Disney 2019

Every two years Josh Kelley’s parents treat the entire family to a trip to Disney.  This year was our third year going.  We do 3 days in the parks and honestly that is our max time we’d like to stay.  It’s just enough and everyone is bonkers exhausted by the time the end of the third day rolls around.

This year we felt a little meh about how Leo would do.  While Leo has a few non-traditional autistic tendencies, he also has some very traditional autistic tendencies which made Disney hard on him.  Leo was very overstimulated most of the time and that made Disney’s disability pass a gift from Jesus Himself.  I cannot imagine Leo having to wait in all those lines all day long.  I feel confident it would have made his Disney experience miserable and even harder than it already was.

While large portions of the world are still figuring out how to best be disability friendly and accommodating I really believe Disney is getting it right in a lot of areas.  Nobody is perfect…nobody…but we truly felt as if Disney World really does desire for their fun and magic to be accessible and enjoyed by all kinds of people and children.

Leading up to the trip Josh and I were not excited at all.  The last time we’d been to Disney was just 2 months after Everett died and looking back we should have just opted out of the trip all together, but we felt like we had to go since Josh’s parents had already paid for the trip.  In hindsight it was an incredibly hard and traumatic trip for our whole little crew.  Yes, Disney can be traumatic.  We were all pushed far past our limits at that moment in time and grief was suffocating and we all cried our eyeballs out to sleep every single night.  We all could not wait to get home.  It wasn’t our best decision.

So we were nervous going into this again.  Disney is supposed to be this magical place for kiddos and when one of your children is missing there will always be an obvious hole.  There will always be a sadness in watching our other children enjoy and relish in something we know Everett should be here doing too.  So we went into this trip with zero expectations and zero agenda other than to just try and have some fun and to keep our humor intact.  Laughter is one of the key components to our life.  It’s vital.  We actually didn’t even schedule our fast passes until a couple of days before our trip and then didn’t even use them all.

We knew there would be fun, but we also went in knowing there would be sadness and hard.  We knew our kids grief might come out in a thousand different ways and that this would likely be a very overwhelming trip for Leo so we kept that information at the forefront of our brains.  Josh and I chose to hold the reigns to this trip very loosely.  We let the kids make more decisions about what we’d actually do there while Josh and I guided.  We carried Leo’s noise cancelling headphones and extra clothes & ziplock bags for him everywhere…accidents were legit in Disney…like so legit and we made sure everyone was hydrated and fed adequately and while we ate all the fun snacks we also carried a hundred more extra more filling snacks along with smaller fun treats like suckers in our backpack.  We recognized our limitations.  We only did one park per day and headed back in the evening for much needed down time to eat dinner, swim, watch movies, play football, etc.  We gave the big kids more freedom and we did a lot of dividing and conquering.  We let the bigs be big and let the littles be little and I’m so glad we approached it from that angle.


It was hard on Leo, but he had fun and everyone had some fun too.  He worked really hard and Disney pushed his limits, but he really did an incredible job.  We got a lot of stares.  We got a lot of off handed, quiet, rude comments.  I had dark moments where I wanted to physically fight people over their treatment or lack there of for Leo.  It all further affirmed one of our deepest desires for Leo and all of our children is acceptance…just as they are…no fixing required.

I shared this on my instagram and it honestly just about wraps up all my feelings about our Disney trip:

“We Magic Kingdomed it up today!  Five things: 1) The Walt Disney World disability pass is legit. Like legit legit and it made going to Disney with kiddos who have disabilities a little easier. Hooray for whoever thought of it.  2) I’d give the Mickey soft pretzel a solid 3 stars.  3) Why do Mickey shaped items taste better than normal shaped items?!?  4) This is Leo’s first time and we worried about how he’d do. He definitely struggled regulating, was overstimulated and I wanted to scream at some other people, but he had so much fun and really did great. Can I just pass out stickers and tees that say, “Staring isn’t caring, asshole.”?!?!  And 5) When you see a kiddo struggling, say kind words or give a gentle smile. Who cares if a 4-year-old slapped you on the butt while waiting in line for Buzzlightyear, take it as a compliment.  During a struggle time for Leo his Aunt Katy said, “He really is doing so well.” And she was 100% right.  He’s killing this trip and deserves to be here just as much as anyone else. Thank you Disney World for putting into place practices that encourage all types of people to enjoy your magic & fun.”

So we came, we partied and we survived another Disney trip.  See you in another 2 years Disney World…I’ll bring my stickers and tees next time. 😉


  1. No fixing up needed! For sure!

  2. I would crack up and be delighted if I was randomly slapped on the butt by a kid! Cheers to Leo for doing hard things and making the most of it! Thanks for helping a new mom learn to hold the hard and the good hand in hand and not let them cancel each other out.

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