay at Give Kids the World Village was taking a carousel ride with Tigger. “She loved all the characters and all the attention she got as a Wish Kid,” Evette says. “Everyone was so lovely to us.  She loved going to the different parks, but I think Magic Kingdom was her favorite since it was so much like Disneyland.”

Kellie finished her chemotherapy in the spring of 1999 and has been fine ever since.  According to the National Cancer Institute, improvement in survival for children with ALL over the past 35 years “is one of the great success stories of cancer treatment.”  In the 1960s, less than 5 percent of children with ALL survived for more than five years. Today, about 85 percent of children with ALL live five years or more.

Kellie lives every day of her life with a sense of joy and wonder and an enduring love of all things Disney.  When I asked Evette if she and her daughter would be interested in doing an interview, she told me that Kellie loves to talk about Disney to everyone she meets… and boy, was she right!  The did not use Skype, so we had our interview via Instant Messaging. Kellie had as many questions for me as I had for her… so read on and you will learn a lot about me, too! We “talked” for almost two hours!  Let me share the highlights of our conversation with you. (Kellie’s mom helped by doing the typing for her.)

Hang onto your hats, folks. This interview whisks you down to Walt Disney World, across the country to Disneyland and then out to sea with the Disney Cruise Line!


KATHY:  Hi Kellie! My name is Kathy and I love Walt Disney World. Your mom says that you do too!

KELLIE: Hi Kathy. I like Disney World, Kathy!

KATHY:  I’d like to talk to you about Walt Disney World and then share it with some friends on the internet. Is that okay?


KATHY: This is going to be fun! How many times have you been to Disney World?

KELLIE: I’ve been to Disney World 4 times.

KATHY:  Oh, so you are an expert!

KELLIE: The first time I was 11 years old and I was on my Make-A-Wish trip.

KATHY:  Tell me about Make-A-Wish, Kellie. Were you surprised when they told you that you could have a wish granted?

KELLIE: I was very happy when they told me I was going to Disney World! My three brothers were happy too!

KATHY:  I’ll bet!

KELLIE: I want to know your favorite ride at Disney World!

KATHY:  Oh, wow, that is so hard! I can’t pick just one! I love Soarin’ at Epcot and the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom… What is yours?

KELLIE: My favorite ride is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad! I like Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Hollywood Studios and Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom.  Do you like Thunder Mountain?

KATHY:  I do, especially in the dark! Have you ever ridden it in the dark?

KELLIE: Yes we rode it at night when we visited in 2009, it was fun!

KELLIE: What is your favorite ride at Animal Kingdom?

KATHY:  I really love Expedition Everest but I also like wandering along the jungle trek and the forest trail to look at the animals. My son loves Expedition Everest, too.

KELLIE: What is your son’s name?

KATHY:  His name is Billy and he just turned 13.  He loves Dinosaur, but I think it is LOUD!  I always wear ear plugs on Dinosaur.

EVETTE: Kellie laughed when I said you wear ear plugs, she said you were silly… LOL.

KATHY:  It is the only way that I can ride!

KELLIE:  My Mom rents a wheelchair for me.

KATHY:  A wheelchair can really come in handy, there is so much walking at Disney World! Most people don’t realize how BIG it is!  I know that you can walk by yourself, so the wheelchair is so you don’t get too tired, right?

KELLIE: Yes, I use it so I don’t get tired.

EVETTE: She has low muscle tone due to the Down Syndrome and I believe the Chemo affected her legs too.

KATHY:  We took my husband’s aunt to Disney World. She was almost 80 and did NOT want to use a wheelchair. She changed her mind by the middle of the week! There’s a lot of walking…

KELLIE: What is your husband’s Aunts name?

KATHY:  Her name is Rae.  Kellie, do you think people treat you differently when you are in a wheelchair, or the same?

KELLIE: The people are friendly.

EVETTE: She may not know if they treat her different; she makes friends everywhere!

KATHY:  Any good stories to tell about friends you made at Disney World?

KELLIE: I like when the cast members ask if I want to go again on a ride and I don’t have to get off first. I really liked eating at 1900 park Fare and having Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drucilla come to our table to talk to me and take a picture with me. The cast members are always very nice to me and take time to talk to me. I really liked meeting Ranger Stan at the Wilderness Lodge; he was so nice and I still talk about him to my Mom and Dad.

Kellie with Ranger Stan, who passed away in 2011

KATHY:  Oh! I met Ranger Stan when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge!  He is very nice.

KELLIE: I have stayed at Saratoga Springs and Bay Lake Tower. I like Bay Lake Tower best. I like to be able to go on the Monorail!

EVETTE: We are Disney Vacation Club members since 2008.

KATHY:  My husband thinks Bay Lake Tower would be cool because of the monorail!

KELLIE: What is your husband’s name?

KATHY:  His name is Ed; he loves Disney World, too.

EVETTE: She wants to know about everyone! She wants to know Ed’s favorite ride.

KATHY:  Hmm. I know he loves Soarin’ and Test Track.

KELLIE: Whooooo, like me!

KATHY:  Do you have a favorite park? I don’t think that I can choose just one!

KELLIE: Magic Kingdom!

KATHY:  Are you excited about the new Fantasyland they are building?

KELLIE: I am excited; I want to see the Little Mermaid ride!

KATHY:  Me, too! It looks amazing! And I want to eat at Be Our Guest in the Beast’s castle. Speaking of food, what is your favorite Disney restaurant?

KELLIE: I like Teppan Edo in Japan.

KATHY:  Oh, yes! Isn’t it fun to see the chef preparing the meal right in front of you?

KELLIE: Yes. I liked the chicken. Do you like the chicken too?

KATHY:  Yes, it is so tasty. Did your chef make a smoking onion volcano?

KELLIE: Yes. Did you have dessert there?

KATHY: No, we were saving room for gelato in Italy!

KELLIE: Did you see the fireworks?

EVETTE: (Illuminations)

KELLIE: I like Illuminations!  Do you like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland?

KATHY:  We’ve only been to Disney World, never to Disneyland.

KELLIE: Do you like Tower of Terror?

KATHY: Yes I do, but it took me until our 3rd trip to Disney World to get up the courage to ride it!

KELLIE: I want to go Disneyland and California Adventure next year. I want to go on the Indiana Jones ride with my Auntie JoAnn.

KATHY:  I wish that Disney World had the Indiana Jones ride. The show at Disney Studios is okay, but I think the ride would be more fun!

KELLIE: I like the ride better!

KATHY:  You used to live near Disneyland…

EVETTE: We lived within walking distance of Disneyland; Kellie really wishes we still lived there!!

KATHY:  I can’t say that I blame her one bit!

EVETTE: Yes, in fact her dad’s first job was at Disneyland. He was in the bicentennial parade in 1976.

KATHY:  Wow! So he was a cast member!

EVETTE: He also worked as a Janitorial Host on Main Street; he has some stories to share about that!

KATHY:  See, Disney in Kellie’s blood!

EVETTE: Right! I hadn’t thought about that… LOL.

EVETTE: I remember when my Dad would give my sister and I each $5.00 to go to Disneyland. That would buy our ticket book (yes, I’m that old), plus be enough to buy food for the day while we were there.

KATHY:  Kellie, what was it like to have Disneyland as your neighbor?

KELLIE: I loved going to Disneyland a lot, we had annual passes!

KATHY:  I would, too! How old were you when you moved away?

EVETTE: When Kellie was 15 when we moved to Kent, WA because of my husband’s job. We moved to Wheeling, IL in 2005 for the same reason. She can’t understand why some people have never been to Disneyland or Disney World.  She asks EVERYONE she meets if they have been.

KATHY:  Your mom said you were going on another Disney cruise soon; a cruise to Alaska!

KELLIE: I love Alaska!

EVETTE: We haven’t been yet, but she loves it… LOL!

KATHY:  Tell me all about the Disney cruise you took.

EVETTE: That was the Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Disney Magic in 2009.

KELLIE: I liked going to see Karaoke on the ship! One of the guests, a girl sang a song for me.  She sang ‘Beauty and The Beast.’

KATHY:  You meet so many nice people!

KELLIE: I liked all the Disney shows too!

KATHY:  There is so much to do on the Disney cruise.  When you get off the ship in Alaska, what are you going to do?

KELLIE: We are going to go whale watching, take a train ride and see a lumberjack show.

KATHY:  Wow!  What special shows are on the cruise you are taking this summer?

KELLIE: Toy Story and the Golden Mickeys.

KATHY:  I would love to see Minnie in her fancy evening gown and Mickey in a tuxedo!  Do you like Disney music?

KELLIE: I like to listen to my Disney CD’s in the car when we take a ride.

KATHY:  Me too!

KELLIE: I have Finding Nemo, The Musical CD and The Lion King CD from Disney World. Do you have those?

KATHY:  No, but I will have to get them. I love both those shows at Animal Kingdom. Which one do you like best?

KELLIE: The Lion King!

KATHY:  Me too. I could see it a hundred times and not get tired of it!

EVETTE: She’s now quoting some of the dialogue from Nemo…

KATHY:  The puppets in that one are amazing… I forget that there are actors underneath!

EVETTE: Now she’s singing ‘Hakuna Matata’ from Lion King!

KATHY: That song is so catchy! I will probably be humming that all day, now that it’s in my head!

EVETTE: (She laughed)

KELLIE: Who is your favorite Character?

KATHY:  Oh boy, I love so many characters. Probably Mickey and Minnie! How about you?

KELLIE: Goofy.

KATHY:  Gawrsh!

EVETTE:  (She laughed)

KATHY:  Kellie, thank you so much for spending time with me!

KELLIE: You’re welcome.

KATHY:  I’m so glad that you are my new Disney friend!


KATHY:  Evette, let me ask you… why do you think the Disney Parks are so magical for your daughter?

EVETTE: I’ll try to sum up her feelings. I think she loves them because she still has a sense of innocence and wonder. She believes in the magic that being in the parks evokes.  Mickey Mouse and Goofy, etc. are real to her (she still believes in Santa and the Easter Bunny too.)  Disney World or Disneyland allows her to believe in and see the magic around her.

KATHY: Perhaps that’s a gift that God gives to our children with developmental disabilities… they get to keep the best of childhood forever!

EVETTE: I do believe that!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

(This interview originates from 2011.)

Thanks for reading,


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Listener Q and A and a Toy Story Midway Mania Monologue 049

Kathy answers questions about Magic Bands and resort room accessibility, RFID technology and insulin pumps, piped-in odors in attractions and COPD, and more. Toy Story Midway Mania Testing and the DAS


Questions and Answers:

Q. From Bruce: Going solo to Walt Disney World with a scooter, I always have problems entering my room. First: using my Magic Band to open the door. All the readers are above the handle. Am I the only person who has problems doing mickey to mickey while sitting in the scooter? Next: trying to get my scooter into the room past the door. Disney does have special handicap rooms. Do you think it would be useful to install an auxiliary Magic Band reader that will automatically open the door for you?

A. I think this would make a lot of sense, Bruce! Currently the accessible rooms use the same Magic Band readers as all the other rooms. You are not alone, Bruce! Several members of the Special Mouse community group mentioned having difficulty with wrist flexibility which makes it difficult to open their doors using the Magic Band.

Michael says he found that turning the Mickey ears around so they are facing palm down improves the ability to make the contact with the sensor.

Well, Bruce, in my opinion, it really doesn’t make sense not to position the sensor for the person in the w/c or scooter a bit lower in the accessible rooms. Doesn’t make sense not to position the sensor for the person in the w/c or scooter. It assumes dependence: that the person seated always has a travel companion that will open the door for them if needed. Sounds like a good feedback item to communicate during the Customer Satisfaction surveys that Disney is so fond of using!

As to having difficulty riding your scooter through the door when you are alone, there are plenty of others who share your problem. Gale mentions that she regularly struggles unless there is another person to hold the door open due to the automatic closing mechanism. She says, “I think there should maybe be some sort of sensor where the door will not close as long as something is blocking it…like a person or scooter or even the luggage cart.”

Sue has stayed often at WDW with her daughter who uses a wheelchair and she reports that guests can call Engineering and get the automatic door closer disabled while you are staying in an accessible room, but warns that the door is still heavy, and you have to make sure it closes behind you. Stephen clarifies that only guests staying in accessible rooms have the option of disabling the automatic door closing device.


Q: Jennifer asks, “What kind of additional accommodations does Guest Services offer? I am taking my son with Autism to WDW for the first time in November so all of this info is very helpful.”

A: Jennifer, upon request, the two most common accommodations that are being provided to some guests on the Autism Spectrum, in addition to the DAS (Disability Access Service Card) are:

(1) Paper FastPasses good for only one-park-one-day for a particular attraction if your child obsesses about riding more than once in a row and

(2) Your first return time being written on your DAS card by the CM at Guest Relations for the attraction of your choice. This second one is offered less commonly than the first. The distribution of any additional accommodations are determined at the discretion of the CM at Guest Relations and are not guaranteed; it is generally believed they are available based upon supply and demand.
If you have questions about requesting Disney’s DAS Card, please visit and visit either the blog or the podcast page. In the sidebars you will find out how to have The Special Mouse Guide to Requesting Disney’s DAS Card sent directly to you via email.
This next question came in via Twitter as a response to the latest post on the Special Mouse blog. (Yes, we have a blog!) The post in question is “Princesses with Pumps: Touring WDW with an Insulin Pump.”

Q: Morgan wants to know if guests have had any issues with RFID interfering with their blood sugar monitoring devices while at Walt DisneyWorld.

A. Morgan, this question has come up a lot since Disney implemented the Magic Band technology in the theme parks and resorts. MagicBands use Radio Frequency technology to allow you to touch to enter your Disney Resort hotel room and the Walt Disney World parks, make purchases at select locations, and access the FastPass+ attractions and shows you’ve selected.
RFID technology has been used for some time in credit cards, in highway toll paying such as EZPass or SunPass, in some video game controllers so if you haven’t had a problem with these, chances are you will not have a problem at Disney. HOWEVER,

It should be noted that the MagicBand packaging does include a few medical notices, particularly for guests using implanted pacemakers or defibrillators. If you use these or any other medical device such as an insulin pump, neurostimulator, or hearing aid, you’re encouraged to seek medical counsel about RFID interaction with your medical device.

Unrelated to the RFID, there have been a few reports on DisBoards of guests having some problems with insulin pumps malfunctioning on rides that use strong magnetic fields such as Rock and Roller Coaster and Tomorrowland Transit Authority. (There have also been many reports of people having no problems at all), but it would not be unreasonable to consider disconnecting the pump or turning it off when going on these kinds of rides.

Please remember that each model of insulin pump is different so I agree that the most sensible thing to do is to check with the manufacturer of your device directly.


Q: Whitney asks: I’ve read on a couple of different sites that some of the rides have smells pumped into them. Are these smells super strong, or are they just kind of faint hints of smell? My grandmother has COPD and will have coughing fits if she’s trapped in an area with really strong smells, like Bath and Body Works, for example. Do you think these rides will be bothersome to her?

A: There are indeed Rides/Attractions With Purposely Piped-In Scents, some pleasant and some unpleasant:

Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Magic Kingdom, you can smell the pie during the “Be our Guest” sequence.
Soarin’, Epcot. Smell the pine forests and orange groves of California.
Spaceship Earth, Epcot. Oddly enough, many people enjoy the smell of Rome burning (myself included.)

Some of the unpleasant piped-in smells are found at:
Stitch’s Great Escape, Magic Kingdom. Stitch belches chili dog, in your face.
Journey into Imagination, Epcot. Figment as a Skunk!
It’s Tough to Be a Bug, Animal Kingdom. The stink bug IS stinky!

Whitney, I think that the key phrase in your question is “if she’s trapped in an area,” which I take it to mean “a confined space” might these smells be bothersome and cause her to cough.

Let’s look at the examples from that perspective:

On Spaceship Earth and Journey into Imagination, you are in a ride vehicle that moves you quickly through the smells, preventing you from becoming overwhelmed. On the other hand, when you experience Mickey’s Philharmagic, ITTBAB and Stitch you are pretty much stuck in one place and must wait for the odor – whether pleasant or unpleasant – to dissipate. (It may SEEM like you’re moving through those orange groves on Soarin’, but the scented spray actually comes from your own seat, which is fixed.)

In general, these artificial odors are harmless. But there is no one “right” answer to this question. For example, one of the members in our FB group says that HE uses 3 inhalers, nasal spray and an antihistamine daily … and none of the smells used by Disney bother him. But Whitney, he is not your grandmother! If your grandmother is particularly sensitive to smells, and feels they may aggregate her medical condition, common sense should tell her to sit those attractions out.

Sometimes the artificial smells don’t necessarily cause breathing difficulties, they are just downright unpleasant! One of our group members writes,

“I am very sensitive to smells even when most people don’t notice them. I don’t go on Journey Into Imagination, Stitch or any 3D/4D movies. I think those are the only attractions that add smells. The biggest problem that I notice with smells are the lobbies of the resorts (especially noticeable at the Grand Floridian and Contemporary) and all of the restrooms in the parks. They pump smells into those areas especially and sometimes they can be very strong. At times I need to leave or rush through these areas quickly to avoid feeling sick..”

Good to know; sometimes it’s just trial-and-error when it comes to figuring out what will bother you sensory-wise.
Whitney, please tweet me and let me know how things turned out! I wish you and your grandmother a pixie-dusted Disney vacation full of magical memories!
And, if YOU have any comments or questions about Disney travel with special needs, I would LOVE to hear them! You can Tweet me, Kathy, @SpecialMousePod or send an e-mail to If I don’t know the answer, I will find it for you!


Special “Thank You” to friend of the show, Michael Carrasco, for his recurring donation. I appreciate your support!

If you would like to show your support for Special Mouse, please visit the DONATE page. Thanks!


~ Kathy

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