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Planning Your Special-Needs Disney Vacation: Go With the Flow, Dude! - Special Mouse - Unofficial Disney Parks and Travel for Your Special Needs 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

Planning Your Special-Needs Disney Vacation: Go With the Flow, Dude!

 

Crush

 

It’s kind of funny how Life changes. At this moment I’m sitting in a hospital room watching my son’s chest rise and fall in an easy rhythm of sleep. Today is the start of Day Three of inpatient neurological testing and while the experience has been challenging, it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I had anticipated. Today will be the kicker, though: eight hours of nothing-by-mouth-not-even-ice-chips, followed by the dreaded needle stick in his arm in preparation for an MRI. Dum Dum DUM!

But for now, my boy is hugging his pillow and sleeping peacefully and I sigh. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

A quick glance at the calendar reminds me that, hey! I shouldn’t be “wasting” my time scrolling through my Facebook feed; I’ve got a Walt Disney World trip to finish planning! It’s what — seven? No, FIVE months (!) until our vacation and, other than our resort reservation and a rough idea of which parks we plan to visit each day, I haven’t done much trip-planning at all. Kind of ironic since I host a Disney trip-planning podcast!

I chuckle, realizing that at this same point five or ten years ago I would have already created and revised several versions of our “Operational Plan,” as my husband used to call it, teasingly.  Oh, I was the consummate theme park strategist back then, list-maker extraordinaire, queen of the Excel spreadsheet, determined to ensure that our special-needs family would suck every last drop of magic out of our visit to Walt Disney World. How could things have changed so much in just a few short years?

Perhaps it’s not Life that has changed; I have.

I used to think a lot like MARLIN, Nemo’s Dad from Finding Nemo:

Marlin

“It’s okay, daddy’s here. Daddy’s got you. I promise, I will never let anything happen to you…”

Well, perhaps I was never quite as neurotic, but like Marlin, but in the beginning of our Disney vacation story my motivation to plan the “perfect” trip came primarily from a place of fear. Fear that my son would not be able to tolerate the sensory onslaught of the theme park experience. Fear that his behavior would affect his — and thus our entire family’s — ability to enjoy the parks. Fear that we would miss out on some of the “must-do” shows and attractions. Fear that the experience would be so negative that my husband would refuse to come back. The fears, anxieties and apprehensions had the potential of escalating out of control, much like my son’s behavior.

Eventually, I found myself following the advice of Marlin’s travel companion, DORY:

Dory

“We just keep swimming!”

This has actually become somewhat of a mantra for Disney-loving special-needs parents.  No matter what, we tell ourselves, we have to keep going — we have to just keep swimming. There’s a little problem with swimming constantly, however. It requires a tremendous amount of energy, especially during those times that are so stressful they make you feel like you’re caught in a rip current. If you panic and try to fight the current by swimming toward shore, you will exhaust yourself and perhaps drown.

When I feel like Life is pulling me out to sea like a rip current, I’ve found that the best thing to do is to act like CRUSH and go with the flow…

Crush with turtles

“Dude!”

Okay, so I’m not 150 years old, but I have been living on the special-needs-mom timeline for the past 14 years and have been a Disney trip-goer for ten. I’ve learned a thing or two about vacationing with my family, not the least of which is that you can plan and plan and plan some more, but there are always – and I mean always – going to be unexpected variables that will affect how swimmingly our day and even our entire vacation will go. I learned that, incredibly, I cannot prevent anything “bad” from occurring during our Disney vacation.

Let me repeat that:

I cannot prevent anything bad from occurring during our Disney vacation!

It seems like common sense, but it was a difficult lesson for me to learn. Why did I spend so much precious energy chasing after something that is impossible to achieve? Marlin tied himself up into knots worrying about bad things happening to Nemo — why?

Because he had been hurt deeply, of course. He lost his wife and all but one of his children. Like a panicked swimmer caught in a powerful rip tide he felt completely out of control when he was unable to prevent the tragedy. He vowed never to let that happen again. Funny thing is, by holding on too tightly to Nemo he caused the very thing he feared the most!

When something “bad” like a disability or illness or some other form of personal hardship befalls us, it’s natural to respond the way Marlin did. We feel out of control and in response we become control freaks — not all of us to the same degree, of course. But control freaks, nevertheless.

Over the years I discovered that the more I tried to plan, schedule, structure and otherwise “bullet-proof” our Disney vacation, the more things would fall apart anyway! My husband would become irritable, my children would balk and I would find myself in tears halfway through the week wondering what had gone so terribly wrong.

I was holding on too tight; I had to learn how to relax and to be more flexible. As I relaxed, so did my family and we had a much better vacation because of it.

Come to think of it, the more relaxed and flexible I am about my son’s autism, the better our family is able to adapt and cope with it.

So, if you are making preparations for your special-needs Disney vacation and feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, stop your frantic paddling and kicking. Try floating your way out of that rip current and taking leisurely swim back to shore. Try to go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o.

Lyrics to ‘Go With the Flow’ from Finding Nemo the Musical:

ENSEMBLE:
Dude
Focus Dude
Dude

MARLIN:
Ooh

CRUSH:
He lives!

MARLIN:
What happened?

CRUSH:
You took on the jellies, mini man. You saved Little Blue!

MARLIN:
Little Blue? Dory! Is she okay?

DORY:
Catch me if you can! Hi Crush!

SQUIRT:
Kowabunga dude!

MARLIN:
(Gasp!) I gotta get outta here! I gotta find my son! I gotta get to the E.A.C! Hey! How do I get to the E.A.C!?

CRUSH:
Dude
You have travelled far
Ya must be swimmin’ under a lucky star
You’re exactly where you’re meant to be
So grab some shell and surf the E.A.C with me
Go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

ENSEMBLE:
(That’s the only way to do it. Just get on over to it)

CRUSH:
Flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

ENSEMBLE:
(That’s the only way to do it. Just get on over to it)

CRUSH:
Go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

ENSEMBLE:
(Go with the flow)

CRUSH:
Don’t be a high-strung fellow
Kick back and keep it mellow
Woah woah woah
Go with the flow
(spoken)
Jelly-man, Offspring.

MARLIN:
Hi.

CRUSH:
Offspring, Jelly-man.

SQUIRT:
Jellies? Cool!

CRUSH:
Totally.

DORY:
Well, what are you waiting for? Jump on him!

SQUIRT:
Woah!

MARLIN:
(gasp!) Oh my goodness!

CRUSH:
Kill the motor dude
Why don’t you take it slow?
Let us see how Squirt does flyin’ so-ho-lo

SQUIRT:
Woah! That was so cool!
Dad, did ya see what I did?

MARLIN:
Well I’ll be a sea-monkey’s uncle!

CRUSH:
YOU SO TOTALLY ROCKED, SQUIRT!
You’re such an amazing kid

MARLIN:
Jellies, huh?

CRUSH:
It’s awesome
You’re eggs’ on a beach then
Cu-ku-ka-choo

ENSEMBLE:
(Cu-ku-ka-choo)

CRUSH:
They find their own way back to the big ol’ blue

MARLIN:
All by themselves?
But what if they’re not ready?
I mean how do ya know?

ENSEMBLE:
(how do ya know?)

CRUSH:
Well ya never really know
But if they’re ever gonna grow

CRUSH AND ENSEMBLE:
Then ya gotta let ’em go
Ya know?

CRUSH:
Just go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

ENSEMBLE:
(That’s the only way to do it. Just get on over to it.)

CRUSH:
Go with the flow-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

ENSEMBLE:
(Rip it, roll it, curl it. Ride inside it, twirl it.)

CRUSH:
Go with the flow

ENSEMBLE:
Go with the flow

CRUSH:
When you’re raising sons and daughters
Try surfin’ the muddy waters
Woah woah woah!

ENSEMBLE
Go with the flow
Go with the flow
Go with the flow

CRUSH:
Get ready for Sydney, dude! You’re exit’s coming up!

MARLIN:
Oh wait I forgot. How old are you?

CRUSH:
Hundred and fifty, dude. And still young!
YEAH!

~ Lyrics courtesy of stlyrics.com

You can enjoy this number from Finding Nemo the Musical by clicking on the link.

Thanks for reading!

~ Kathy

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