I recently chatted with Sal Tracanna of The Best Magic website and podcast about the unusual similarities between our sons. I tend to focus on the challenges of autism because that is what I know and live every day. I didn’t realize until I talked to Sal how many of the things I do to accomodate my boys also apply to his son, who is deaf. When I asked Sal if he would write a guest post, he agreed to share his story. Once again proving, we’re more alike than we’re different!

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Sal and Josh at Disney World

Sal and Josh

What would your world be like if you could never hear your mother’s voice? Never hear the sound of rain hitting the windows during a spring shower, or never hear your new born child’s cry at night. This is my son’s life and this is his story.

One of the toughest things to go thru in life sometimes isnt your disabilities, it’s the ones of your child. I knew as soon as he was born that he would not be able to hear. I knew that it would be a tough life for him now and I promised I would do everything I could to help him along his long journey thru life.

As he grew older, he adjusted to his life without sound. Around the age of 8, he started to pick up what people were saying by lip reading. Of course, he hasn’t perfected this craft yet but it helps him immensely when he is near other people who do not know ASL.

I’ve always been a Disney fan and there was no doubt that I wanted to share my love for Disney with him. His take on Disney would be a lot different then mine due to the fact, he is all about visuals and not sound (of course). The first time he went to Disney was when he was 7 years old. The following is some of the things he remembers. Josh, is now, 13 years old and has went to Disney World numerous times since then.

One of the things he remembers on that first trip was how awesome it was to see the castle. Seeing it in person is so much better then seeing it on tv. As he walked down Main Street, the castmembers all had on Mickey Gloves and were waving “Hi” to everyone. Some of the cast members were saying Hi and Josh did not respond. They did not know he was deaf but again how would they know. One of the first stops was Splash Mountain. That has always been my favorite attraction and I wanted to show Josh one of the best offerings that Disney had to offer. Josh says that he remembers all the animals in the ride. He recalls how beautiful the scenery was and how real everything looked. He vividly remembers that he then had a sense of dread come over him in one area of the ride. We were climbing the hill before the big drop. Before we actually got on the ride, we spent a few minutes watching people go down the big drop. Now it was our turn, and his first experience on the drop. As we reached the top, for a second, he remembers seeing the castle again and feeling the air hit his face. Then all of a sudden we start to drop. Josh says that he was excited and nervous. The air was racing by his face, he felt his body rise slightly off the seat. For a second, he tried to reach for my arm but was to scared to let go of the cushioning he was holding on (note: the lap bar was not there back then, the only thing to hold on was the cushioning from the seat in front of you). Then it was over. He has a huge smile on his face, and i knew that he would always be a thrill seeker.

I recently did a podcast with Kathy Kelly of The Many Adventures of Disney-lovin’ Spectrum Mom who has a son who has autism. Believe it or not, there are some similarities between a kid with autism and deafness. For Josh, he needs to have plently of contact, he needs to be visually stimulated and needs contact more then a normal kid would need. Not to be misunderstood but when you can’t hear, you tend to rely on your other senses. Because of his lack of hearing, having visually stimulating environments its what Josh loved as a younger child. When Kathy was telling me that her son loved to feel the characters face, loved to pet the characters that reminded me of Josh, how when he was young, he always wanted contact, always wanted to feel how things were. Without hearing, you need to get information about things in other ways and thats what he did.

Going to Disney when Josh was at a young age, helped me understand what Josh needed in his life. The castmembers treated him like he was family. They seemed to know what to do in special cases like Josh’s. When we went to see the princesses, Cinderella started to talk to Josh. I told her he was deaf and that was why he wasnt responding. What she did next was an awesome instance of Disney Magic. She held Josh’s hand and gave him a kiss on the cheek. I didnt expect the characters to know sign language, but she seemed to know how to make this encounter a great one. As my attention started to go towards Josh’s face, I noticed his sunburned face, was turning bright red.  The kiss that Cinderella gave him had changed the color of his face and put a huge smile on it. Sometimes, its the little things Disney does that will make a child’s day. Even without being able to hear, Disney was able to make Josh’s vacation one of the best days of his life.

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Thanks Sal! For more tips and ideas for taking a special needs child to Disney World, check out The Best Magic Podcast #004 with Kathy Kelly.