Our kids have to make adjustments to be out with the public, especially in places full of sensory delights and intensities- the body is already on hyper alert. Waiting in lines that have no end to them is not a possibility. Our first trip to a theme park resulted in a lot of crying, thrashing and no rides because the lines where impossible to endure. We tried, it didn’t matter the pay off. When our son was done with waiting, he was done. I can imagine how disappointing that would be to a family that just traveled great distances to go to a theme park, or were on their first vacation.
For us though, it was just a day. If it wasn’t for the fact we were given free tickets from my husband’s employer I would have had to demand a refund. Since no fun was had and it cost us a lot of stress and pain. But this was at a park that didn’t have these programs like Disney and Discovery Parks. If it wasn’t for finding out such a thing existed I imagine we would still be waiting for that first vacation. Thankfully there are places that understand and allow kids to wait in shorter lines, or none at all if no one is in the quick queue. They still have to wait for food, bathrooms and shopping like everyone else. One thing about amusement parks, for sensory seeking kids, sometimes just putting them in one of those spin you till you’re sick rides, seems to fix them up. Even if only temporarily.
Of course we know these programs, like the one in Disney will not magically heal our children and it doesn’t make the trip without incident. Our very first strip to Disney was our very first vacation and one of a handful of times we did something fun. It still came with 4 meltdowns on the first day, but each day after was less and less. Our son was 7 at the time and we went back again when he was 9. There were still meltdowns. Far fewer, and could have been worse had we been forced to wait in the endless line of no time. Kids with autism are very concrete and literal thinkers, they need to know how long they have to do something. This is mostly anxiety related. Even if the wait was only 20 minutes, if you can’t guarantee it to be actually 20 minutes, there is no way of waiting through the waiting- no matter the pay off. I have experienced this first hand, and have left numerous lines and locations because of it. And if your child is younger or has zero concept of time, 20 minutes, or 5 minutes doesn’t mean anything to them. It may as well be an hour.
Families with people with disabilities just want the same opportunities to enjoy themselves as anyone else, and we know it won’t be the same level of enjoyment-vacations for us are not exactly relaxing. (Ok they are not at all relaxing, but sometimes you just focus on the fact you have less housework, are in a beautiful place, and have access to a really nice shower). Disney is magical, and every trip my son has gained a new skill. But it won’t make the day the same for you as it will for your friends with kids with no issues. But it will be more attainable and it is a far better version of what can happen than without those programs in place.
If for no other reason, all kids should be able to go to a place of fun, and feel free. They shouldn't feel threatened the whole time, be scared, and in pain.
Read here about the changes to the Disney Accessibility Program, it's fortunately not as bad as you may have been told. and may even be a much better situation for many families.