Follow Up, Re-Ads and the DAS

Part of the frustration of working with the DAS system is that there appears to be considerable mis-information, some people handed a stack of Re-Ads, others turned away; differing communications on when they are going away, if they are going away and why.  I reason that when giving advice to parents and caregivers they can’t spend thousands of dollars on a “Maybe.” So we will work here on what we know.  The DAS remains, and that is what we will plan for with our clients.  Re-Ads were not supposed to be used in conjunction with the DAS, at least that is not what they were originally created for; they were brought in to be used and now Disney is wanting to remove them.  And in the interim, we are going to have to find plausible workarounds for our families.  We will adapt and yes, make it work.  We have before.

I cannot state to any Clients or Guests I work with to depend on getting Re-Ads,  so I will plan for them not being there.  If they are given at this point, it’s a bonus.  I tend to lean on what I know will be there as a support when working with Clients.  And, as always, I will help clients work with the DAS to plan their vacations.  There will be letters written, discussions had, but vacations are still happening and we must plan for every scenario.

I am going to write and work to advocate in the most polite and professional way I possibly can to educate why there needs to be some accommodation for nesting behaviors in some capacity.  I encourage everyone to advocate, not in a destructive or negative way, but in a way that shows the genuine concerns we have about how these policies will effect those with Autism and other Cognitive Disabilities. My intent with writing the piece yesterday was to inform on what the A-Typical family will probably be told when at the Parks going forward.  It was confirmed by no less than three sources that I trust implicitly, who are in the parks weekly and have experience with special needs and Disney.  I understand if the post upset people, but I am simply reporting what is being confirmed to me and what is confirmed from a variance of Guests by Disney.

I understand the frustrations that come from this, as it’s an emotional issue for a great many of us.  Disney brings out so many facets of emotion because of what we have experienced with this company, at it’s theme parks, in the quiet of a movie theater, growing up as children.  We want as much of that experience as possible for our own, and if it seems part of what we enjoyed is now gone, it feels a bit like mourning, and there is anger and frustration, and all of these different things that go along with it.

A wise man said:  “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  

So too as for me and my family, we will Keep Moving Forward in order to aid our son and others in adapting to new ways and new paths in and out of the theme parks.

Amy

Keep Calm And Make It Work! Re: GAC to DAS Changes

It Deserves To Be Said Again, Keep Calm and Make It Work.

WDWDreamin.com

Author’s Note: The main points of this article deal with Disneyland touring as they don’t have the Fast Pass + reservation system in place and the effects of these changes could be felt there more so than Orlando at present.  I will be writing about how to work with the FastPass+ system and DAS in the coming weeks!

Okay.  So we’ve reacted.  We’ve worried.  We’ve called, read, talked, called again, confirmed, commented, heck even debated.  But, the fact is, these changes to the Guest Assistance Card at the Disney Parks well, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  October 9th will soon be here and I am sure it’s going to be rough anyhow.  Why don’t we figure out now that we have processed what we’re going to do to adapt?  We all have had to adapt at sometime to something that was not working.  So too with this we…

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Breaking News: Changes to the Newly Implemented DAS

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Follow Up Posted Here

As of this past weekend we heard reports that the added accommodations to the newly released DAS (Disability Access Service) Card were being phased out.

“Not happy, was just told by GR CM at the MK that additional DAS accommodations are being ‘weaned away’, so we were only given one set of re-ads today.” -Mark Vitek, blogger at WDWFanZone.com

I had hoped initially this was Cast Member misinformation, as we have found at times some Cast Members are more open to giving of the Re-Ads (Readmission Passes which allowed a guest to ride an attraction several times in a row if they chose and was used in conjunction with the DAS Card) than others.  However this morning, Monday, we heard confirmation that many locals were being told the exact same thing, the RE-ADS were being phased out immediately.  According to Kathleen Kelly with the Special Mouse Podcast, this was confirmed by calling the Disney Guest Relations phone:

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“Edited to Add, as there was some confusion on what exactly was going away: Just the The Re-Admission passes are being taken away. When you approached Guest Relations at the start of your trip and requested the DAS, Guests also would ask for a couple of sets of Re-Ads (readmission passes) which would let their children or families ride an attraction a set number of times. These were given at the start a bit begrudgingly but were still given, usually about 3 sets for each member of the family.
We received confirmation that those added accommodations (the RE-Ads) are now gone effective immediately. The rest of the DAS accommodations, obtaining a return time in addition to your Fast Pass times or stand by times, still remain. Just this added slight perk is going away for these families so nesting or cocooning behaviors will be more difficult to assuage.”

So we go back to letter writing as it were.  And I encourage those effected, namely anyone with a child with Autism, to write and POLITELY voice your concerns.  Here are mine:

Children and Adults with Autism are noted for their nesting behaviors.  This can extend to attractions in the theme parks in that many, like my son have the need to ride certain attractions 3 times in a row or at least that (there is usually a predisposition for 3s).  These attractions can range from non popular rides like say Muppet Vision 3-D to your more thrill seeking attractions like Expedition Everest or Tower of Terror. The person with Autism seeks the sensation the ride offers in order to calm and be able to tour in a more socially calm manner.

For us this means straight away we head to Haunted Mansion and we ride 3 times.  That could be just me and our son, all four or five of us, or my husband and son, some variation until this is completed.  There are those who would say that’s something we need to make our son get over, we shouldn’t tie up any lines with this need, etc. And it is something we work on considerably while there and at home, waiting our turn and moving on.  But our son has this one request, and if that is met, he is better able to cope with the Park environments as we tour.

There are others who state “If your child can’t handle it, then stay home.” To which I say, “Why should I?  Why should anyone be forced to stay home if reasonable accommodations can be made to help them enjoy their time out in society?”  Just because someone has a disability in no way should they have to be sequestered away.  In fact, the more they are out in the “mainstream” the more they learn how to adapt and the more neurotypical or able bodied people are able to learn about how to interact in more healthy ways with them.  See what I mean?  Our son is able to grow a great deal while we vacation because it makes him come out of his routines in some ways, he is made to adapt to different foods, schedules and abilities.  If all it takes for him to be able to do that is admittance to an attraction a few times in a row, fine.  The only way people with disabilities have been able to make these accommodations available is by being present in the mainstream society and asking for reasonable accommodations, not by hiding at home because they may not be able to take it or someone else might be slightly inconvenienced.

Nesting or Cocooning Behaviors are quite common amongst individuals with a myriad of Cognitive or Developmental Disorders, and not just Autism.  There is a fair amount of overlap amongst the individuals and to wit this effects more than just a few Guests and their families.  I understand the wide spread abuse, and why necessary changes must be made.  I don’t want to see anyone abusing a system that was put in place to help families like mine and so many others who truly can benefit from it.  The Readmission passes in a big way made the changes from GAC to DAS more bearable for these families.  And while others may see it as these families abusing the policy, what I see is a parent or caregiver strapped to 1-3 rides all day long.  So while another family may move on and see a fair bit of the park, these families are usually seeing 1/3rd of the same park in the same amount of time.  It really doesn’t compare.

Here are some initial reactions from other parents and families:

“I just don’t understand. I’m so disappointed in Disney. I think many of us are trying to be heard but they don’t care. There are several fb pages that have been talking about the changes to Guest Assistance since before it rolled out, many letters, calls and complaints to Disney and four months into it, they are making it harder, not easier. I Love Disney but the reason we loved it was because it made a vacation possible. I don’t get the direction they are going in…” – Stephanie Grimm Sharon, parent and page admin at Autism Warrior Mom

“This will greatly reduce our son’s ability to fully enjoy a day at the Disney Parks. With the existing limits on in-park FastPass+ availability, the DAS card simply isn’t enough to accommodate his needs and I can see where other families will be impacted even more so than ours. We find it saddening that Disney, especially given their excellent history of autistic accommodations, would now suddenly appear to be pushing away a segment of their guest audience who truly do find Magic at Disney.” -Mark Vitek, parent and blogger at WDWFanZone.com and Wishes and Pixie Dust

Some solutions I initially thought of include using the DAS, Standby, then FP+ time or some variance of that combination.  So if you have a DAS Card, get a time to return, while waiting for that time to come available get a FP+ time on your Magic Band, while awaiting both of these times try standing in the Standby line if it is at a slower time.  For us, with our son’s love of the Haunted Mansion, this would probably work for our touring strategy.  We also will have to split up more often and tour with earbuds, our iPad mini and or a Nintendo DS in order to provide him the ability to wait in more standby lines.  We will also have to re-evaluate when we go and take more time off from school if at all possible so that we go to the parks only in the slowest of times, which are fewer and farther between now.

Another idea, though it’s rather pie in the sky, is to roll the DAS into the MyDisneyExperience app, this way there would be no kiosks to seek out, no Cast Member to find at the front of the Attraction.  You schedule your DAS return times just like you would your FastPass+ times.  If you show up without a DAS pass you cannot access the attraction at that time you will have to use one of your FastPass+ times to ride that attraction.  This would minimize the amount of work parents and families would have to do when obtaining these passes for their loved ones while touring and simplify the process immensely.

For more ideas on “Making It Work”, check out our post on touring with the DAS with no re-ads here: Keep Calm and Make It Work

What is your reaction to these newly implemented changes?  Let us know in the comments.

Quiet Places and Spaces at Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL pt. 1

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As we discussed in our Disneyland list (see here), there are places innately built into the various parks that allow you to relax, breathe and help your child deflate and decompress should you spot the warning signs of a meltdown.  As well with all of the colors, smells, noises, and sights that abound in the Disney Park experience not to mention the amount of PEOPLE around all the time, some of us need it just to have that break instead of hauling everyone out of the park en masse.  So here by Theme Park and by Themed Land are our top quiet places and spaces at Walt Disney World!

Let’s Start with my personal favorite: The Magic Kingdom

Quite like it’s counterpart, Disneyland, this spoke and wheel formatted park has a bevy of places to sit and relax out of the way.  Each of the themed lands comes complete with shade, benches, and in some cases water ways to add a sense of serenity.  I always encourage families I work with to stop and smell the roses, or at least take a load off while touring.  When you tour with a child or family member with special needs, it’s quite necessary to take portions of your day slower and only pick up the pace occasionally.  All of the surrounding environs are included in the price of admission, just like the attractions.  And you would be surprised at the hidden details within all of these parks you get to see when you slow up and pay attention.  You might have a feeling you got more out of the experience than if you had run from ride to ride.

Main Street U.S.A.  

Near Guest Relations: There is a large brick lined walkway off to the side of Guest Relations, also near the restrooms at the front of the park.  This is a very nice area to wait if someone is refreshing themselves or in Guest Relations getting the DAS.  We’ve used it to do our bouncing, (flexing our knees); or simple compressions, water replenishment or just get out of the sun.

City Hall: This as well is an out of the way area and SO MANY people just pass on by on their way to the themed lands.  It’s got air conditioning, shops, and is one of the more quiet spots on the map.  Of course it fills up somewhat due to this also being a character meet and greet spot.  But in the wings of this building you can find some quiet and cool areas.

By the Plaza Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor: If you were to hang a right as you go towards the castle you would find yourself staring at the ice cream parlor and Plaza Restaurant.  If you were to keep walking down this path you will find it gets quieter and quieter and less populated.  We use this area often to let our sons (both of them) decompress while one of us gets ice cream.  The sounds and sights of Main Street U.S.A. are far enough away to be seen and heard at a more comfortable distance if they get truly overwhelming.  As well we have watched plenty of parades from this back portion of Main Street in order for them to be more tolerable to our youngest.

Adventureland

Near the Dole Whip Stand, Turquoise Alcove:  While many folks line up to purchase a Dole Whip and sit on the rock outcroppings by the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, there is a small seating area, lit during the evenings just to the left as you face the Dole Whip sign.  It’s painted turquoise and white and has small round tables and chairs.  If you find this empty (which believe it or not we have many times) it is a perfect little respite area.  It’s out of the way has only one entrance and exit if there is a meltdown and your child is a bit of a runner and also closes off the amount of sensory pouring in.  We use this to wait for Dad to get DoleWhips and bring out the earbuds and iPhone for our son to decompress while we tour.

Citrus Stand, near Tiki Room: I know it seems all of the locations I choose are near ice cream, but that’s by force of habit.  I usually pick places for our son where he can cool off figuratively and literally.  As well there is a walk through between Adventureland and Frontierland here that not many use with great regularity as many use the larger pass through with the restrooms instead.  So a bit of shade in there, cool breezes and not too crowded.

Backside of Pirates by the Restrooms: True story we’ve practically run for this area in a “potty emergency”, which brings about this tip always insist on a bathroom break and don’t take your kids’ word for it.  It’s easy to be distracted by all of the sensorial data flying around to shove that impulse down repetitively until it is an actual run for the nearest restroom emergency.  But I digress.  This area behind Pirates is a narrow shot to the restrooms and also a nice little out of the way area where you can do some slight compression therapy, breathing exercises and also have a quick access to the restrooms or while you’re waiting on everyone in your party to go.

Captain Jack Stage: Obviously consult the times guide to be sure you’re stop over doesn’t coincide with a show, but the stage area is up out of the way and a nice area to sit and calm.  We have let the boys get out some energy on the wooden planked stage during the late afternoon as it is out of the way of many a passerby and gives them that feeling of being above the noise.

Frontierland

The walkthrough from Adventureland to Frontierland: In the VERY back of both lands is a pass through walk way. It’s past Pirates on the Adventureland side and basically if you were to keep walking this path you would end up in Frontierland.  There is Pecos Bills on the right hand side and some tables there if you need to sit in a quieter space.  Obviously this fluctuates throughout the day as meal times come and go.  But I have found earlier in the day and in the mid-afternoon this area is a good stopover for us to sit and relax a bit.

Liberty Square

Top Floor of Columbia Harbor House: On the bottom floor is an echoing cacophony that drives me batty, but upstairs is a quiet calm area that overlooks the other Guests walking by on the paths below.  You can get a window seat that faces the Haunted Mansion or Liberty Belle and since the room is more closed off than it’s counterpart downstairs it is especially good for those who have noise and sound aversion and is considerably overlooked.  If your family member has trouble with stairs it could be a challenge to get to this level, but on the whole not too many draw backs and we have used it each time as a nice respite area for our entire family to take a break from the crowds.

Walkway by the Water: There is a smaller walkway off the main path, this one goes right by the water.  Now, be advised this is also part of a designated smoking area at one point, but it is out of the way and the cool breezes coming off the water are very refreshing.

Fantasyland

This area is pretty tight knit and there aren’t a lot of spaces, plus a great many of the areas I would suggest are near stroller parking.  This is one of the most congested areas mainly due to it’s popularity and construction.  I would recommend if you tour here its early in the day or in the evening:

Near the Castle, Walkway:  Believe it or not up near Cinderella Castle is quieter than Fantasyland proper.  Now please note there are shows that take place out front of the Castle periodically so consult your times guide.  These pathways are also not accessible the hour near the fireworks in the evening for security and safety reasons.

By Mad Tea Party, backside: Near the Mad Tea Party, and just before you blend into Tomorrowland there are several small areas you can find that are tucked out of the way.  There is even one near the restrooms that has shade during the day, we have used this one several times.

Dumbo PlayTent (for little ones): This area, while I have not used it myself, is a great area that allows kiddos to play in cool comfort while waiting for their turn on Dumbo the Flying Elephant.  In true Disney playground fashion this area is wonderfully appointed for smaller children, I state that it’s more attributable to younger children mainly due the nature of it’s construction.  The sizes allowed (while I know some of our children, mine included love things that are more suited for younger children) kind of prohibit older kids from accessing the actual play equipment.  However there is seating inside while you wait for the attraction, it’s out of the sun and heat and darkly lit in some areas.

Tomorrowland

By the restrooms, By Mickey’s Star Traders: We sit on these benches all the time in the quieter section of Tomorrowland, again with my access to restrooms but in these areas there is usually built in seating for families waiting for other members to go to the restrooms and freshen up.  They are also usually in the shade with a food cart or water cart nearby.

People Mover, a/k/a Tomorrowland Transit Authority: There is usually NO WAIT for this attraction as it is constantly moving.  But it is above the noise and crowds, there are breezes coming in, it’s shaded for the most part and you go through several attractions and stores as you ride so your family gets an idea of the layout of Tomorrowland without having the be down in the crowds.  We ride this several times during our visits as a respite attraction or while waiting for our Fast Pass times to come to fruition.

So that’s our list for The Magic Kindom at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.  On our next entry in this series we’ll be discussing Epcot  and some out of the way spots in that park to relax and replenish!

Do you have some favorite spots to stop over while you tour the parks?  Let us know in the comments!

Throwback Thursday

Anyone remember back when the characters roamed the parks rather freely, no lines, fast passes or handlers in sight?  Well here’s an example of why that was changed:

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This woman was probably VERY nice, enjoying her trip saw Chip at the China Pavilion as well and thought, “Hey I want my photo with him.” Not realizing we were having a moment ourselves, lol.  So she is forever immortalized in our vacation photos.  We have a whole series of this lady in fact 5 or 6 photos of me with Chip, and her, whoever she is.  So hats off to you my dear Chip loving friend, I’m so glad we had that time together!

 

Follow the Bouncing Snowflake!

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Guess what you wanna be Broadway Belters and Disney Songbirds, Disney is going to release an all new SING ALONG version of their now Academy Award Nominated film, Frozen!

So if like me you found yourself belting out “Let It Go!” in the confines of your home or car, you can now let it out right alongside the amazing vocal cast of the film.

“‘Frozen’ fans have embraced the film’s original songs and its soundtrack with such passion-there are countless YouTube videos from people singing songs like ‘Let It Go’-we decided to create a version that would celebrate that enthusiasm,” said Dave Hollis, executive vice president, theatrical distribution, The Walt Disney Studios. “It’s a great opportunity for families to get together and have some fun with these songs.”

On-screen lyrics and a magical bouncing snowflake will accompany select showings; moviegoers can check local listings for showtimes and theaters. The duration of the sing-along run will vary by theater.  This is incredibly exciting news!  Are you planning on seeing the Sing Along Version of Frozen when it comes to your town?