Technology is amazing. Could our grandparents ever have imagined that we would someday be able to instantly communicate the written word to friends and family across the country... indeed, across the oceans... simply by typing on a keyboard?
In January I am going to Walt Disney World with six other women... none of whom I have ever met! The thought of it blows my mind. We come from all walks of life and most likely would never have met a few generations ago. Now we have connected through the wonder of the Internet and I am beyond excited when I think about meeting these women for the first time. Some of them are new acquaintances and others I have "known" for years through www.disboards.com.
I discovered this Disney fan site back in 2006 after our family's second trip to Walt Disney World. Up until then I am embarrassed to say that I wasn't very computer-savvy. I never needed to be. I often joke that only the love of Disney could have dragged this technophobe, kicking and screaming, into the computer age! Up until then I gleaned all of my trip-planning information from whatever book I could get my hands on... The Unofficial Guide, Birnbaum's, PassPorter... and many others. I kept a stack of them by my bed and would pour over them every night... fueling many a happy Disney dream.
But I often found that some of the information contained within these fine publications was out-of-date by the time we got to Walt Disney World and that I was missing out on new developments that could have a huge impact on our precious Disney vacation! The horror! And so, this old dinosaur plucked up the courage to tackle the personal computer, fueled by the desire for the latest Disney news. This was a huge step for me... at the risk of divulging my age let me point out that when I was in college I typed my papers on a manual typewriter after doing research at the library using the Dewey Decimal System and articles stored on microfische. (You young-uns might need to Google those terms...fellow dinosaurs are nodding their heads and laughing.)
My courage payed off. For me, "discovering" the Internet was something like the scene in Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens the farmhouse door and the world changed from black and white to technicolor. Amazing doesn't even come close to describing it. Suddenly I had access to more Disney information than I could possibly imagine... real-time entertainment schedules... restaurant menus... current discounts on resort rooms... you name it! I was in trip-planning heaven. :)
But, even more wonderful was that now I was able to read about other people like me... "Disney Nuts"... as my husband affectionately calls us. I became particularly fascinated with reading Trip Reports. How wonderful! I could read about somebody else's trip... the highs and the lows... and then leave a comment if I so desired. And the other person would write back! It was almost like sitting at the kitchen table and chatting with a neighbor over coffee! I loved it. What a relief to know that I wasn't the only one who obsessed over her pilgrimages to the Happiest Place on Earth!
Naturally, it wasn't long before I had the opportunity to write my own trip report. I wanted it to be fun, of course, but I also saw it as an opportunity to share important information with other parents of children on the autistic spectrum. After all, special families have to tour Disney in a special way. I titled my first trip report Adventures in Autism and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the years I wrote other reports: Another Adventure in Autism, An APRIL Adventure in Autism, and the current, although woefully neglected, A Halloween Adventure in Autism. Somewhere along the line the Trip Report board developed a sub-category: Pre-Trip Reports. Here, Disney-crazed fans could share all the delicious minutia of their sometimes obsessive trip-planning and other people actually looked forward to hearing the details! Huzzah!
(To this day I am convinced that this was the brainchild of some clever DIS-spouse who was tired of being on the receiving end of a never-ending play-by-play regarding their upcoming vacation and decided to create an alternative outlet for his or her prattling loved one. I thank this person sincerely. I'm sure many a marriage has been saved, including my own.)
Discovering the trip report boards has been a magical experience in so many ways. Readers responded, connections were made, and virtual friendships were formed. Often another parent on the spectrum would send me a message, either publicly or privately, asking for advice about this or that. The most affecting messages were from readers saying that I had given them more than information. Because of what I had written they had gained confidence that they, too, could have magical family vacations at WDW, despite the many challenges their children faced. It gave me chills to think that I had even a tiny part in making their dream come true! Other parents wrote saying how good it was to know that they weren't alone... that other parents had to laughingly stumble through Disney dealing with kids that ate nothing but chicken nuggets, screeched and stimmed loudly in line, and fully expected that their families would visit their favorite attractions (Hall of Presidents) five times in a row! How comforting to know our adventures in autism were strikingly similar.
So... that brings me back to the main focus of this blog: The Book. Hopefully you not only have a better idea of what is motivating me to write it, you now know how I met these other Disney-loving Spectrum moms. As much as I have become enamored of the technology that introduced us, I have to admit that I am still a face-to-face kind of gal. I doubted that I could really get to know these women exclusively through e-mail. That's when I came up with the idea of a moms-only trip to WDW. What better place could there be for us to "bond"? Private messages, e-mails, and telephone calls were exchanged. Husbands were consulted. Numbers were crunched.
In the end, seven of us will be headed down to WDW in January for a weekend of fun, friendship, and yes, a bit of well-deserved respite from our mommy and housework duties. As our friend, Mickey, would say...
The Many Adventures of a Disney-Lovin’ Spectrum Mom is not affiliated with, authorized or endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with, The Walt Disney Company or Disney Enterprises, Inc., or any of their affiliates. All trademarks, service marks, and trade names are proprietary to Disney Enterprises, Inc., its subsidiary, affiliated and related companies, as the case may be. For the official Disney website, visit disneyparks.disney.go.com