Helping Children with Autism by Bringing the Theme Parks Into their Daily Routine

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Maureen Deal, the founder of Autism At The Parks shares with us how she incorporates the theme parks, even thought they are closed, into her son’s daily routine.

Currently, all theme parks, cruise lines, and many attractions are still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We at The Unofficial Guides hope all our readers and their loved ones, as well as all attraction employees, remain healthy and safe. Without intending to trivialize the current crisis, we will continue to post positive stories about the parks, in hopes of bringing their magic into your home as a welcome distraction during these trying times. For the latest updates, read our guide to cornoavirus and the theme parks

The Coronavirus has affected all our lives in so many ways. Although we understand that it is necessary, as avid theme park fans living just 30 to 45 minutes from Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, and Walt Disney World, we were sad to see our favorite places close.

My son, Zachary, has autism and in addition to multiple visits to theme parks each month, he is very active in Special Olympics. Practically every extracurricular activity our family enjoys, even our apartment complex pool, is closed and missing from our lives.  

Now, more than ever, we need some happy thoughts and a little escape to help offset the bombardment of the news regarding COVID-19. We have discovered some ways to continue our love for the theme parks and the beautiful area in which we live. One way is my son’s affinity for watching YouTube videos. Besides cat videos, he has enjoyed the hundreds of videos posted by different theme park bloggers, especially the POV videos of the rides. He can watch those videos for hours, and you know he is feeling the ride as he sees the video in front of him and hears all the sounds generated by the attraction.  

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Streaming themed music channels—or even listening to our personal collection of Disney music and movie soundtracks—is another fun way to remember theme parks in our daily lives. Watching the Dapper Dans, Voices of Liberty, and Mariachi Cobre during their Voices from Home performances has also been a highlight for us. Our son enjoys coloring, and the music serves as a great background for this activity. Playing our son’s Disney Wheel of Fortune board game has also been a lot of fun, spinning the mouse ears wheel and solving the Disney-themed puzzles.  

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During our stay-at-home confinement we have rediscovered many of the past Disney classic movies and found some of the new movies and short films on Disney+, including Disney Prop Culture. Watching favorite movies like Cinderella, Herbie the Love Bug, and Tangled has brought back many happy memories, great music, and a way to brighten up our days. 

The recent Disney Family Singalong on ABC-TV, and the encore performance the following week, were highlights of the past month and brought smiles to our faces and tears to our eyes. Our son has always loved live performances at SeaWorld, Universal Orlando, and Walt Disney World. You could see the amazement on his face when he watched a live person singing some of his favorite songs alongside the animated character, especially Moana. It was definitely Disney magic that warmed our hearts.  

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To break some of the monotony of wearing shorts and shirts during our stay-at-home confinement, I have worn different theme park T-shirts that I’ve collected throughout the years. Zachary is fascinated with them because he knows I usually only wear them to the parks. It’s been fun wearing 50th Anniversary celebration shirts for It’s a Small World and the Carousel of Progress, runDisney shirts from the races I’ve done, and even Harry Potter and Universal shirts. One of my favorites is the shirt I bought during the limited Music of Pixar Live concerts from Disney’s Hollywood Studios a few years ago.  

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Our family is made up of photograph fanatics. Instead of souvenirs and collectibles overwhelming the limited space in our apartment, we take a lot of photos from every visit we make to the theme parks and love the Disney Photopass photos included with our annual passes. It’s been entertaining for all of us, especially Zachary, to see awesome photos from the park rides as well as Epcot’s Flower and Garden Show, Universal’s Mardi Gras parade, and the holidays at all the parks rotate on our computer screen saver. The world is definitely a different place now as we all do our best to remain safe and healthy. Incorporating Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld into our routine helps lift our moods, brighten our day, and give us so many things to look forward to when we can visit our favorite theme parks again.

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