The Disney trip was a challenging one for us. I'd told everyone that I didn't consider it a vacation for me, but rather an opportunity to give Alex a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And that's pretty much how it worked.
I was not overly impressed with WestJet. Despite my efforts to make sure that they were aware of Alex's needs, my request for a meet and assist seemed to hit everyone by surprise, leaving them scrambling to catch up. The individual people were all eager to be helpful but there was a serious lack of communication. Add in the flight delays and both travel days were long and difficult.
Disney, on the other hand, lived up to their reputation for going out of their way to make everything run smoothly. There were several significant challenges, but they helped out with all of them with grace and pleasantness.
The biggest challenge was that Alex wet the bed every night, despite me getting up every 60-90 minutes to escort him to the washroom. I am sure that housekeeping threw a little party to see us go but they were always courteous and understanding when we dealt with them. They even brought us a pile of extra sheets so that I didn't have to request them each morning.
Alex used his noise-cancelling headphones almost constantly. Although this was pretty much the quietest that Disneyworld gets, it was still full of enough people to make him edgy. I had expected that he would want to walk around the park to look at things but instead, he much rather preferred to stay around the hotel.
The character experiences were all great. I could tell some of them had difficulty since Alex doesn't follow a typical child "script" when meeting them but they all improvised well. The most impressive one was Princess Anna, who came over to meet Alex in line while she had a break and gave him a hug right over the velvet rope. Considering that the staff told us that she and Queen Elsa meet and greet over two thousand people each day, I would have thought her more than justified in grabbing two seconds of relief while she could.
Seeing Alex's genuine delight at meeting the characters made the trip worth it. I'm sorry he didn't get more of a Disney experience, but he was happy with what he had, which is enough.
For those considering using the Disability Pass, we found it useful but it's certainly not going to speed you through the park. You have to sign in at Guest Services to get the pass and then you can use it throughout your stay. You go up to a ride or attraction and they give you a return time which is the approximate equivalent of the standby wait (which is usually posted outside). When you return, you join the FastPass line, which is usually an additional 5-10 minutes. The math on this tells you that children with disabilities end up waiting longer than any other patron to see what they want to see. And if waiting in line is an issue, then there isn't really a way to avoid it.
We brought Alex's iPad and let him use it while we were waiting, which helped. I also did a visual schedule for him each day, which also helped.
I'm looking forward to taking Nathan next year but I think this will be the end of our Disney adventures for a long time. I'm still exhausted from having gone through it.