We are home.

We have unpacked and put away the suitcases.

The long awaited trip to Walt Disney World/EPCOT and Florida is in the books….so was Disney the “Happiest Place on Earth?”

I would have to sayit was pretty wonderful. And really, so was the whole week.  The time together was a gift but the biggest gift was how we got to watch the growth and success in Elizabeth on our week together.

I mean Disney and EPCOT were hot, crowded, loud and busy, but these were things we had anticipated. Our place to stay was new to her.  The flight was her first.  Really so many new things.

I knew her nerves were getting to her before the trip because she started talking in short sentences with her jaws clenched and her hands were s-l-o-w-l-y rising into high guard.  This is when a person has their hands up high around their shoulders.  Almost as if anticipating something coming at them.

This high guard, something related to her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD),is something that she has done since she has been little and something, that with talking and work, she controls pretty well.  That is until she is REALLY nervous and then, there it is!

We could all see that she was working so very hard to get ready for all these new things that were going to come at her.  Truth be told, we were all a bit focused on these new things too, so we knew it was so much more intense for her.

When you have a child with special needs, understanding them and how they work (and I know I have said this so many times prior) is so crucial because, we understood her feelings and did what we could to help her, keep her nervous system as calm as could be and have her enjoy her trip.

So we kept talking and telling her what to expect and what was coming next. And we did this each day.  Also, with  her Dyspraxia, time and dates are hard to grasp.  So we made her a loose schedule for each day.  So she would know what to expect and prepare for  and that helped her a lot.

First was the trip through security at the airport.  She was fine here.  She handled it all so well. From handing over her own I.D. and boarding pass to taking off and putting on her shoes.

On the flights, she was peaceful.  She was happily seated between her Dad and brother and I am told, she smiled and laughed and when the plane touched down said ” OOOF” which made those all around her smile. She did, however, refuse the complimentary  peanuts.

Telling Elizabeth how well she did and how proud of her we were, made her blues eyes sparkle at the airport.  I could see just how proud of herself she was and seeing this made all the hard work so very worth it.

We got to our place to stay and Elizabeth began a week of firsts.  But what made them so special was watching how she believed she could do these new things.  That she WANTED to do these new things. And she had fun! She laughed, high fived us and had a ball.   That was the gift of this trip.

As a parent to a child with special needs, so much of the time we are working hard to help them make gains, do therapies and encourage their growth in many arenas,  but when the desire to grow is theirs, when the want to do something comes from them and when they KNOW they can do things themselves,  made us proud and grateful.

I could have screamed these feelings from the top of Cinderella’s Castle.  (But would have probably gotten removed by security.)

From a trip down the water slide to riding a roller coaster.  From driving the car on a ride to heading out to a really late dinner, she handled it all.

Was it perfect?  No. Absolutely not. There were moments of overload.

Did she need her breaks?  Absolutely!  And Daily.  We took some sensory items with us to help with this.  (Please go to our site to peek  at our offerings for this!)

Did she just hop on all the rides?  No she cautiously approached them.

Did she refuse somethings.  Yes she did. But so did I.

But in sum total:

She rode 2 planes, 1 water slide, 11 rides at Disney and 6 at EPCOT.

She made 2 parents, 1 brother and 1 sister so proud.

She made a million memories for us all.

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti

author of “ I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”