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posted Sunday January 8th, 2012

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with a good friend who happens to have a special needs child — make that special needs adult, this kid is about to graduate from high school. Suffice to say, my friend knows her way around the block.

“You’re getting the pass for Sophie, right?” she asked when I mentioned we’d be spending a few days at Disneyland over the holidays.

“Well, no,” I said. “We never have asked for it.”

Technically speaking, Disney did away with the Special Needs Pass several years ago, supposedly because so many families were pretending to have screwed up kids in order to cut in line for rides. But you can still present your special needs child at Guest Services and get a blue card that gives your kid and her family access to the handicapped (read: shorter) lines.

“Oh come on,” my friend said. “Ask for it! How often does something come along that makes life a little easier? And it will make Sophie feel so special, knowing she’s getting you in the shorter line.”

So I did it. That first day, as soon as we arrived at the park, Ray and Annabelle zoomed off to Space Mountain and Sophie and I stood in line to get her card. The woman wasn’t very nice to us — other kids got a special “Honorary Citizen” button but all I got was the third degree over just why we needed the card. Since I’d asked myself the same thing, I wasn’t too upset. Just guilty. I let the card float to the bottom of my special Disney (yes, we’ve been that many times) purse; we never used it.

The thing is, Sophie doesn’t need a blue card to feel special at Disneyland. Even with 90 minute lines, crushes of people and rides that soak her clothes, for her this really is the happiest place on earth. Sure, she gets antsy in line, but not much more so than your average kid and not so it gets in her way. At Disneyland, I can tell, Sophie feels above average. Here she doesn’t need to compete — there are no math quizzes, no spelling drills, no cliques of third-grade girls to leave her out. Just princesses to meet, live dance shows to take part in, and fantasy lands to enter. We rode that damn Ariel ride six times this year. I still have the song stuck in my head, a week later.

It was awesome.

One place, though, Sophie’s lack of dexterity emerged. That was on the pier at California Adventure, where they have a few old fashioned carnival games. Toward the end of the second day I insisted we take a break from rides to try and win a couple prizes. Sophie wanted to do it herself, so I forked over the cash and she tried. And tried. First we attempted an impossible game where you roll balls in a hole (we finished 7th and 8th several times) and then Sophie noticed another one where you point a large water gun at a small black dot. Again and again, kids big and small were walking away with stuffed Dumbos. Except for Sophie.

I wasn’t the only one who noticed. A sweet woman with no kids nudged me after our fifth or sixth loss, asking if it was okay if she gave Sophie the Dumbo she’d just won. Of course it was. Sophie’s face lit up; she hugged the woman.

And I thought we were done with the games. But by then, Ray and Annabelle had caught up with us. “Let’s play that one with the balls,” Ray said.

“Good luck,” I replied. “That one’s impossible.” But he paid for himself, Annabelle and Sophie, anyway, and they joined three other players on stools.

Guess who won, fair and square? It was just like in the movies.

Dumbo was forgotten as Sophie was presented with a large stuffed horse, the character Bullseye from Toy Story. We managed to give that Dumbo away (Annabelle won another one, it was getting ridiculous — talk about Too Much Disney) but Bullseye rode home to Arizona in Sophie’s arms.

“I won! I won! I won!” she kept saying.

We certainly don’t need another stuffed animal in the play room, but I can use a reminder that Sophie doesn’t need always need a pass.

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Tags: Filed under: culture, Down syndrome, family by Amysilverman

9 Responses to “Bullseye!”

  1. Oy. I was on the fence about requesting the pass too, did so anyway, and enjoyed the HECK out of those short (read: nonexistant) lines. Ins & outs too long & dull for a comment but I will note they gave me NO trouble about receiving a pass. Little guilt but not enough to stand in long lines with squirmy heavy 3 yr old.

    Congrats to Sophie on her Bullseye!

  2. “At Disneyland, I can tell, Sophie feels above average. Here she doesn’t need to compete — there are no math quizzes, no spelling drills, no cliques of third-grade girls to leave her out. Just princesses to meet, live dance shows to take part in, and fantasy lands to enter.”

    As a mom, that brought tears to my eyes, because isn’t that what we all desperately want for our daughters? Less stress, and more joy.

  3. oh, yay Sophie!

    I wonder if the pass is for attention span or just the physical stamina to stand on line. I was trying to look it up on their web site and they are suspiciously vague about stating a rule.

  4. And, there ya go! Good one.

  5. Last spring, when I was pregnant, my students who work at Disney told me I should get that pass. “I’m not disabled!” I exclaimed. “I’m just pregnant.” But you’re entitled to it, they told me. And you deserve it. Just as your friend said.

    I didn’t do it, because I didn’t go to Disneyland (I’ve still never been to Disneyland) — but I think I would have, and without guilt, even for as relatively minor a disability as pregnancy.

  6. Hi… I randomly found you…actually your other blog first, when searching for full inclusion kindergarten placements for my little guy with Down syndrome… seems the district is already breathing down my neck about next year and I am so not ready for it… but loved reading a few posts of when Sophie started kindergarten… when my kids are all snuggled in bed tonight and it’s quiet I am coming back to read more. I love to glean from moms who are a few steps ahead of me on this journey!! ;)

    Your girls are beautiful!!

  7. Nice to meet you Amy- I just heard about your blog. I like the interpretation of Disney noted above by Noan. Same boat here. Our cliques are smaller people. But the point is well taken. Happy New year!

  8. Cheri, thank you, that made my day. Ah, kindergarten. I remember that feeling too, the January before the year she started — there’s something really daunting and foreboding about that process. But I bet that like Sophie, your son will have a great experience. Good luck!

  9. Happy New Year to you, too, Cole. And — yes, Noan is very wise!!!

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