Tag Archives: down’s syndrome

How to survive a Disneyland or Disney World character meet and greet







How to survive a Disneyland or Disney World character meet and greet

me and the incredibles








Survive a character meet and greet?  Aren’t those supposed to be fun?  For most people, both adults and children, they are.  It is a chance to meet their favorite characters, get autographs, interact, and have their pictures taken.  But some of us (adults and children) have physical and/or cognitive issues that can easily cause our day to go from magical to maddening.  Some may not like to be touched.  Others may need to be the one to initiate physical contact.  This can be problematic as most characters love to give hugs.  And beware; if one hug could set off a meltdown or cause physical pain, there are some characters that don’t know when to stop hugging or squeezing.  On a few occasions I have exited a meet and greet feeling like I had just been beaten up because the character was overly affectionate. There have been times when I chose to stand to meet a character only to come dangerously close to falling when a character has pulled me in for a hug.  











However, there is a way to meet your favorite character without physical or emotional trauma.  Before visiting the parks, think about how you or the person (adult or child) with the physical or cognitive sensitivities reacts to everyday greetings.  Are they in constant physical pain?  Do they initiate physical contact or are they okay with someone else being the initiator? Will they tolerate a quick hug but nothing more beyond that? Will a prolonged physical touch or a rough hug cause physical pain?  When I am experiencing a high pain day, every touch no matter how light feels like a punch.  I could feel bruised for hours or days from the gentlest of hugs.  Do they have a weak immune system, could receiving a hug from a character that has already had thousands of other bodies pressed against it cause this person to become ill?














Next, write a list of what would make the meeting more magical.  Keep it simple.  No touching, handshake only, be gentle, one hug, etc…   Depending on how many characters you or the guest with sensitivities is planning on meeting, you may want to print out the requests.  This would also be beneficial if the person will be meeting characters with other party guests and not always you.  Whether you print it out or not, make sure that everyone who could possibly accompany said person to a meet and greet is informed of the requests.  When you arrive at the line for your chosen character, you will see that they always have a cast member with them.  Some have several cast members in attendance.  Be sure to inform the first one you see of your requests.  They will then inform the character prior to your turn to meet the character.  

By following this simple tip, you can avoid messy meltdowns and physical pain.  Find out how to have a most magical Disney vacation by discovering what you should know about visiting the parks with a physical disability, chronic illness, special needs, a service dog, and more by reading my Disneyland attraction posts.  Information about Disney World attractions will be coming soon as well as a tool to help handicapped guests in both parks.  Visiting with a handicap of any kind can be daunting, but when you know what to expect in advance you have that much less to stress about.















The Disabled Diva’s Unofficial Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide

Are chronic conditions or disability keeping you from planning a Disneyland vacation?

Guests of Disneyland should enter the gates ready to have fun, not fretting over trying to figure out what they will be able to do or how to navigate Disneyland’s handicapped system.

Disneyland’s handicapped system was frustrating even before they made it more complicated.  The changes made take time to get used to, time that most don’t have when on vacation.  I don’t know about you, but I go on vacation to have fun, not to be stressed!  Since the changes to the system went into effect a couple of years ago, I have had countless people stop me in the parks asking if they could do this or that.  Most have no clue how the handicapped system or queues work, let alone which rides or attractions are wheelchair friendly.  Not only do I get stopped while in the parks, I also receive questions from readers on a weekly basis.  Then one day it hit me! Wouldn’t it be awesome if these people could have access to this information prior to arriving at Disneyland? And that is why I wrote this guide.



While Disneyland provides basic accessible information on their website, it fails to fully explain how the system works.  This is why this guide is a must for anyone with a chronic condition or disability.  I expand upon the basic information and leave no doubts as to how to enter, board, and exit each attraction.  After reading this book, you will fully understand how the virtual queues work and what to expect when visiting with a disability.

I wish I would have had this information long ago, as it took months for me to figure it out the new system.  Don’t waste your precious vacation time by trying to figure out what to do and where to go!  Order your copy today!

Download your free copy today!

Wishing you a day filled with magical memories!

The Disabled Diva


The Disabled Diva and Disneyability are not affiliated with the Disney Company or Disneyland.

Down’s and Disneyland

wpid-imag0940_1.jpgLast week my brother in-law, Tim,  came to California to spend some time at Disneyland with my husband, daughter, and me.  My brother in -law is not your typical 40 something man, he has Down’s Syndrome.  This mini vacation is the second that my husband and I have had with him at Disneyland.  The first was 15 years ago before my daughter was born and when my son was just a little younger than my daughter is today.  Our first trip 15 years ago was a major learning experience for me because until that trip I had never spent long periods of time with Tim without his parents.  I had no experience with anyone with Down’s until I met Tim.  With the lessons I learned from our first Disneyland vacation and 15 years of getting to know each other,  I felt prepared for this trip.  Wondering how it went?  Well let me share my story of what I did right and where I went wrong……


Our first morning was off to a bumpy start as we tried to explain that we would be eating breakfast in the car as we had an hour to drive to the park.  Tim wanted pancakes and no matter how much we explained that pancakes would be too complicated and messy to eat while bouncing around on the freeway, he kept insisting.  Thankfully he agreed that getting a McGriddle sandwich would be acceptable.  With that we were on the road….. Lesson number one: Do not rush meals!!!

 Once at Disneyland the day went smoothly.  We started with one of his favorite rides Splash Mountain.  It was confusing to him as to why we were not going through the regular queues and we had to explain to him that because of my wheelchair we would have to enter most rides through the exits.  But other than that our day went off without a hitch.  He went on all of his favorite rides and even did some shopping.  After each ride we would ask how he liked it and his response was the same each time….”It wasn’t that bad”.  Not that bad is better than I hate it, so we took that as a win!  But we set a goal to see if we could get a better response on day two.

We woke up early on day two because he needed to have plenty of time to shower and take his medications.  He had a sheet that he had to fill out daily and although he is able to do it on his own, we had to give him enough time to not feel rushed. Plus we needed to make sure he had an adequate amount of time to eat breakfast.  Tim doesn’t live in California and when I woke him up he was annoyed and stated that I didn’t wake him up in time.  But I did.  His phone does not automatically change time zones and it took my explaining the time difference several times for him to accept that I was telling him the correct times.  I also learned that there were some medications that he was supposed to have during the day that I had not been aware of.  So with his daytime medications packed in my bag and alarms set on my phone we headed off to California Adventure.  Now this park was completely new to him.  This added some confusion as well.  He understood that we were still at Disneyland, but he didn’t understand why he didn’t recognize anything.



Our second day was a special one for me and Tim.  We had some time alone while my husband and daughter took off to get our fastpasses for Radiator Springs and World of Color.  As we sat and talked about what we were going to do that day Tim shared that I was his favorite sister in-law.  I am his only sister in-law, but I decided to ignore that fact and take this as another win.  I have to give Tim kudos for going on the amount of rides that he did this day as they were all new to him.  Thankfully we showed him videos of the rides at California Adventure prior to this day and were able to decide ahead of time which rides were out of the question just by his facial expressions.  With that said, we did NOT go on Soaring over California as this would have most likely turned into screaming over California.   The rides he did go on were The Grizzly River Run, The Little Mermaid, everything in Cars Land, all but Flik’s Flyers in Bug’s Land, and Toy Story Mania.  Thankfully my disabilities made things easier for him as we were able to get on all the rides via the handicapped platforms.  This was particularly helpful on rides that had moving walkways.  This gave him the time needed to get on and off without feeling rushed or without us needing to obtain a Disabled Access Card for him.  My husband was surprised and I was pleased that he enjoyed the Aladdin show.  Usually Tim falls fast asleep during movies or shows, but this one held his attention and he loved every minute of it.


Day two ended with my helping him pick out a gift for his mom and we began discussing a gift for his step dad.  He finally decided that he wanted to buy some fudge for his step dad.  I explained that it would be best for him to purchase that on our last evening.  He agreed and after buying snacks to enjoy during World of Color we were on our way to the show.  While waiting for the show to start I noticed his nose was running and handed him a tissue.  He then turned to me and said “You love me like my mother does.”.  I am not gonna lie, a tear rolled down my cheek! I gave him a big hug and said yes I do!!  So day two was a total success.  He laughed like I had never heard him laugh before, and never once did he say a ride or attraction was not that bad.  Instead we heard a lot of “I liked it” or “that was fun”.


Day three started off a little bumpy as we were heading home that evening and had to pack the car before we went to the parks.  This wouldn’t have taken so long if it hadn’t been for something that I had never noticed in all of our years of having him visit us.  I noticed on his first night that he took all of his clothes out of his suitcase and then carefully folded them and put them back.  I didn’t question this as we were leaving for the hotel the next day.  But then I noticed it again the following night, and the morning and night of the next day.  So yes, Friday morning he did it again.  At this point we were all tired.  Since my husband, daughter, and I are annual passholders, we rarely play at the parks for more than two days in a row.  Most of the time we just play for a day.  We did more in those two days than we have done in a LONG time.  With the car finally packed and with breakfast in our bellies we headed off to enjoy our final day at Disneyland.

We began our final day by conquering Fantasyland as we ran out of time and energy to do that on our first day.  Thankfully it was a slow morning and we knocked out a lot of rides in a short time.  Because he handled Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain, and Star Tours so well I didn’t think we would have a problem with Peter Pan.  WRONG!!  This was the first time that he stated that he did NOT like a ride.  So note to self….Never take Tim on Peter Pan again!!!  Of course the ride had been my idea and I was beginning to lose points with him.  I gained a few back on the Tea Cups.  Tim has the most adorable and contagious belly laugh when he is having a blast.  There is no way not to giggle along with him.  Well it was a good thing that I had that moment, because from that point on I could do nothing right.

Tim loves Star Wars…..He is obsessed with Star Wars…… He lives for Star Wars…… He was so excited to hear that there was a Jedi Training show in Tomorrowland.  Thankfully my daughter had long ago been picked for Jedi training and no longer had the desire to do so.  This allowed us to sit at the tables in the eating area next to the railing and not on the ground with all the other kids.  When I brought up the subject of seeing this show, I never once thought about the fact that Tim would want to be picked.  Sure enough when the announcement about children being able to be chosen came on, Tim whipped his head around and told me very excitedly that he wanted to do that.  Uh OH!!!!  I gently explained that he was too old.  With that he turned from me and began to pout.  He began to cheer up as the show began and I thought whew, the worst is finally behind us….. Wrong!!!!  Things went from bad to worse when the Jedi trainer asked the “young man in the red shirt” to come up.  Tim pulled his shirt out, looked down (yes, it was red), then whipped his head to look at me.  The look in his eyes said, you see, they are calling me.  I once again had to explain that he was not the one being called up and that only young children could go up there.  My heart sunk as I watched him view the show.  There was one moment when his eyes filled with tears.  I gently asked him if he was okay, and he quickly replied that he was fine.  When the show ended I began asking about which ride he would like to go on next.  Knowing that he was disappointed about not being picked I suggested his favorite, Star Tours.  But he wouldn’t answer me and the only time he would look at me was to throw daggers at me.  I went from hero to zero…. Realizing that he was giving me the silent treatment I told my husband that he would have to ask the questions until Tim decided to speak to me again.  Sure enough, my husband asked him the same question and he got a response.  To try to save myself I pointed out the large sign that showed the ages of those who were eligible to be chosen.  That helped a little, but not enough to put me back on the hero list.

It was at lunch when I hammered in the final nail in my coffin.  Tim saw the Mickey Beignets and wanted to order them for dessert.  We told him to wait and see if he was still hungry after eating his meal.  We also explained that we could get those later to enjoy while watching the Christmas Parade.  By the time we were done eating we were all full.  When the waitress came to ask about dessert I quickly replied NO.  In my defense, my family never orders dessert with our meal.  Disneyland desserts are enjoyed during parades, light shows, fireworks, or just before we leave the parks.  It was my natural response.  Once again I was the recipient of the death glare.

Tim couldn’t keep up the silent treatment when he was left with me as his brother left the park to retrieve our jackets from the car.  At this point all the conversations about what we had done and what we were going to do were replaced with what time was his train leaving the next day.  I let it roll and made the best of it.

While we were still alone, Tim began brainstorming about his step dad’s gift.  He told me that he thought it would be a great idea for his brother to go in on the gift and pay for half.  I told him that he would need to discuss that with his brother.  When the time to purchase the pre-packaged fudge came, I was physically and emotionally drained.  I parked myself on Main Street and let my husband escort Tim to buy the fudge.  Once Tim realized that his brother wasn’t going to chip in, he decided that he didn’t want to spend that much himself.  He settled on a lower priced box of chocolates until he spotted a single piece of fudge in the counter display.  And yes that is what he bought!  So this single piece of fudge is traveling across two states in one of my old Tupperware containers.  I have already given my mother in-law a heads up, so that the fudge doesn’t sit in his suitcase until Christmas. 🙂


All in all it was a good trip.. There weren’t any accidents like there was during our very first trip 15 years ago since I made sure to make everyone, including myself go to the restroom often.  But there is always a learning curve.  Tim’s fear of heights was a new one, one that has gotten worse over the years but wasn’t an issue 15 years ago.  Thankfully I remembered that Tim won’t go on rides with anyone but his brother and that no one else is allowed to ride with his brother either.  Because of this we were able to save my daughter from receiving the death stare.

We all spent our final day together at home watching movies and eating pizza.  We were all exhausted.  But overall we had a great time and made a lot of memories.  Tim struggled with his camera, but my husband, daughter, and I took many pictures and I promised to put together a scrapbook for him before Christmas.

This past week and past 16 years has given me the utmost respect for parents and family members of a special needs child.  Especially mothers or single parents!!  We are the ones that orchestrate outings and think about all the little things that can make an outing a disaster.  We are the ones that go from hero to zero in a matter of seconds.  After sharing my experience with my mother in-law, I feel like I have received an even clearer image of what her life has been like.  It is not easy.  I know my own physical disabilities added to the difficulty but  I also struggled with trips with Tim before them.  I do believe the more time spent with a special needs person helps.  Learning as much as you can about their likes, dislikes, and quirks help make outings easier.  As exhausting as it was I do not regret one minute.  The good out weighed the bad and if anything we have all learned a little more of what NOT to do next time.

May the good Lord bless all of these gentle souls and those that love them!

May your days be filled with gentle hugs and pixie dust,

The Disabled Diva


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