The Aspie and the Mouse
My lucky life getting to grow up in a Magic Kingdom.
Anybody who knows me will tell you that my biggest passion in life is Disney; and all things Disney related. I was fortunate enough to often visit Walt Disney World growing up, I followed the convoluted stories of Kingdom Hearts games, and Disney movies were almost always on the TV for me. However the older I get, the more I have to defend my love of Disney.
Now let me clear the Dumbo in the room here; I get that as a massive multi-media company Disney can be just as problematic as any other large corporation. There is a lot that happens that I morally don't agree with, and there is also many things that I do agree with.
However, you didn't come here for politics, and I don't go to Disney for the politics, so lets put that aside for a second.
Disney is a first-world escapism for me. If you've had the chance to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, you probably understand the idea of the Disney Bubble. Its a wonderful shield from the harsh realities we face everyday, a chance to let my inner child run free.
Growing up with Autism, I felt like the inner child in me was a nuisance; something that stunted my growth catching up to the neurotypical. (What I would call the 'normal' at the time) I stopped trick or treating far younger than all my peers, and quickly latched onto 'adult' games like Call of Duty or the Infamous series. Many times in my life I would ignore what made me happy in order to seem more mature, seem more 'normal'. Disney was my chance to escape that, to find other like-minded people who celebrated their inner child and didn't care who knew it!
The Disney Parks were also a huge help to my social development. The Disney Bubble being a safe space to be myself, I slowly learned social cues and norms when dealing with Cast Members and other guests. Pin Trading was huge for this, I had scripts that I followed when trading Pins with Cast Members. Slowly I evolved from these scripts, and I was able to just chat about the Pins and ask in different, respectful ways.
(If you are unaware of what Pin Trading is, its a program in Disney Parks. You can buy different pins from the store to start, and different cast members in the park would have lanyards with Pins on them. If you saw a pin you liked, you could ask the cast member when they weren't busy to trade, and you could trade your own pins for others that you really liked!)
The parks were also a big help for my generalized anxiety and social anxiety. Its no surprise that Disney Parks are crowded, so I slowly started through exposure to handle crowds better; and if I felt overwhelmed we would head back to the Resort pool for an afternoon, or head to a restaurant for a food break. Rides used to be terrifying for me, and there was only a select few I would go on. (I'm sure my mother never wants to see the Teacups again in her life!!) However I slowly would try more rides each trip, the incentive being that I would get to do other things I loved in Disney; such as World Showcase in EPCOT or those aforementioned Teacups.
I haven't gone into too much detail in this article about the parks however; this is because I'm planning a trip in January to Walt Disney World for our honeymoon. So as I prepare for my trip, I would love to talk more about each aspect of my planning process in future articles!
Anyway, have a fantastic day!