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Adventures by Disney Trip Report: Germany Using a Wheelchair – 072

Mike_Greer

 

Willkommen! This week’s feature is truly a special trip report, because although we’ve visited Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Disneyland Paris and the Disney Cruise Line in past trip reports, today I’m bringing you our first-ever Adventures by Disney report! Our good friend, Mike Greer, is back – this time to tell us all about his 2012 Adventures by Disney trip to Germany. Warning: we talked for a long, long time!

 

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Photo: Adventures by Disney

 

You may recall that Mike was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI), a genetic bone disorder characterized by fragile bones that break easily. It is also known as “brittle bone disease.” Mike uses a wheelchair to get around, so he shares lots of information on the wheelchair accessibility of this particular Adventures by Disney trip itinerary. We also talked about the ways in which he prepared himself physically to push his manual wheelchair over grass and cobblestone roads.

Mike covers the Germany vacation in depth:

  • Their accessible airport “adventure” in Frankfurt!
  • Their stay at HOTEL SCHLOSS WALDECK, an 11th-century castle-turned-resort, perched high above the Edersee.
  • Touring the charming town of Waldeck, including archery, beer-tasting, and a scenic ferry ride on Lake Edersee.
  • Touring the lavish LÖWENBURG CASTLE.
  • Visiting the famous STEIFF BEAR MUSEUM. The company’s founder, Margaret Steiff, invented the teddy bear.
  • Pretzel-Making at STRIFFLER BAKERY, the oldest bakery in Rothenburg.
  • A lamp-lit walk with the night watchman in Rothenburg.
  • Their visit to the snowy-white NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE — an inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland ® Park.
  • A scenic ride on the “ROMANTIC ROAD” to Munich.
  • And much more.
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Photo: Adventures by Disney

 

If you would like more information about Adventures by Disney, including a complete list of destinations worldwide, please visit the official website, adventuresbydisney.com.

Tip of the Week:

Summer afternoons at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida are notoriously hot, humid, crowded and often rainy. My first recommendation is that your return to your resort for an afternoon break or swim, but if you want to stay in the parks, plan to see indoor shows or smaller attractions. Don’t try to fight the crowds at the popular ones and don’t plan to spend a lot of time outdoors.

Here are some great summer afternoon choices that typically do not require the use of a FastPass+ reservation:

Magic Kingdom: The Hall of Presidents, Carousel of Progress, Country Bears Jamboree, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority.

Epcot – Future World: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, Innoventions, and the aquarium exhibits at The Seas pavilion.

Epcot – World Showcase: The American Adventure and the movies in the Canada, France and China pavilions.

Animal Kingdom: It’s Tough to be a Bug, Finding Nemo: the Musical, and the indoor activities at Rafiki’s Planet Watch.

Disney Studios: One Man’s Dream, MuppetVision 3D and the Magic of Disney Animation.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Mousellaneous:

I’ve received several emails and Facebook messages from folks who missed the Kickstarter, but are interested in obtaining Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide. The book is still a work-in-progress, but if you would like an email notification when it becomes available on Amazon, please visit specialmouse.com/book and sign up!

Thank you for listening!

Kathy

 

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Kathy’s Trip Report: Walt Disney World with a Teenager who has Autism

The tables are turned as guest co-host Kim Slusher from the DIStracted Life podcast interviews Kathy about her family’s latest Walt Disney World vacation with a teenager who has Autism!

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We talked about many things, including:

How I prepared for visiting Walt Disney World with the challenges of my son’s autism.

Our l-o-n-g two-day drive from New Jersey to Florida (and why we chose to drive instead of fly.)

My impression of the one-bedroom villa at Disney’s Bay Lake Tower.

My son’s first experience using Magic Bands, the DAS (Disney’s accommodation for guests with cognitive and behavioral disabilities), and how we managed when attractions broke down.

Our VIP backstage meet ‘n greet with the cast of Finding Nemo: The Musical!

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Our experience with the Frozen Summer Kickoff, a 24-hour event at the Magic Kingdom, and how that and the Memorial Day holiday affected crowds.

The first-ever Special Mouse Podcast listener  Walt Disney World meet-up!

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It was fun meeting some of you “in real life.”

The importance of taking breaks, both during your day and during your vacation.

…and much more!

Kim’s two children also have “invisible” special needs. Our respective experiences with the DAS were discussed at length, including our overall impression of the new system of accommodation and how it may not truly accommodate all people on the autism spectrum.

 

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Here’s Kim with her lovely family!

I’ll return with the usual show format next week.

Thanks for listening!

Kathy

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Teen with Cerebral Palsy is Rolling with the Disney Magic! 071

DOW Logo

Today’s feature guest is Andrew Prince from Ohio.  Andrew is a contributing writer of Disney on Wheels for the WDWRadio blog.  He was born with cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair. (Cerebral palsy affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills, gross motor skills and oral motor functioning.)

Andrew is an experienced wheelchair traveler and has been to both US Disney parks, several D23 events and is a DCL gold castaway member!

A.Prince

Andrew’s Disney travels began with a trip to Walt Disney World in 2003, where he met his first “crush,” Mary Poppins! Since then, he and his Disney-loving family have traveled and cruised extensively with Disney. He hopes that his blog will encourage others with cerebral palsy or other mobility challenges to pursue Disney travel on wheels!

First trip to WDW Oct 2003 Mary Poppins!

If you would like to contact him feel free to e-mail him at arprince@bex.net or look him up on Facebook and on Twitter.  Disney on Wheels itself can be accessed on Facebook here,  or you can join the Disney on Wheels Facebook Group.  The archives on WDWRadio can be accessed here.

First trip to WDW family with Mickey!

 

Tip of the Week:

This week’s tip concerns the use of Disney’s DAS (Disability Access Service) system. The DAS is used in conjunction with the FastPass system to reserve ride times for certain popular attractions. Unfortunately, theme park attractions do break down from time to time and it is particularly frustrating when they do so during your ride reservation window! What do you do when you are given a DAS return time only to discover that the attraction has broken down? This happened to our family twice on our recent WDW vacation, once at Epcot’s Test Track and once on Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom.

Because Cast Members are unable to determine how long an attraction will be out of service, they are unable to provide DAS return times while the attraction is out of service. (This is because DAS return times are based upon current standby wait times.) We discovered that CMs were unable to delete or edit our DAS return times using their handheld devices. Instead, we were directed to choose another attraction and visit the FastPass return kiosk at the new attraction to make a brand-new DAS reservation. (FastPass holders would need to do the same thing; visit a FP kiosk and make changes.)

This is one more reason why it is important to prepare the person with cognitive, psychological or developmental disabilities for the possibility of ride breakdown and a change of plans!

Mousekeeping:

Thanks and shout-outs on-air for supporters of Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide on Kickstarter!

I will be a guest on the Big Fat Panda Show later this month! Check out this fantastic youtube channel by my friend, John Saccheri. (I’ll share the link when the show goes “live!”)

Thanks for listening,

Kathy

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Disneyland with an Autism Service Dog and More! 070

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Today’s feature chat is all about Autism service dogs. We’ve discussed service dogs at the Disney Parks and on the Disney Cruise Line in past episodes, but this conversation is specifically about Autism service dogs. So if you either have or are hoping to obtain an Autism service dog, you will definitely want to listen to this conversation!

My guests are Katie Wolfe, Placement and Training Director at Autism Service Dogs of America and Christine Johnson, who recently had an autism service dog from this organization placed in her home to assist her son. Christine tells us about the experience AND all about her family’s recent trip to Disneyland with their new service dog.

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Our service dogs provide physical safety and an emotional anchor for children with autism. With their child tethered to a service dog, families are able to engage in activities as simple as going to the park or going out to eat as a family. When out in the community, a service dog increases safety and helps families feel secure. The service dog’s calming presence can minimize and often eliminate emotional outbursts, enabling the child to more fully participate in community and family activities. In many cases, the service dog accompanies the child to school, helping with transitions between activities and locations. Having a service dog helps increase opportunities for the child to develop social and language skills with others.

Visit their website at Autism Service Dogs of America.

 

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Tip of the Week:

Our family will be heading down to Walt Disney World in about 3 weeks’ time and this just happens to be our first vacation with multiple iPhones and an iPad. Billy is no longer interested in the more portable handheld video games, unfortunately, so he will be bringing his iPad with him to the Parks to entertain and distract him when waiting in the various lines that we are oh-so-familiar with.

And what with the need for the My Disney Experience app and social media apps and perhaps some use of the voice recording app that I would like to use for the podcast, I anticipate that we are going to be using up the battery life on our respective devices rather quickly each day.

So one of the items that I will definitely be packing with us for our trip is the 4-port USB charging hub that I gave to my husband as a stocking stuffer this past Christmas. This particular one is by the Sharper Image.

This device fits into any wall outlet, and features one 2.1 amp USB port for fast-charging tablets and three 1 amp ports for most other USB-compatible devices.

I’m planning to use this in our resort room, of course, but it’s extremely light and has a 5’long cord, so I imagine that I’ll be able to use it in the parks as well and I’ll only need one cord for all 3 of our devices.

 

Mousekeeping:

Some Walt Disney World news to share that will be of interest to guests traveling with a person who has a feeding tube and is making pre-paid dining reservations. As you may or may not know, many dining experiences at WDW require pre-payment of all meals at the time the reservation is made.  This applies to character buffets like Chef Mickey’s and the Crystal Palace, dinner shows like the Hoop-dee-doo Review, and family-style dining at restaurants like O’hana.

In the past, Disney Dining required that every person attending the meal be charged for the meal, including people who were not actually EATING the meal because they were tube fed. So, guests would have to appeal to the server at the time of the meal and request that the charge for the tube-fed person be removed. I’ve rarely heard of anyone being denied this request, but nevertheless, why should anyone have to spend time and energy doing this while on vacation?

So, official word given to Disney Travel agents is that Cast Members at the Disney Dining reservation system have been given the OK to employ a procedure to get around this policy.

How will it work?

First, Disney Dining will book the reservation for the total number of people in the party. They will book the adult or child with the feeding tube as an “infant” so that person will not be charged for a meal. Then Disney Dining will place internal notes on the reservation stating that one guest will not be eating due to special needs.

Please note that this is an internal workaround that applies to pre-paid dining reservations ONLY: it has nothing to do with the Disney Dining Plan travel packages which are attached to park tickets.

The advantage of this is new procedure is that it removes the awkward tableside negotiating regarding the check. A small change, yes, and one that you may argue has been a long time coming, but, it is a positive change nevertheless and one that I am happy to share with you.

* * * * *

We’ve been given a first look at this year’s Food Allergy and Celiac Convention that will be held at WDW on October 18, 2015.

The main event will be an Illuminations fireworks Dessert Party completely free of gluten and the top 8 food allergens.  The Dessert party will be held at the France Pavilion inside the World Showcase at the Epcot and theme park admission is required.  Visit Celebrate Awareness for information regarding ticket sales, travel packages, and more.

* * * * *

Registration is open for the 3rd annual Epilepsy Awareness Day at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. This event is for people of all ages with epilepsy, their families and friends, and those whose lives are touched by epilepsy or who want to raise awareness for epilepsy.

This year the event will be comprised of a free Epilepsy Awareness and Education Expo held at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel on Wednesday, November 4th, followed by, “a day of excitement at Disneyland, paired with the gathering of 2500 guests, all wearing the event T-Shirts and waving their signs” at the Disneyland resort, Thursday, November 5th.  Please visit Epilepsy Awareness Day for more information.

Epilepsy Awareness Day Logo

* * * * *

The first-ever Special Mouse Podcast listener WDW meet-up is right around the corner! We’ll be gathering on Friday, May 22 at the Contempo Café, located on the 4th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, from 4 to 6 pm. Quick service refreshments will be available for purchase and I’ll be supplying some allergy-free treats from Erin McKenna’s Bakery for us to nibble on. If you’ll be in the area May 22nd, I hope to see you there.

contempo-cafe

 

 

And finally, thank you to all who supported the Kickstarter campaign to publish Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide! The project was fully funded on May 7th and if all goes as planned, the book will be available by the end of the year!

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Magic Kingdom TR: First Visit for Child with Multiple Special Needs 069

Emmalee Disney 2

 

Today’s feature is a magical one-day mini trip report from Wayne Cordova, father of a 4-yr-old Emmalee, who has multiple special needs: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hypotonia (muscle weakness) and developmental delay. Wayne enthusiastically shares his trip-planning strategy and how he and his wife, Tina, structured their one-day visit to the Magic Kingdom so as to ensure a successful experience for their daughter. Emmalee was able to access her must-do experiences (meeting Mickey Mouse and Anna & Elsa and riding it’s a small world) with help of the DAS and the stroller-as-a-wheelchair tag.

 

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Wayne believes that parents of children with multiple special needs have access to numerous planning resources that can help them ensure successful Walt Disney World trips for their families. He shares some of his resources here:

“Easy WDW was the first Crowd Calendar I looked at” –  http://www.easywdw.com/category/calendar/01-january-2015-crowd-calendar/

“The first blog I read about the DAS card” – http://temporarytourist.com/wdw-disability-assistance-serviccard-das-walt-disney-world/

“I then turned to podcasts for some info… and found WDW Radio episode 384” – http://www.wdwradio.com/2014/11/show-384-10-things-need-know-traveling-walt-disney-world-special-needs/

“Which led me to your podcast!”

Special Mouse #045 – http://specialmouse.com/5-kids-2-das-cards-1-magical-walt-disney-world-vacation-045/

Special Mouse #050 – http://specialmouse.com/disney-das-card-survey-results-050/

(I’m thrilled that our podcast was able to help the Cordova family!) You can connect with Wayne and Tina here:

Tina’s Blog  http://tinacordova.com/

Wayne’s Blog  http://www.waynecordova.com/

Wayne’s Podcast  http://www.geekpastor.com/

Social:

http://Twitter.com/WayneCordova

http://Facebook.com/GeekPastor

* * * * * * * * * *

Tip of the Week:

The DAS system is expected to go digital this week at the WDW resort and there will be a slight change in procedure. Our tip is to assist you during the transition period.

Here is how it will work:

1.) Visit Guest Relations in any park and request the DAS – The person in need of accommodation will need to have the entire party present.

2.) The Guest in need of the DAS accommodation will have a picture taken and his or her name will be entered into the system. (Up to now, the procedure is the same as before.)  Now the information will also be placed on the guest’s MagicBand.

3.) To use the DAS, the Guest will go to an attraction and have their MagicBand read via the Cast Member’s scanner. The photo and information of the Guest needing the DAS will come up and the CM will verify that it matches the guest wearing the MagicBand.

The scanner will then provide a return time.

4.) Upon return to the attraction, the Guest who had the DAS assigned to them MUST scan his MagicBand first, followed by the rest of the party. If not done in that order, it won’t register.

The picture and name of the Guest needing the DAS will then be verified by the CM before the group will be allowed to enter the attraction.

 

Naturally, there may be a few bugs in the system during the first week or two, so today’s tip of the week to help you through the transition comes to us from two Special Mouse listeners.  Maureen says,

“As a precaution so we don’t lose them, I’m going to take a screen shot of my FP+ times before I load any DAS return times into the MDE app. I know they are supposed to be in two different parts of the system, but they still have issues with FP+ messing up and I don’t want to take the risk.”

And this is echoed by Sue, who says,

“We’ve used the MDE for Fastpasses on 4 trips now and we always take screenshots.

You can go back to view them in the MDE app whenever you want, but sometimes the wifi in the parks is better than others.

So, rather than use up phone power trying to connect to wifi or use phone data time, we just do screenshots at the beginning of the day and each time we make a change.”

* * * * * * * * * *

MY sincere thanks to all of you who have pledged to support the publication of Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide and for tolerating the many, many messages about it that I’ve been sharing this month on social media. I promise that they will stop on May 7th when the campaign ends!

If you or someone you know will be traveling to WDW with a teenager or a child on the autism spectrum in the near future, pledging to the Kickstarter is a way for you to pre-order the book so that you have it on DAY ONE of its release.

There are lots of additional rewards for pledging and so I urge you to visit the page before the campaign ends on May 7th and thank you again for your friendship and your support!

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~ Kathy

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Teen with Autism Channels his Inner Walt Disney to Help Himself and Others – 068

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My featured guest is Max Miller, 13-year-old artist and author of Hello, My Name is Max and I Have Autism, and founder of the Blue Ribbon Arts Initiative.

Max wrote his first book, Hello, My Name is Max and I Have Autism as a way of sharing what autism was like through his perspective. Non-verbal until the age of six, Max struggled with language and used art to express himself. By the age of 10, he learned how to read and write. At 12, he published his first book as he wanted to make a difference for other children, especially for those who could not speak. His intention is to help create compassion, awareness and understanding for children affected by autism.

Max wanted to take his advocacy further and he created Blue Ribbon Arts Initiative. A portion of his royalties benefit his foundation. Max said, “Art saved him,” and he wants to share the gift of art with other children. He is doing so by providing low-income children with Autism Spectrum Disorder “Art Start Kits” to help them get started with their creations and by hosting an art show to celebrate the work of kids on the autism spectrum. You can email Max via his mom at insightintotheautisticmind@gmail.com.

Max, his mother and I discuss autism, art, his book and something that he shares in common with Walt Disney! His foundation’s first art show, “Youth Artists on the Spectrum: A Celebration of Neurodiversity,” which will run from April 2-25, 2015 on limited days and hours. Friday and Saturday from 1-4 and by appointment.  Call 40 West Arts 303-275-3430 or Blue Ribbon 720-999-6130 to set an appointment time.

Hello, My Name

Max’s book is available on Amazon

 

News:

Disney has announced they will roll out Allergy-Friendly Menus to around 120 restaurants. The menus will be available at both counter service and table service locations throughout Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks and resorts and will include offerings at the Disney water parks and Downtown Disney restaurants as well.

You can read more about it on the Disney Food Blog.

Mousekeeping:

The Special Mouse Community will be having its first Disney Parks meet-up next month at Walt Disney World! We’re meeting at the Contemporary Resort’s Contempo Café on Friday, May 22 from 4 to 6 PM. Yes, this is the same day as the Disney Side 24-hour event at the Magic Kingdom! So, if you’ll be up before dawn to attend that event and you find yourself starting to drag just a little in the late afternoon, head on over to the Contemporary and hang out with us in the air-conditioning for a while. Hope to see you there!

Many thanks to all of you who have pledged to support the publication of Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide on Kickstarter! The campaign ends on May 7th.

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~ Kathy

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Autism Awareness Month Continues with Guest Tricia Ballad – 067

autism-awareness

We continue our month-long celebration of Autism Awareness with today’s feature. I’m chatting with Tricia Ballad, a published fiction author, Disney fan and Autism Mom. We’re talking about her family’s recent trip to Walt Disney World and she introduces me to a workshop she’s created for parents of children recently diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and other Autism-related diagnoses.

The Autism Parents’ Starter Kit includes a series of video discussions on parenting a child with autism, printable resources, and an interactive discussion area where parents can ask questions and connect with other parents. It will be available April 15 on Udemy.com.

Tricia has generously offered a 50% discount to the Autism Parents’ Starter Kit for Special Mouse listeners! You can access it HERE.

Mousekeeping:

The Special Mouse Community will be having its first Disney Parks meet-up next month at Walt Disney World! We’re meeting at the Contemporary Resort’s Contempo Café on Friday, May 22 from 4 to 6 PM. Yes, this is the same day as the Disney Side 24-hour event at the Magic Kingdom! So, if you’ll be up before dawn to attend that event and you find yourself starting to drag just a little in the late afternoon, head on over to the Contemporary and hang out with us in the air-conditioning for a while. I would love to meet you in real life!

Second,

Thanks to all of you who have supported the Kickstarter crowdfunding project I’m running, with either a pledge or a share on social media or in many cases, both. This project is to help publish my upcoming book, Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide! A book which, by the way, I am really surprised hasn’t been written by anyone yet, considering that there are soooo many families with kids on the Autism Spectrum that love WDW or are anxious about visiting WDW — or both!

Twitter Post

You know, I never really talk about it here on the show, but it does cost a bit of money to produce and deliver a podcast like this one – which I love doing and will always provide to listeners free of charge – but, it doesn’t leave me with a lot of extra money lying around to pay for the expenses involved in self-publishing a book!  There’s stuff like professional editing, and the cover art (which, by the way, was created by the very talented Mr. Danny Lawless from the Magic Our Way podcast – shout out to Danny!) and the book will need to be formatted for print and indexed, etc. So, it actually costs several thousand dollars to do this thing!

The wonderful thing about pledging to help with Kickstarter is that instead of just sending me, Kathy Kelly, a check for 10 or 20 or 50 dollars, you will earn some pretty cool rewards for backing the book!

There’s everything from Safety ID Stickers for Kids, created by an autism mom, to sensory-friendly kids costumes from Mom Approved Costumes, to exclusive sneak-peek chapters of the book that I’ll send to your inbox, to personal autism theme park coaching with me via Skype… there are just too many goodies to mention here.

And, of course, you can pre-order a copy of the book itself, which is the main “reward.”

So please, I urge you to visit Kickstarter.com and make a pledge to Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide today. The campaign will end May 7th and here’s the big thing – for those of you who aren’t familiar with Kickstarter.

If I do not raise the full amount that I’m seeking, the campaign fails and I get nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No one’s credit card gets charged and, frankly, it’s going to take a whole lot longer for me to get the book published and into your hands. If the Kickstarter is a success, you should be able to get it by November/December of this year.

I’ve also created a Facebook page for the book called, naturally, Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide.

Which, by the way, a lot of people have told me that it’s been much easier for them to log into Kickstarter.com for the first time using their Facebook account, especially if they are using a mobile device – so there’s a tip for you.

Thank you so, so very much!

Tip of the Week:

If you’re staying at a Disney Resort Hotel you can order waterproof mattress covers for your hotel bed. When you travel with someone, adult or child, who has issues with urinary incontinence or nighttime bed-wetting, it can be a great source of stress.

For many years my son with autism wet his bed at lease 3-4 times per week and even if he was wearing pull-ups they would often leak. I was always worried about this happening when we were staying at a hotel.

Instead of trying to pack a waterproof bed pad in your luggage, you can order one ahead of time. Definitely mention this to your Disney Travel Agent or, if you’re making your own travel arrangements, contact Walt Disney Resort Special Reservations at 407-939-7807, or  Disneyland Resort Special Reservations at 714-520-5045.

Thanks for listening,

Kathy

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Diabetic Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World, New DCL Service Dog Gangway Pass and more! 066

Service Animal Gangway Pass

Guest: Robyn Adams. We discuss DAS Rumors, Diabetic Mouseketeers at Walt Disney World, the new DCL Service Dog Gangway Pass and more. It’s a Round Robin with Robyn!

We’re calling out a blog-disguised-as-a-news site that is posting rumors about changes coming to the DAS Card at Walt Disney World that are emotionally manipulative.

We discuss the upcoming Special Mouse Listener Meet  Friday, May 22, at the Contempo Cafe inside Disney’s Contemporary Resort. (4 PM to 6 PM)

This coincides with Robyn’s Diabetic Mouseketeers Weekend, an opportunity “for Diabetic families to go to Walt Disney World and make their own memories while getting a chance to meet other Diabetic families.

Another item we talk about is something shared by listener, Mark Sumonka. Mark has cruised multiple times with the Disney Cruise Line (DCL) and today he posted a picture of something new for guests with service animals: a “Gangway Pass.” (We believe this is an internal method of notifying Cast Members on the ship that guests have already notified Disney that they would be traveling with the service animal when booking the cruise.)

For more information about Diabetic Mouseketeers’ and Walt Disney World, contact Robyn Adams at
Robyn@travelwiththemagic.com
www.travelwiththemagic.com

Tip of the Week:

As part of Autism Awareness Month, I’d like to spotlight Beth Blancher at Mouse-Aid. Beth has created social stories for people with Autism and related challenges to use at Walt Disney World. Social stories are short descriptions of a particular situation, event or activity, which include specific information about what to expect in that situation and why. Social Stories can help a person with autism to understand how others might behave or respond in a particular situation, and therefore how they might be expected to behave.

Check them out at  mouse-aid.org. 

* * * * * * * * *

Please visit my page on Kickstarter to learn more about the book I am writing,

Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide

Thank you!

~ Kathy

 

 

 

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Accessible Travel and the Special Needs Family: A Discussion with the Founders of Special Globe – 065

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Today I’m chatting with Jonathan Yardley and Meghann Harris, founders of an innovative special-needs travel site called Special Globe.

They have created a site “that will allow parents the ability to book custom trips, book hotels and share their experiences and learn from other parents and experts through forums and written articles about everything from tips and tricks, top ten things to do and basic travel advice.”  They plan to develop their own itinerary guides for Special Globe members that would include comprehensive information about special needs travel. Where to stay, where to eat, what wonderful activities would be available to you that your whole family could enjoy, where are the hospitals, where are the pharmacies, where can I get a beach scooter, where can I get a certified aid that could help my family while on vacation in each of these locales and much more. All of it completely free of charge.

Meghann has two children; her daughter was diagnosed with atypical Rett Syndrome when she was one year old. Meghann’s love of family travel and her strong desire to provide that same experience to her family was the driving force behind the creation of Special Globe.

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You can visit the Special Globe website HERE and connect with them on social media on Twitter , Facebook , and YouTube.

Mousekeeping:

Well, the feedback keep pouring in on the Facebook Group for the cover image for my upcoming book, Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide. I posted the top three images, asked you all to vote, and you’ve been no help at all because there’s a hundred comments and the votes are all over the place!

So, it’s back to the drawing board for the illustrator who will be tweaking the design based upon your suggestions. (I should probably run some kind of a contest or something, I’ll have to think about that a bit.)

Naturally, I’m really excited about bringing this book to you. Our family’s been enjoying WDW pretty much every year for the past 12 years and so we’ve learned a lot about navigating the parks with our son, Billy, who has Autism. We’ll be into the April in a couple of days and, if you are not aware, April is Autism Awareness Month in the United States, and World Autism Awareness Day will be celebrated on April 2nd.

Unfortunately, I will be celebrating World Autism Awareness Day by increasing my awareness of our state’s judicial system, as I was called to State Grand Jury selection on that very day. Yuckk!

The real celebration for me will come sometime early in April – I don’t have the exact date, yet, but I promise I will let you know – when I launch the Kickstarter campaign to help me publish the book!

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a crowdfunding platform for creative projects like books, films, music albums, etc.

Essentially, it’s a way for you to pre-order the book AND support the project in general.

I’ve set up a page here on the website and also a Facebook page for Walt Disney World with Autism: A Special Needs Guide; please visit either of those if you’d like more information.

Opinion: DAS Rumors!

My take on this week’s rumor; please see this blog post. Let’s not begin yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater.

Tip of the Week:

This week’s tip addresses concerns about TSA Security and air travel with pre-filled medication syringes.

TSA

If you’re worried that your medication syringes will be opened and the liquid tested by Transportation Security Administration agents, you may rest at ease. The only reason that agents may screen your liquid-filled syringes is if they appear to be tampered with. The TSA suggests that you keep all pre-filled syringes sealed and transport them in their original box that has the prescription label attached.

Have your syringes in an easily accessible place in your carry on. Put them in the bin when you are going through the screening process. The more upfront you are about medically-necessary liquids, the fewer problems you will have.

It is also recommended that you bring a copy of the original prescription from your doctor.

If you have any questions about pre-filled medication syringes or any other medically-necessary liquid, you may call the TSA Cares FREE hotline at 1-855-787-2227 prior to your flight, or, visit the website and click on the tab for travelers with disabilities and medical conditions.

Thanks for listening,

Kathy

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WDW Attraction Vehicle & Seating Guide – Animal Kingdom – 064

Part 4 of a discussion with Erin Foster about accessibility and sensory concerns of attraction vehicles and seating at the Walt Disney World theme parks. Today we visit Animal Kingdom!

We break down  all of the Attractions and Shows by:

– Seating capacity per row

– Seating capacity per attraction vehicle

– Wheelchair accessibility

– ECV or Scooter accessibility

-Stroller accessibility

– Seating surface

– Safety restraints

– Boarding procedure

– Height requirement

– Sensory issues: sights, sounds, smells, motion

You can read Erin’s original blog Here.

 

We also touched on The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line 2015, which Erin co-authored with Len Testa and Laurel Stewart.

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Tip of the Week:

Today’s tip is in response to a listener question about the Kids Clubs on Disney Cruise ships. Jennifer asks,

“On a cruise if my daughter wants to be in the kid’s club, which I’m sure she will, if she is suppose to get certain meds at certain times will I have to go there and do it? Can I leave the meds with the cast members in there to give to her at those times? How does this work? She is on meds 4 times a day.”

Answer:  Unfortunately, Disney Cruise Line Kids Club counselors are not permitted to administer medications to children due to liability reasons. You will need to either (1) schedule your daughter’s visits around her medication schedule or (2) stop in and give her the medications yourself. You will be given a “sea phone” so that you can communicate with counselors while your daughter is playing in the activity center. For more information about DCL Kids Clubs you can visit the DCL website.

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Thank you to all who voted for Special Mouse in the 10th Annual NMX People’s Choice Podcast Awards! Results will be announced mid-April.

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Please check out our new affiliate, Mom-Approved Costumes! Sensory-friendly, machine washable Disney dress-up clothes.

You will be given a savings coupon code and Special Mouse will earn a small commission if you make your purchases using the link in the sidebar, right >>>>>>>>>

It’s a fun and easy way to help support the show!

 

Thanks for listening,

 

Kathy

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WDW Attraction Vehicle & Seating Guide, Part Three: Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 063

BillandTracy

 

Keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times; we’re taking a practical look at the accessibility of vehicles and seating found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, including

– Seating capacity per row
– Seating capacity per vehicle
– ECV and wheelchair accessibility
– Seating surface
– Safety restraints
– Boarding procedure
– Height requirement
– Sensory issues

Tip of the Week: Information and a bit of etiquette advice regarding posting questions about Disney’s DAS Card in groups and discussion forums.  How to navigate Disney’s website to find information for Guests with Disabilities.

 

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A Message to Team Mighty Mikey from the Special Mouse Family – 062

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I want to tell you about a very special little boy named Mikey. Mikey was diagnosed with Brain & Spine Cancer in September of 2008, just before his 3rd birthday. For the past 6 years his life has been filled with doctors’ visits and hospitals, needles and chemotherapy. And the Muppets. Lots and lots of Muppets! I’m convinced after seeing his photo albums on Facebook that Mikey is the biggest Sesame Street and Muppets fan in the entire world!

Mikey’s family has been through so much over the course of the past few years. In addition to dealing with Mikey’s illness, his family lost their home to Hurricane Sandy & were forced to uproot themselves from their community. In spite of all this, Mikey has amazed everyone with his courage & bravery. That’s why his family calls him “Mighty Mikey.”

Eventually, however Mikey’s condition became such that medical treatment of the cancer was set aside and Mikey entered Hospice Care with continued treatment focused on comfort measures and his quality of life.

Early this year, his mother Chrissie joined the Special Mouse Podcast Community to help her prepare for Mikey’s Make-a-Wish trip to Walt Disney World and we welcomed her with open arms. We followed along as she posted updates, pictures and videos of their stay at Give Kids the World Village, watching as the family visited the Castle of Miracles and Mikey put his star in Stella the Star Fairy’s treasure box and get his very own pillow from the pillow tree.

We shared in the thrill of Mikey meeting his favorite Disney and Muppet characters, and sent prayers and pixie dust when he was feeling very sick and having lots of pain.

My favorite part was their visit to Busch Gardens, and watching Mikey meet his all-time favorite Muppet friend, Ernie – the look of joy on that boy’s face was indescribable.

Chrissy was going to join me here on the podcast to share the story of the family’s Make-a-Wish Trip so she could offer advice to other families but, sadly, Mikey’s condition has taken a turn for the worse since he returned home.

I’ll share a couple of her most recent posts on Mikey’s fan page:

 

“[The Hospice doctor] was here a little while ago. Our Mighty Mikey is slowly declining and we are just loving every moment we can with him, whether it’s watching Sesame Street or the the Muppets, shopping on Amazon or just holding him while he sleeps.”

“Mikey has been alert and engaged for a good 3 or 4 hours today. I am grateful for every moment of those times. We are taking things one hour at a time and loving the times where he is able to interact and laugh with us.”

 

Chrissie and Matt, Mikey, Katie and Timmy – I haven’t known you for a long time, but you have touched my heart and the hearts of everyone in the Special Mouse family. Please know that we are thinking about you and sending you all of our love as you share these last precious hours together.

 

Kathy

 

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WDW Attraction Vehicle and Seating Guide, Part Two: Epcot – 061

Part 2 of a discussion with Erin Foster about Epcot’s attraction vehicle and seating accessibility and more!

Land

Keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times; we’re taking a practical look at the accessibility of vehicles and seating found at Epcot, including

  • Seating capacity per row
  • Seating capacity per vehicle
  • ECV and wheelchair accessibility
  • Seating surface
  • Safety restraints
  • Boarding procedure
  • Height requirement
  • Sensory issues

 

Tip of the Week:

This week I have a question from Rae who asks about the ECV and wheelchair accessibility of the water taxis that run between Port Orleans & Port Riverside and the Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs) area.

I’m happy to report that they are accessible, unlike the smaller water taxis that run between the Magic Kingdom and the Monorail Resorts (The Polynesian, The Contemporary and The Grand Floridian). This is important to know if you are staying at one of these resorts and are using a scooter or ECV because you will need to use the monorail to get to and from the Magic Kingdom.

Also, some of the smaller launches that run between the Magic Kingdom and the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Resort do not accommodate wheelchairs and scooters, but some of the larger ones do. So, make sure you check the signage when you queue up at the dock before you spend time waiting for a boat that cannot accommodate you. It’s also important to remember that none of these boats run if there is lightning danger, heavy rains or high winds.

Thanks for listening,

 

Kathy

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WDW Attraction Vehicles and Seating Guide, Part One: Magic Kingdom 060

PPan

 

Erin Foster, original member of the Disney Parks Moms Panel and co-author of The Unofficial Guide to the Disney Cruise Line (2015 edition), joins Kathy to discuss her recent four-part blog series at touringplans.com: Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating Guide. Today we take a practical look at the attractions and seating at the Magic Kingdom.

The questions that Erin originally set out to answer in her blog series were:

  • I’m a single parent with two small children, will I be separated from them on rides?
  • I’m a plus-sized person, can I fit into the ride vehicles without embarrassment?
  • My knees are bad, will I have to step up or down to get into the ride vehicles?
  • I’m in a wheelchair, do I have to transfer out of it to go on the rides?
  • I have a large party, how will we be split up when visiting the attractions?
  • I have balance issues, will the attraction vehicle be moving while I’m trying to board?

You can find her post here on Touring Plans.

We expand on this information to include elements of attraction vehicles and seating that have an impact on those with sensory issues and fears:

  • Darkness, bright lights
  • Loud Noises
  • Strong Smells
  • Spinning, Motion Sickness
  • Heights

Included in our discussion is an explanation of the Child Swap, Use of Strollers, Disney Parks policy on Cast Members assisting with transfers to ride vehicles, and the importance of following posted safety guidelines/recommendations (especially for guests who are pregnant or who have pre-existing heart, back and neck problems).

Tip of the Week:

For plus-size guests who may be concerned about ride vehicles that require the use of seat belts: some of the attractions provide seat belt extenders. Ask a cast member about availability at the entrance to an attraction if you are concerned about fitting into the traditional seat belt. You want to be both safe and comfortable!

Join us next time for Part Two of the Walt Disney World Attraction Vehicles and Seating Guide when we look at Epcot.

Thanks for listening,

Kathy

 

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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: disneyparks.disney.go.com

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,

Kathy

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