This year's trip was very different from last year's, in several ways. First of all, I can see why they charge admission once your child turns 3 yrs old. They are so aware and SO EXCITED to see their favorite characters. Last year, Jayden was only 18 months old, so while he did look at the characters, he could have cared less about them b/c he truly didn't know who they were. This year, he was just over 2.5 and his face would light up when he saw certain characters like The Little Einsteins, Handy Manny, and oh the joy in his face when he saw Lightning McQueen!! Too bad the motor noises scared the crap out of him though! That was another difference that the year made...Last year, he didn't really know the characters, but he also didn't mind standing bext to them for pictures. This year he had huge anxiety. I expected it though b/c of his issues. In the line for the picture with Handy Manny, Jayden was having one of the hugest fits and the lady helping the photographer asked us, while we were waiting, if we really wanted to try and get his picture taken since he seemed so upset and afraid. I told her, "Oh it's just a mood swing. He'll be fine once it's time for his picture." I could read the "yeah right" all over her face! LOL! But when his turn came he gave Handy Manny high five and smiled for his picture. The lady was like "WOW, you really know him!" Um...yeah. He's my child!
We went to three different amusement parks. All of them gave passes for Jayden but they weren't all exactly accomodating. Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios were the best at accomodating him. They allowed him access to the rides through the fast pass line and they also allowed me to ride all of the rides with him, even the ones that had maximum height limits. This gave me the chance to prepare him for the end of each ride b/c transitioning is not on his idea of fun. It also got us through the park much faster, so by the time Jayden started to get over stimulated, we were done. We went to Universal Studios 3 days and it was great.
Disney Hollywood Studios gave us a special needs guest pass to allow Jayden to use an alternate entrance, but only where available. Well...only one child's ride seemed to have an alternate entrance. Seriously. He was only able to see ONE disney show on stage. We showed the lady at the door his pass and she told me there was only one entrance and that we'd have to wait in the line with everyone else. I told her that he had extreme anxiety in tight crowds and asked if there was anyway she could let us in before the crowd, and we'd even sit towards the back. She said no. So we attempted to stand in line and Jayden abruptly had a fit. It was awful. He kicked and screamed and fell out and banged his head on the concrete :( The lady came over and actually stopped the end of the line (where we were) from moving!!! She rearranged the rope and then came up to me and said "This is so you won't have to walk so far... WTF?? We got inside and had to sit in the crowd and Jayden was glued to my lap b/c he was so afraid. He did perk up a bit when he saw Mickey on stage and he even jumped up a few times and yelled "Oh Toodles!!" LOL, but he wasn't his happy, dancing self. I knew he would have enjoyed it more had he been accomodated better. At one point, I looked behind me and saw a line of people in wheelchairs so I knew there was an alternate entrance, but since Jayden isn't physically disabled he wasn't accomodated. I knew it was going to be a rough day for him, but we decided to try and use his pass again to get him to see the Little Mermaid on stage. Well that was worse. The grumpy old man at that line immediately turned me around and told me to park the stroller, ignoring my question of any alternate entrances. I said, or attempted to say "Sir, I will park my stroller, but before I take him out I need to know if there is an alternate entrance b/c he has autism and won't do well waiting in this crowd." Before I could finish what I was saying (while holding the guest pass in my hand) he told me, "No. There's only this one entrance." My sister was there as well with her 2 yr old and they waited in the line and when she came out she told me that there were wheelchairs AND strollers in the back row. So there was an alternate entrance, but again, my baby is not physically disabled so he couldn't be accomodated. I can understand that there are probably people who abuse this system b/c the guest relations employee didn't even look at Jayden's Drs note. He just took my word for it. But really, I would give anything to be able to wait in a long line with my baby at theme parks. I'd give anything to not NEED that special needs pass. I'd give anything for my baby to be able to have a great time at Disney World. I would honestly wait in line for hours. I'm not asking to skip a line b/c I'm hot or lazy. I'm asking b/c I want my child to enjoy himself. I was surprised that the attendants at Disney didn't understand that. So the rest of the day was spent with him meeting characters, riding the one ride that accomodated him, and we did the character dining at Hollywood and Vine. I must say that they were VERY accomodating to his celiac disease. VERY. And since he was under 3, his meal was even free. The cook came out and walked me along the bar and told me what he could eat from the bar and what to avoid. He also told me to use our clean utensils from the table instead of the prongs on the bar. There was a huge variety for Jayden to choose from but he's incredibly picky so he just at some baked chicken. The chef brought him out some tapioca bread that he enjoyed as well. He was very cranky at first b/c he was overstimulated from the above events and there was also a huge storm that came through minutes before we went into the restaurant and the loud thunder had him on edge. The characters came by the table every now and then but Jayden wasn't in the mood. They stopped every few minutes and would sing and dance in front on the restaurant. I convinced my 12 yr old niece to go up and dance with the characters. It was the Little Einsteins and JoJo and Goliath, so it took alot of convincing to get that very cool 12 yr old up there dancing, but I told her that if she danced, I'm sure Jayden would dance as well. Well, she went up there, and he slowly followed! I have it on video and will share it with you later this week :) After that fun, the chef brought out Jayden's dessert. I fully expected a prepackaged, gluten free cookie, but it was so much more than that. My baby had a brownie tower with a scoop of chocolate ice cream!! OH MY!! The brownie was gluten free and the ice cream was tofu ice cream. Jayden LOVED it!! At first he looked at the brownie and then looked at me waiting for me to tell him he couldn't have it. But when we gave him the spoon, he went to town! The chef even gave us an extra brownie to take with us. That's when the fun began. Jayden was ready to party! The characters came around the table again and Jayden played peek a boo with them, kissed them, hugged them, and gave high fives. And then the characters performed again. Jayden had been clenching Wayne the entire time, but this time, when he started to dance, he ran back to the table and threw Wayne at the chair!! It was too funny. I felt sad for poor, neglected Waybe, but I was so proud of my boy! I can't say enough about the accomodations at Hollywood and Vine. It made the entire trip to the park worth it. Oh and the 2 hour nap he took in his stroller after lunch helped as well! LOL!
The last few days we visited Busch Gardens in Tampa. It's not as crowded so we didn't expect it to be as overstimulating to Jayden. Hmmmmmm.... Well, they issued him a special needs pass for the rides he was tall enough to ride, saying that he could use an alternate entrance. Well, there are no alternate entrance for the kiddie rides there. It wouldn't have been needed anyway though b/c the lines were not long at all. The lines were the least of our worries. Here, they wouldn't let me get on the rides with him, even with the pass or with the explanation that he has autism and it will be very difficult to get him off the ride once it's over. So we foolishly decided to go for it anyway. First the little kiddie go karts. He was so happy to ride. When the cars stopped, he stuck his fingers in his ears. I ran to the gate and told the lady not to try and take him out, to let me in and let me get him. She still had to go up to him though to unlock his straps and he lost it. He started screaming a bloody scream, kicking, flailing, and nearly foaming by the mouth. We tried to quickly bring him to the next ride. They wouldn't let me ride with him but they let my 12 yr old niece ride. Poor thing, I could see her trying to prepare him for the ride to end. He had another fit, even worse than the first. The people were staring at him like he was a circus freak. We ran to another ride with him and I don't know what this girl was thinking...I can only assume that she saw how horrible he was acting once the ride was over so she didn't want him on her ride, but she stopped me at the gate and said, wait I don't think he's tall enough. It was ridiculous b/c he walked past the height bar and was way above the red line. Not to mention the fact that all the rides in that one section have the same height limit. So she made me hold him against the bar. Of course he had a fit. Add fuel to the fire why don't you?? Well he was able to get on and they let his cousin ride with him again. She tried again to prepare him but he did the same thing. This continued until I just couldn't take the people laughing and staring at him anymore so we left that area and my mood was very foul at that point. He continued to be cranky and upset. My mom decided I need to get on a roller coaster for stress relief. We got on and the entire time I was thinking about Jayden. I looked at my watch and realized that he MUST be hungry!! We stopped and ordered him a hot dog with no bun (made sure it was a safe brand for him) and he DEVOURED it. His entire mood changed after that. SIGH. I was so upset for the remainder of that day. How could I not know that he was hungry?? My mom kept telling me it wasn't my fault. Jayden had been denying any food I was offering him and he does not yet know the feeling of hunger so he won't ask to eat, especially when he's thrown off of his routine. So I would have to watch the clock and then hope that I have something that he is in the mood to eat at that time. It's hard. But everyone pitched in from that point and watched the clock. He still had issues with transitioning, but for the most part, he did well. But he did still have huge fits of rage. Enough to make me cry the last two days of our vacation.
So overall, the vacation was awesome! Jayden had fun in the beginning and we brought home lots of memories from the trip. Tomorrow I will be on the phone with everyone involved in the promises made to restart Jayden's early intervention services. I'm done with being nice to them. Actions speak louder than words, I see, so tomorrow I'm taking action.