Chloe wanted to go to Disney World. She begged me every day for over a year. My answer was always the same: "Your Daddy is in school. We don't have the money, it's too far away, we'll go after he graduates in a few years." I'm very straight forward with my kids. Then I always followed up with: "But…God can do anything. So ask Him. If God wants to send us to Disney World right now, He will make a way for us to go."
I meant it. I could not figure out how we could make a trip to DW happen, for so many reasons! Finances being one, but Lilli and all of her needs being the close second reason. But I believe- based on personal experience- that God answers the prayers of young children. Their hearts are pure. Their faith is new and they believe in princess dreams coming true, santa claus, and wishing on stars. I find it a challenge to help Chloe distinguish between real and imaginary, but she is just starting to understand that while those things are fun, God is REAL.
So she prayed. Every day. With absolute determination and sincerity. I never expected Chloe's prayers to be answered so soon, and I never dreamed of how they would be answered.
Through a series of unbelievable circumstances that could only have been coordinated in heaven, we were blessed with a virtually free trip to Disney World. The details would amaze you. It was last minute. It was…crazy. Pretty much like everything else in my world, I immediately thought of how Lilli would handle it. And I confess I even thought at one point we should not go, because Lilli might cry the entire time and ruin the trip. I know that is awful of me. Austim is the ultimate mystery, always bringing the unexpected and most of the time, uncontrollable behavior. I credit my incredible niece Caitlin for encouraging me and helping us to make this trip happen, despite my fears.
I got busy making phone calls and researching about our special needs: a fridge and microwave for Lilli's special diet food, which kind of stroller to take for her in the park, how to handle the waiting in line for rides. I Googled and found a website that is just for kids with autism going to Disney World: http://www.wdwautism.com/node/191 I printed out two social stories and made books for Lilli about driving to DW and waiting in line for rides. (She could have cared less about them). The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World http://www.amazon.com/Unofficial-Guide-Disney-World-Guides/dp/047061529X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312465503&sr=8-1 was a very helpful book that I found at the library. I decided this would be different than the wedding experience, that I would PREPARE her. So every day when Chloe was out of earshot, I whispered secrets to Lilli about Disney World. "We are going to a special, magical place called Disney World, you will love it! Shhh, don't tell Chloe!" I would say. Lilli can't talk, so I didn't have to worry. Lilli would smile and kiss me whenever I told her these secrets. I told her everything I could think of about what the trip would be like. I wanted to surprise Chloe, but prepare Lilli. And I prayed that Lilli would be happy on the trip so that we could all be happy.
I discovered that Disney World is even more awesome than I realized because they totally accommodate kids with autism. Or anyone with special needs, for that matter. We got a special pass when we first arrived, and we never waited more than ten minutes for a ride. This was fortunate because Lilli could not have made it any longer than that. There were special places for us to wait in some cases. We changed and let Lilli nap at the wonderful first aid station. Lilli loved almost every ride. She tried to get out of the boat on the Pirates of Carribbean, but she was not very interested in that ride. Caitlin flew down to help us which was necessary in many ways. Each kid had an adult to hold them on a ride, watch them, or push them in the stroller.
At the end of the first day, we stood in front of the castle and watched the light show and fireworks. Several people have asked me if I saw Tinkerbell fly down from the castle, but I missed that part. I had my back turned to the castle because I was watching my kids' faces instead. That was a better show for me. I was smiling with tears of joy as I watched Lilli watch the show. She loved Disney World. She was happy almost the entire trip. It was an answer to prayer, and it was a dream come true for all of us. I am so glad I did not keep our family from experiencing Disney World because of my fears about Lilli's reactions. And I am most of all thankful for the innocent prayers of a sweet younger sister.