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Special Mouse Podcast

Posts Tagged 'Walt Disney World'

Autism on the Seas and the Disney Cruise Line! 085

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Today’s guest is Dr. Rachel Potter from Autism on the Seas!

Dr. Potter is co-chair of the volunteer Advisory Team for Autism on the Seas. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and currently serves as Director of the Graduate Teacher Education Program at Mary Baldwin College where she teaches graduate courses in special education, autism spectrum disorders, and applied behavior analysis.

Dr. Rachel Potter

Dr. Rachel Potter

She is a parent of two children, one of whom has autism.  She has cruised with Autism on the Seas as both a client (with her family) and as a Group Leader and she is here to chat with me about this wonderful organization and how it supports the autism community. Dr. Potter describes how she became involved with Autism on the Seas, first as a client family and later as a Group Leader on Autism on the Seas Cruises (including several on the Disney Cruise Line.)

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Autism of the Seas provides a number of different services to special needs families:

  • Cruises with Staff – We discuss the various kinds of supports they provide in kids clubs and during activities while on the cruise. Another big question is toileting issues, and staff ARE able to assist with toileting.  We also discuss the special boarding, mustering and debarking procedures available for clients with sensory issues who are supported by Autism on the Seas.
  • Cruises without Staff
  • Cruise Assistance Package
  • Resort Vacations with Staff –  Autism on the Seas staff are available to assist families at Walt Disney World!

 

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Please visit the Autism on the Seas website for more information. You may reach out to Dr. Potter directly via email. 

Thanks for listening!

 

Kathy

 

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I’m a Vegan, What Can I Eat at Walt Disney World? 084


VegDisneyWorldLogo

 

Food is an integral part of every Disney vacation experience; that’s why at Special Mouse I’ve always placed such importance on discussing the needs of travelers with special dietary requirements.  Today’s guest is Melissa Kramer from Vegan Disney World, a blog that serves up plenty of information on vegan dining options at Walt Disney World. (A vegan diet excludes all animal products and includes all grains, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruits.) Melissa runs the blog with her husband, Corey.

Walt Disney World has tons of options for vegans and vegetarians. We are here to keep an up-to-date log of what vegans can eat while visiting Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. Here you will find reviews, tips and just current news about food in Disney.

There’s also tons of mouth-watering photos of Vegan menu items, for those of you who are into “food porn!”

Vegetable Sushi Rolls from Tokyo Dining, Epcot

Vegetable Sushi Rolls from Tokyo Dining, Epcot

 

Crispy Tofu and Noodles, Trail's End, Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort

Crispy Tofu and Noodles, Trail’s End, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

 

Like many previous guests on the show, Melissa had high praise for Chef TJ, who is famous for creatively catering to the needs of Walt Disney World diners with special diets or food allergies.

 

Melissa & Corey with Chef T.J.

Melissa & Corey with Chef T.J.

 

We even discussed Melissa & Corey’s vegan wedding reception at Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney’s Boardwalk! Their wedding cake was created by DTD Babycakes, NYC (now Erin McKenna’s Bakery, a gluten-free, vegan and Kosher bakery locate at Disney Springs).

Melissa and Corey love to answer reader questions such as this one: Are Dole Whips vegan? 

“Yes,” says Melissa, “as long as you get the pineapple or orange flavor. The vanilla flavor is not vegan. You can find Dole Whips at both Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom and Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian Resort. Additionally the Pineapple Whip Soft-Serve from Tamu Tamu in Animal Kingdom is vegan.”

Vegan AND yummy — what could be more special?

Connect with Melissa on Twitter @VegDisneyWorld and on Facebook at Vegan Disney World.

Thanks for listening!

Kathy

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Cerebral Palsy & Sensory Processing Disorder at Walt Disney World – 082

RPayne

Richard Payne from Mad Hatter Chatter is this week’s guest. Richard shares how his family plans their Walt Disney World vacations to include the special needs of son, 8 year-old Dickie, who has mild Cerebral Palsy and Sensory Processing Disorder.

Some of the key points of our conversation were:

-Trip-Planning considerations to balance his son’s needs with the needs of the rest of the family

-Adjusting touring to avoid fatigue

-Managing sensory issues (rigidity of food preferences, noise-cancelling headphones, brushing) related to Sensory Processing Disorder

-Managing tight muscles/avoiding muscle spasms related to Cerebral Palsy (ensuring adequate hydration and rest, muscle massage, use of pool/tub)

-Using a stroller with an older child to avoid fatique

-Avoiding falls in unfamiliar resort room

-Activities other than rides that his son enjoys (Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, interactive queues) and that foster sense of independence

-Planning FP+ reservations

-Favorite places to rest in Magic Kingdom, Epcot, DHS and Animal Kingdom

 

Richard and daughters Avery and Austin co-host a family-friendly Walt Disney World fan podcast called Mad Hatter Chatter. I highly recommend it!

Twitter: @mhchatter

Instagram: @mhchatter

Facebook: www.facebook.com/mhchatter

MHC_Logo

 

Thanks for listening!

Kathy

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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.

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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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Disney DAS Card Changes: DAS only a RUMOR, Folks!

rumorsI checked into Facebook this morning and was dismayed to find talk swirling over a proposed change to the DAS (Disability Access Service) Card at Walt Disney World. It wasn’t the vague details of said change that bothered me, so much as the effect it was having on people. Apprehension, anxiety and speculation do not sit well on an empty stomach.

Better put the kettle on!

Ah, rumors. Or as one member stated, “Drama, drama!” with a wink. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep our ears to the ground when the rumor mill begins to rumble and the wheel begins to turn. Many of us, myself included, recall when the original story about the end of the GAC (Guest Assistance Card) “broke” ahead of the official announcement in September, 2013. I didn’t believe it at the time, but that one turned out to be 100% true.

What bothers me most about rumors is that people who are already under a lot of stress can become quite anxious and worried as speculations build and spread; while for others, each rumor serves to open up old wounds, resulting in postings full of resentment and bitterness. I don’t like to see people getting angry and upset, especially if what they are getting upset about has not yet been confirmed!

Okay, let’s back it up a bit. What started all this, anyway?

Someone shared a screen shot of  a friend’s Facebook post. A Florida resident who is a Walt Disney World AP (Annual Pass) holder, this woman went to Guest Services this morning to renew her DAS Card. Afterwards she posted:

Don’t know what is happening but the DAS Program after 4/30 is changing and CM [Cast Member] said it’s either going to a band program or going away completely but AP FL residents normally get a 2 month card and we’ve been informed that it’s changing so they can’t write them longer than 4/30. Guessing the recent lawsuits and rulings are either causing changes or cancellation of the DAS for everyone. We shall see how it changes and how it effects our ability to do the parks but may be last year we have APs if we find it too hard to manage the parks and the stress and the pain to our bodies.

Okay, can you spot the problem here? There is one piece of “truth” in this post but it is sandwiched between subjectivity and speculation on the part of this guest. Here is what I see to be “truth”:

She went to Guest Services to renew her Florida Resident Annual Passholder DAS Card and was told that it could not be extended past 4/30. That was her experience. The rest is ALL speculation and hearsay!

Don’t know what is happening but the DAS Program after 4/30 is changing and CM said it’s either going to a band program or going away completely.

No, you don’t know what is happening and apparently, neither does the Cast Member. (Which is it, going to a band program or going away??)

Guessing the recent lawsuits and rulings are either causing changes or cancellation of the DAS for everyone.

Yes, my dear, this is only your guess. But thank you for scaring everyone by projecting your own anxieties onto what’s happening!

Sharing is caring, however, I’m not so sure it was very prudent to share  “as is” without editing the more inflammatory statements. But let’s not yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater! And please, friends, take everything you read/hear with a grain of salt. There’s enough DAS Card anxiety going around already — I’m pretty sure it’s getting it’s own ICD-9  diagnosis code soon!

What do I think is happening? I have an idea, but don’t take my word for it.

What I do know is that my family will be vacationing at Walt Disney World in May and that we plan to request the DAS Card. If there has been any change to the system, I will let you know.

Until then, I’m not going to get my undies in a bundle!

~ Kathy

Just-The-Facts-Maam

 

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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.

BillandTracy

 

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!

 

~Kathy

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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.

Kendra

 

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.

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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
860-572-7711
www.fwcct.com

You can also connect with her on Facebook.

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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).

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

Thanks for listening!

Kathy

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Chatting with Kellie, a Disney Lover with Down Syndrome

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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!

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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?

KELLIE: Sure!

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!

KELLIE: Bye!

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!

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(This interview originates from 2011.)

Thanks for reading,

Kathy

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Disney Frankness on Touring Walt Disney World with an ECV and Oxygen Therapy 048

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Frank Rogers, host of the Disney-themed vidcast “Mr. Frank’s Wild Ride,” discusses theme park touring with multiple disabilities. Some of the topics that came up during our chat are:

  • Using an Electronic Conveyance Vehicle (ECV) in the theme parks
  • Using portable oxygen in the theme parks
  • Disney’s accommodation of guests with disabilities
  • The importance of a positive outlook and a good support system for people with disabilities

Mr.Frank

Frank and his co-hosts deliver a healthy dose of “Disney Talk, Mayhem, and Mirth” on Mr. Frank’s Wild Ride, a podcast and vidcast. Check it out! Connect with him on Twitter @DisneyFrankness.

Frank asks that you kindly visit Thank You Walt Disney to learn more about the efforts that are being made toward the historical restoration of Laugh-O-Gram, Walt Disney’s first animation studio located in Kansas City, MO.

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Tip of the Week: This week’s tip(s) come from members of the Special Mouse Community Group on Facebook.

From Sam Tubbs: “Whilst we are all talking DAS, as a parent of two HF (High-functioning Autism) kids, I would just like to say “All hail Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom!”
This was our God send. In fact-it even took over from wanting to ride!  It certainly kept us busy in areas whilst waiting for FP+ or DAS times to come up.”

From Sue Mickelson: “Here’s another one your kids might like: A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas – an interactive game in Adventureland. We have not played it, but I have seen other people doing it and it looks like it might be fun.”

From Jeanette Lynne: “Wilderness Explorers at Animal Kingdom kept my kids very excited (even for my 13 year old.)”

The takeaway here is that it’s not only about “the rides!” Many children thoroughly enjoy playing these interactive games; particularly detail-oriented kids who find audio-visual elements of the games highly engaging.

The best thing? Participation is included in theme park admission.

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Don’t forget to enter our 50th Episode Celebratory Giveaway!

 Thanks for listening!

~ Kathy

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What a Dog! Disney with a Service Dog 046

 

Lady and Tramp

 

Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line travel with your Service Dog.

Kathy is joined by Gordon LaGrow, an SNG-certified special needs travel advocate and owner of Vacation with the Magic. Gordon has abundant first-hand travel experience both at Walt Disney World and with the Disney Cruise Line accompanied by his medical service dogs, Tasha and later, Tasha 2.0.

   Tasha

Tasha 2.0

Some of the topics we discuss are:

1. What is the difference between a service dog and a companion dog?  What jobs do these dogs perform and in what ways do they help people with disabilities or health conditions?

2. What are some transportation considerations for guests traveling with a service dog — Veterinarian, TSA regulations, Documents, etc. Do trained service dogs need to be certified?

4. What are Disney’s specific policies regarding service dogs in the hotels, parks and on the cruise line?

5. Restricted locations/Break areas in the theme parks.

6. General tips: what to bring for a day in the park, how do you handle people wanting to pet your dog, the importance of ensuring that your dog gets adequate rest/hydration, etc.

You can connect with Gordon on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, GOOGLE+ and PINTEREST.

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TIP OF THE WEEK:  This tip comes from Facebook Community Member, Ashley Riggs: “Many resorts will allow you to ship essentials prior to your arrival, such as diapering items, wipes, dry goods. This will save you considerable room in your luggage! I plan to order using my amazon prime account, which includes free shipping right before our trip!”

Great tip, Ashley! Added tip: be sure the package is sent to the same name your reservation was made under.

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Thanks for listening!

~ Kathy

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5 Kids + 2 DAS Cards = 1 Magical Walt Disney World Vacation! 045

Walt Disney World with multiple kids and multiple special needs: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Jeanette & Family

Jeanette & Family

Kathy chats with Jeanette, a fellow Jersey Girl (and R.N.) who is probably still unpacking from her family’s late summer vacation at Walt Disney World! She and her husband are the proud parents of: Brandon (13), Madison (9) who has Social Anxiety and OCD, Kate (8), Bree (7) and Brian (5) who has Autism Spectrum Disorder.

In this episode, Jeanette gives a trip report from the family’s WDW vacation in August, 2014.

(Intro music to the segment is “Go With the Flow” from Finding Nemo: The Musical, which can be seen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.)

The family had a short Universal-based vacation this past December, 2013, and had the opportunity to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP) at the Magic Kingdom. At that time, Jeanette feels that the crowds and the inability to utilize FP+ had a negative effect on their experience at the Magic Kingdom, resulting in multiple meltdowns for her two special-needs children. This made her quite apprehensive about their upcoming Walt Disney World vacation. We discussed planning for the August vacation, particularly the use of the new FastPass Plus reservation system and the DAS, Disability Access Service Card, system.

Jeanette was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which she was able to obtain the Disability Access Service Card for her two children. A DAS card for each child gives the family of seven the ability to split up and continue to provide accommodation to their special-needs kids (or, to allow Jeanette the ability to return to the resort with one or more children if they have become overwhelmed and need a break.) She had made a point of contacting Disney’s Disabilities Relations Department and listening to the Special Mouse podcast in advance of her trip in order to familiarize herself with the Disability Access Service Card program.

We discussed Jeanette’s impression of their resort, Disney’s Old Key West, including the spaciousness of the accommodations and the quality of the resort and internal bus system.

The recurring theme of the trip report is that, despite the most attentive of planning, the family had a positive and enjoyable experience primarily because the parents adopted the attitude of flexibility and “going with the flow.”

Bree & Brian Jr. chatting with Elsa

Bree & Brian Jr. chatting with Elsa

Thanks, Jeanette, for sharing your trip and your lovely family with us!

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This episode is sponsored by Amy at Up and Up Travel, specializing in helping families with Special Needs and Disabilities plan and create lasting magical memories , and by Scooter Vacationsthe only Orlando scooter rental company to provide concise weight ratings to ensure a 12-15 hour theme park ride time at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or Sea World.

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You can connect with Jeanette on Facebook HERE.

Join our awesome PRIVATE Facebook group by posting a request HERE. This is a friendly, safe place for listeners of the podcast to connect and share their thoughts on Disney travel with special needs and disabilities.

Thanks for listening!

~Kathy

 

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The Law of Attraction and Air Travel with a Power Wheelchair – 044

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Kathy discusses special-needs Disney travel and the Law of Attraction, plus air travel with a power wheelchair on this “solo flight” episode! 

There’s no guest this week, so as Mr. Incredible would say, “you’ve got me monologuing!” I’m acting on one of the takeaways from Podcast Movement and giving you an actionable tip about keeping a healthy attitude towards travel with additional challenges by observing the Law of Attraction. In a nutshell: stay positive so you don’t attract negative stuff!

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This episode is sponsored by Amy at Up and Up Travel, specializing in helping families with Special Needs and Disabilities plan and create lasting magical memories , and by Scooter Vacations, the only Orlando scooter rental company to provide concise weight ratings to ensure a 12-15 hour theme park ride time at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando or Sea World.

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One of the best things about the Special Mouse Podcast community group on Facebook is that it gives listeners a chance to ask travel questions of, and give valuable insight to, other members of the group. It’s especially helpful to hear from experienced Disney travelers who share your particular challenges. Recently we had a question that I thought would make for an excellent show topic so, here we go:

Tricia asks:  Hi everyone! It looks like our next Walt Disney World trip is going to be a little more special than expected — my sister-in-law and our niece are going to join us! Our niece has cerebral palsy and uses a power wheelchair. We’re not worried about her once we get to WDW, but has anyone had any experience with flying with a wheelchair? Will the airline let her stay in her chair for the flight, or will he have to transfer to an airline seat and check the chair in the baggage hold? Thanks!

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandate all airports and airlines operating within the United States to be fully accessible to disabled travelers and for their assistive equipment. With few exceptions, power chair users should expect to receive these accessible services:

  • Wheelchair accessible parking near the airport terminal
  • Shuttle service to parking lots, airport terminals, and/or hotels
  • Access to  ticket kiosks, baggage check areas, security checkpoints, etc.
  • Accessible restrooms throughout the terminal
  • Complimentary wheelchairs for passenger use, as needed
  • ADA-compliant wheelchair ramps and/or mechanical lifts
  • Preferential pre-boarding and priority seating
  • Storage for power chairs, scooters and other devices
  • Assistance with luggage, boarding and deplaning

It is my understanding that travelers who use wheelchairs, whether motorized or not, are required to transfer to a seat on the plane and check their motorized wheelchairs as baggage. The airline may provide a folding wheelchair to help squeeze through the narrow airplane aisle.

Special Mouse listeners chime in with their advice:

Paula writes: “She can stay in the chair until boarding. They will gate-check the chair at no charge to her. I would take off anything that is removable and carry it on with you (no charge for that either). I would also take a picture of all sides of the chair. I’ve never had anything happen to mine, but it is always better to be safe than sorry!”

Tracy writes:  “Call the airline before your flight date to talk about their procedures and what you need to do when you get to the airport. Ask where you need to check the chair.

Once you get to the airport, you will fill out paperwork asking several questions about the chair such as color, weight, type of batteries, etc. You should note any damage or wear and tear when checking the chair in.

Take pictures of the chair before you get on the flight.

Take anything off that is detachable…seat, foot rests, headrest, etc. Stow these items inside the plane with you.

Give them instructions about how you want the chair to be treated. Bill has a custom back and we tell them specifically to NOT detach the back. I got some of the blank luggage tags at the airport and wrote, “Do not remove back” and placed them on several parts of the chair.

Know how to turn the power off and on and how to disengage the motors to be able to put the chair into manual, they might ask you how to do this. We don’t mind if the airline keeps the power on to get the chair down on the tarmac; Bill turns it down to the lowest setting. Some people prefer to have them not use the power but some power chairs are extremely hard to push in manual so we don’t do that.

If the person is unable to walk there are aisle chairs to help. I am unsure how much the flight attendants can help since I am able to lift Bill and put him in a seat.”

(The answer is, no. Flight attendants are not required to assist you with transfers to either your seat or to the restroom. And in truth, you wouldn’t want untrained individuals assisting with transfers because they could hurt either you or themselves in the process. – Kathy)

“You will be one of the last people of the plane. I gather our belongings including all the detachables and place them just outside the plane door. When the chair arrives they will be ready for me to get Bill and go, but I take time to look over the wheelchair to make sure everything is okay. After re-attaching everything I place Bill in the chair. Once we are clear of the gate Bill makes sure that the chair drives correctly.”

Matthew writes: “I would add a few more things, as I have had my chair damaged when I went to Disneyland and Disney World. Trust me, you don’t want to get to the parks and have a power wheelchair not work. Take the control/joy stick off when she boards the plane, also take the cushion as she may be able to use it in the plane or you can put it in the overhead compartment. Dis-engage the drive motors when she gets out of the chair, it should have a lever on each motor.”

From wheelchair.com: It is very important to know how to disconnect the power from the batteries when you get to the aircraft. Locate the cable and mark each half of the connector with yellow tape. Practice separating and reconnecting the connectors. This may keep them from pulling your batteries out of the chair. If you cannot disconnect the joystick on your chair model, you may want to consider bringing along some bubble wrap and packing tape to protect it and any other areas that are likely to become damaged.

“When they bring the chair to you, look it over before you accept it. I have had damage done to part of the frame of the chair that I didn’t see, but my daughter did. So due diligence is needed when flying.

The airlines will ask what the chair weighs and also what type of battery it has. I would recommend having the information before you get to the airport. Always check in with the gate personnel when you get to your gate, as they will need to know if you need an aisle chair and what they can do to help you get to the seat, and the information about the chair. It can become stressful flying when your use a power wheelchair, but if you just do these few things and remember to have fun, you will make it much easier. I have found out that the more I fly, the easier it gets and the less stressful it becomes.”

From sath.org (The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality): There are two types of batteries used in motorized wheelchairs: wet acid batteries or dry cell (gel) batteries. If your wheelchair is older and has a wet acid battery you should check with the airline, as a leaking battery inflight can be dangerous. It will be necessary for baggage handlers to remove the battery and place it in a special container. This requires that you be at the airport at least three hours before departure.

Most modern power-operated wheelchairs have some form of dry cell safety battery so that they can be carried without risk of damage to the aircraft. However, it may be necessary for baggage handlers to disconnect the leads from the terminal and to cap them to avoid shorting. This may take some time, so you will have to preboard. It may be necessary to transfer you to a special aisle wheelchair in the air terminal, and be prepared for the fact that there may be a delay on arrival before your chair is available.

The airlines are responsible for ensuring that your battery is reconnected and that your chair is working on arrival at your destination.

Regarding the weight of your power chair, this is very important information because airlines have varying limits when it comes to weight. Each airline should be able to tell you whether the weight of a particular model wheelchair falls under the limits at the time of your ticket purchase.

In the event of a problem with airport or inflight personnel, you should require them to contact the Complaints Resolution Officer (CRO), who must always be available and willing to deal with your grievance. They cannot refuse. However, to avoid problems, make sure that you let the airline know your needs as early as possible. Also, make sure you have adequate insurance to cover damages to or loss of your wheelchair or scooter as well as personal injury.

Under the ACCA, U.S. airlines are responsible for all repairs to damaged wheelchairs. However, if the chair is lost or damaged beyond repair, the airlines are only responsible for the original purchase price. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know both the purchase price and the replacement cost of their assistive devices and to be aware of the difference between these two figures. If the difference is substantial, you may want to carry additional insurance with a high deductible to cover this gap.

It’s also important to remember to report any damage to your wheelchair immediately. In most cases this means before you leave the airport. The airline may deny a claim if they feel it is not filed in a timely manner. Additionally, under the ACCA, airlines are not required to respond to complaints that are more than 45 days old.

If you are unwilling to risk damage to your power wheelchair there is another alternative — if possible, don’t bring it!

Skip writes: “I cannot fly commercial with the power chair. We take the Convaid stroller on commercial flights.”

The bottom Line: Do what is best for you!

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

Links:

How to Travel by Air with a Wheelchair – sath.org

Air Travel Tips for Power Wheelchairs – wheelchairtraveling.com

On a Wing and a Prayer: Protecting Your Equipment – barrierfreetravel.net

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

These were some valuable tips! If you would like to join our private group on Facebook, email me at specialmousepodcast@gmail.com.

Thanks for listening!

~ Kathy

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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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