Friday, September 2, 2011

Autism in Disneyland

The whole world goes to Disneyland. It is an imaginative talent, to be sure. It is sort of like travel into space, or time, or into a cartoon, in between the crowds and the long lines. The last time I was there I was so sensory overwhelmed I had a feeling of real fear. I saw dark tunnels in the lines, darkness in the rides with sudden bright colors bursting out. In the really kiddy-oriented ride, Winnie-the-Pooh, I was so bombarded by bright colors in the darkness, I almost panicked. I had to control myself from fleeing.

The Pirates of the Caribbean is so dimly lit I couldn’t bring myself to even get into the boat. I know the people I was with were disappointed, but I couldn’t do it then. I wish I could because I rode it when I was little and it is a cool experience of animation in moving figures.

My favorite ride is the Jungle Cruise. It is mellow in a visual sense because it is naturalistic. I enjoy pretending I’m on a safari.

I also love the Autopia because I can pretend I’m driving even though it is easily the loudest environment imaginable. I need my headphones all day in Disneyland.
I like Tom Sawyer Island too. It is fun but my sensory system is always stopping me from doing things. I can run on the paths, bridges, and so on, but I balk at entering the caves. My mind knows they are safe. My system says, “No, no, no.”

Somehow I did the Indiana Jones ride. I can’t believe I did, in retrospect. It is dark, scary and fast- all things my system hates, but it was really exciting and I was entertained by it. It was not in bright colors so my visual field could cope. I would do it again, believe it or not.

The roller coasters scare me so much. I have the fear of flying out so I can’t ride the Matterhorn or Big Thunder Railroad. I know I won’t fly out, but I feel almost panicky even thinking about these rides.

It’s a Small World is a really terrible ordeal. The colors, lights and incessant song drive me bonkers.

The Haunted Mansion is creepy. I can do it though. It is not dark in the beginning so I can go in. Once it’s underway I am fine and it is super creative and well done.

I think I shouldn’t go to Amusement Parks because money is wasted on me. I want to do rides I can’t get myself on. I hate crowds of people and noise. I think I need the beach or trails to relax. My sister is a huge fan of Disneyland and went this week. I remember my last trip there vividly. It was so hot, crowded and noisy. I tried to cope but I struggled to enjoy myself. The conclusion I had is I can’t go if it is crowded or hot.

I know some autistic kids who love the sensory high of Disneyland. They go on roller-coasters over and over. They have sort of a drug-experience on some of the rides. In my case it is not a stream of sensory pleasure, it is an assault on my overly sensitive system. It is an amazingly creative place, but on a scale of one to ten it is an eleven in terms of sensory challenges. To give you a hint of my experience, imagine all the rides at deafening volume, the colors at dizzying intensity, the dark shadows ominously terrifying, the heat oppressively scorching, and the sea of humanity incessant. Well, that was my last trip there two years ago. Disneyland is a test of autism endurance, but it is a cool place in any event.


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