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Autism and the Disney Factor Special Mouse – Unofficial Disney Parks and Travel for Your Special Needs
Special Mouse – Unofficial Disney Parks and Travel for Your Special Needs

Special Mouse Podcast

Autism and the Disney Factor

Continuing with our Guest Post Series for Autism Awareness Month, here is the lovely Didi Marie from DisTherapy:

disney autism goofy muscles

 

Disney themes are many and universally appealing.  Mickey Mouse has entertained for 87 years with a pure, simple and honest heart.  Aurora, Belle, Jasmine, Cinderella, Snow White have often been described as “maidens pure of heart.”  And who would break Sleeping Beauty’s spell?  A man of pure heart who would fall in love with her.  The autism community has for years told anecdotal stories of the allure and sometimes transformative nature of Disney movies and the Disney Parks.  For my son, it was the trips to these parks that first sparked language, attention and curiosity.  Early on, I had many the spirited conversations with the faculty and administrators at his special education center-based program; they feared that removing him from the structure and predictability of his services would be a dangerous loss of valuable time.  However, by the time he entered Kindergarten, they all but included our twice yearly Disney trips into his IEP!  His leaps ahead in attaining milestones were that remarkable and undeniable.  In my 20 years affiliation with autism schools, I have heard similar tales over and over again. What is it about the Disney magic that calls to these children and adults so uniquely??

 

 


Intellectually, one would think that Walt Disney World would cause complete sensory overload for an autism spectrum individual; the action is constant, the shows and fireworks are LOUD, the many park aromas greet Guests at Main Street, U.S.A., and can often be quite hot, humid and crowded.  How, then, do so many of these children and young adults overcome these obvious obstacles and come to be drawn in?

 

We have recently read of the Disney movie affinities of  New York Times Magazine journalist Ron Suskind’s son.  But the deep, almost magical connections with Disney Characters is something very familiar to the autism community.  Dare I say, Disney “breakthroughs” are far more common than have been documented.

I have my own take.  In the almost three decades that I worked as a physical therapist with both the autism and Downs communities, I have many, many times said that I have seen the face of God.  I will include my own son in that grouping; youngsters who are simple, honest and pure of heart and without the trappings of envy, competition, bullying or any other of the seven deadly sins.  My guess is that that the innocence and goodness that is at the soul of the Disney brand is what attracts these individuals the most.  Perhaps the fantasy and fable that is so exaggerated by Disney Characters is a non-threatening safe haven for them.  The storytelling that Walt Disney is most famous for is more powerful than we thought.  There’s magic in that “whole new world.”  And that trumps any Disney commercial I’ve ever seen…

Didi Marie

DIStherapy

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Thank you, Didi! (My, your sons have done a bit of growing since these photos were taken!)

 This Guest Blogger series for Autism Awareness Month is brought to you by my upcoming book, Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide. I would be most grateful if you would visit my project page on Kickstarter to learn more about the book and how you can pre-order your copy. Thanks!

Kathy

Kick-Image-B

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  1. Donn Kay May 1, 2015

    What a wonderful post! You are such an inspiring mother. Isn’t it amazing what Disney can do?

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