First off, I’m doing this backwards. We couldn’t have made it to Disney World without months of planning. However, I’ll cover all that in the wrap up as I’m going to need my wife to help write it since she did at least 80% of the work. Plus, I had a great time today and want to write about it now.

We started at Hollywood Disney because Raymond is crazy about Phineas and Ferb. This is a fairly new thing, but since they aren’t trains we are all about it! Since we stayed outside the park we took a shuttle into the park, which was frankly a pain in the ass. Next time we’ll pay the extra loot to stay in a park hotel. The shuttle took us to the Disney bus lot, and then a Disney bus took us to Hollywood Disney. All in all travel time was about an hour. Too long on buses with most kids on the spectrum IMO.

Also, mom and dad, if you don’t have breakfast reservations or are a coffee snob in any way I suggest you find coffee prior to entering. 🙂 We ended up eating at the Starring Rolls Cafe, which was decent and inexpensive but heavy on diet challenges like gluten and casein. Our first event was seeing Chip and Dale! The characters are a big draw, and Raymond is a huge fan of these two. He was fascinated by meeting them for real and we got some great pictures. Luckily my wife had planned ahead and gotten an autograph book, so we got their autographs. We also found out about pin trading.

This is the deal, and I think it has some natural social interaction potential. You buy these lanyards and pins. (we’re in for about $80 already.) You can get a starter kit for free with a $25 purchase of other stuff, so basically it costs you $25. You put all the pins on your lanyard, and every Disney employee in the park is wearing these things. You can trade up to two pins with each park employee. The ones you want have a little silver Mickey head on them because they are only available in the park.

My thinking is that, assuming we can get Raymond interested in it, this is a fairly simple and straightforward interaction with a person who is automatically predisposed to be nice to him! We may need to coach him a little at first but I think when he sees how fun this can be he will leap into it. This will give Raymond some needed practice with both social skills and intraverbals, and he’ll have concrete items to “memory tag” the interactions. The autograph book will do the same thing, if you can get your kid into it, and is a hell of a lot less expensive, but we’ve never been good at taking the cheap route.

Next up was Toy Story Mania, which Raymond loved in spite of not liking most rides. Even the 3D didn’t bother him and normally it is totally disorienting. Its a shooter with lots of visual treats, so be prepared for lots of energy afterward! We then took the Studio Backlot Tour which was decent albeit hot as it was in the open air. Next up we did more character visits, snapping pictures with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater and finally, you guessed it, Phineas & Ferb. This whole little area is loud, so if there is any noise sensitivity beware. On that note, I was really concerned about the whole noise sensitivity thing, and rightly so, but on the whole the park was much less noisy than I expected. It wasn’t super crowded either.

Needing a sit down AC break, we went to Muppet Vision 3D. Nice show, low key but loudish in places. Then we went to the place I’d been looking forward to, Star Tours, the Star Wars based flight simulator. Raymond is terrified of roller coasters, flying, going fast, etc. However, I managed to cajole him into going on this one and was quite happy at how he handled himself. He wasn’t happy, but he didn’t melt down or tantrum. I talked to him calmly throughout most of it, reassuring him that it was not real and it was pretend. This is a great ride for thrill seeking types. Also, my mother in law almost threw up, so maybe the motion sick types should give it a miss.

Needing more AC we wandered over to The Magic of Disney Animation. I wish we’d come here sooner, as we just missed the cutoff for the drawing class. Lots of interactive stuff, great fun for kids and nice and relaxing for parents. The animation museum is worth a gander as well. Since we missed the class, we hustled over to Sunset Boulevard and caught most of the Pixar Parade. Fun, but Raymond wasn’t into it. Too loud, too many colors, too hot and too late. We took his cue and showed up early for our 4 o’clock dinner reservations at the 50s Prime Time Cafe. This place rocks. Good stick to your ribs style food served by staff who will remind you to take your hats off, keep your elbows off the table and the like. The kids meal comes with either ice cream or fruit for dessert, and I appreciated the choice. However, since I loaded Raymond up with Trienza early in the day we indulged him.

On leaving at 5 we opted for a cab ride, which cost around $20 and took all of 15 minutes, so I think it was money well spent. We found out parking is only $14 a day, and that’s a small price to pay for saving 45 minutes on a bus! All in all I have to count our first day a success. We came back to the hotel and went swimming. There were several things that helped keep us on track. First, we listened to Raymond. He started asking to leave around 2, so we knew in order to keep him involved we would have to keep him engaged. Second we didn’t try to do everything. We did what Raymond showed an interest in and still managed to fit in some stuff for the rest of us. Finally, we didn’t do all day. Leaving at 5 means we missed some stuff, but what’s the point of sticking around for fireworks if you have to deal with a meltdown or 10?

Read Autism and Walt Disney World Day 2

Read Autism and Walt Disney World Day 3.