My book research had stalled due to lack of funds and I was in need of a plan. Something... anything... that could jump-start the project without breaking the bank. Divide and Conquer, the old saying goes. So that's what I intended to do.
Okay, so this year we didn't have enough money for our family of four to take our customary week-long vacation. (Given today's economy, I'm sure we're not the only ones.) Having already agreed to postpone our Walt Disney World trip until late 2011, I approached my husband with an idea. Perhaps I could scrape together enough money to go by myself for a few days, effectively dividing the costs considerably. Airfare, meals, and lodging for one as opposed to four? That we could manage!
Then came the really tricky part. Could I persuade several women that I had never met to do the same?
I had "virtually" met quite a few mothers of children on the Autistic Spectrum through the Disney discussion boards, DISboards.com and a few of them had agreed to be interviewed for the book. I had filled them in on my original plan and they had been disappointed when I confessed I hadn't the means to travel with them and their families to Walt Disney World. Would they consider a Moms-Only weekend trip? For... you know... purely research purposes? (heh heh heh!)
The more I thought about this idea, the more I liked it. The real key to the success of this book will be the "Spectrum Moms," as we've begun to call ourselves. If I were to present a collection of touching little anecdotes about different ASD kids at Disney it would be great reading... for the first twenty pages. After that it would become too sugary-sweet for consumption. Let's face it, even for the most loyal of Disney fans there's only so much pixie dust that can be digested at one time.
I haven't done hard research during these past few months, but I have been thinking about the stories I want to tell and about how I want to tell them. It's not enough to simply put a lot of sweets on the table and call it a meal. I want to serve up the meat and potatoes... so readers get to know and care about these Disney-loving families on the Spectrum. Otherwise, when I write about a non-verbal three year-old pointing to a character and saying, "Mickey!" they'll just think, "Eh, that's cute." They're not going to get it. I want them to really get it.
There's truly a bigger story here. Walt Disney World isn't just a nice place to take your autistic kid because, "Oh, they're so accommodating to Bobby's special diet" or "Isn't it a blessing to have this GAC so Mary doesn't have a meltdown in line" That's only the tip of the iceberg. I'm not the first one who will say that Walt Disney World is therapeutic for people with Autism. In fact, a couple of years ago I was thrilled to read about a research study, partially funded by the Disney Company, that was endeavoring to explore the reasons why Autistic children seem to blossom at Walt Disney World.
I have since been disappointed to learn that the study was put on hold. Guess I'm not the only one who can't afford the cost of research.
I'll go one step further by declaring that a vacation at Walt Disney World is therapeutic for the entire family on the Spectrum! Planning for the vacations has especially therapeutic for our little group of Spectrum Moms. Why? Because it's been the catalyst for us to meet on-line. Through sharing the details of our somewhat obsessive planning we've also come to share intimate details of our lives. We've connected with other women who share the same challenges. It's been a way to alleviate some of our stress and in turn make us healthier people and better parents.
You might not think that a Disney Discussion Board could yield such a phenomenal support group for mothers of autistic children, but it has. This book is just as much about our stories as it is about our kids'. Who'd have imagined Walt Disney Vacations as actual THERAPY?
Now, If I could just figure out how to get them included in my son's IEP....
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