My Son’s Confidence Soared Sailing the Mediterranean With Disney Cruise Line

After having sailed eight Disney cruises on all four ships in the fleet, we felt ready to head over and explore Europe with the peace of mind and comfort offered by the cruise line. Always keeping my Autistic son in mind and the consistency that he needs, it was only Disney Cruise Line for us. Andrew knows all the ships and can take you from bow to aft in a flash, with great ease and certainty, while stopping for some soft serve ice-cream along the way. The staterooms are consistent in appearance and layout on all the ships, the decor comfortingly similar with unique flourishes and dining rooms all familiar and captivating. These are the considerations that keep us sailing with Disney Cruise Line. If Andrew is at peace, then we relax and focus on memory making. Disney Cruise Line creates a safe and secure environment which fosters growth for our son. Both my children have grown up sailing with Disney Cruise Line and celebrated eight of their actual birthdays onboard.

My daughter celebrating her birthday sailing the Disney Fantasy.

Pamela Birthday Disney Fantasy

Booking port adventures throughout Europe was easy through the Disney Cruise Line website http://disneycruise.disney.go.com where we registered for free. Disney Cruise Line guides you through every step before your cruise, offering detailed descriptions of port adventures, even describing benefits for children, allowing guests the ability to make informed decisions.

I booked a port adventure at every Mediterranean port and was very excited and comforted by the high standard offered by Disney Cruise Line and great peace of mind. Booking port adventures through them was inexpensive and I knew that if anything went wrong, Disney would be there to assist. They partner with only the best tour companies who fit Disney’s high standards.

Andrew at the starting line at Olympia.

Pete Andrew Olympia starting point

The Disney Magic docked at Katakolon, Greece, where we walked through Olympia, enjoyed a fabulous lunch and walked through the port friendly Katakolon.

Disney Magic Side Photo

Disney Magic Katakolon

Katakolon Lunch DCL

While I won’t elaborate on every port, I will say that every guide was highly trained, paced the tour perfectly and every guide included my son above and beyond the norm. They made Andrew feel a part of the group, they made him feel valued and important. He was given small tasks which fostered inclusion and made Andrew very happy. Andrew held the Mickey Mouse port adventure signs many times leading the group and kept it together, even in the Athens Museum (where I was worried about him making loud vocalizations). Andrew was great, he was immersed in our world, his behaviour was appropriate and just before boarding the bus, having reached his limitations, he asked the tour guide to take the sign back, saying, “I’m tired, no more sign.” We felt so gratified to see our son so happy and we could see his confidence growing on the spot.

Acropolis Andrew

Here is Andrew feeling pride at having led the group closer to the Athens Acropolis.

Andrew Holding DCL Sign Olympia

I never once had any behavioural issues on this trip where the port adventures involved a lot of walking in the hot sun, because of the immersive allowances, the pacing of the tour and the stops at the most amazing, high end restaurants, taverns and cafes for meals and refreshments.

Andrew leading the Disney Cruise Line Port Adventures group to the Athens Acropolis.

Andrew Holding DCL Sign Acropolis

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Andrew’s Art

Andrew, my son, diagnosed with Autism at age three is primarily non-verbal, requests only what he wants. We have to guess his needs, his pain, his frustration, his joy and his thoughts. He is strong, he is happy and very playful. In fact, his joy and laugh are contagious. Andrew’s joy defines him.

Last summer, upon the end of the school year, I was asked to come by to pick up school work. I obliged, thinking I’d have to sort through charts, sheets of this and that, but to my great surprise the mound that awaited me was packed with wooden canvases of paintings. Andrew’s Art Therapist, Ashley, looked at me and nodded her head and told me that Andrew loves Art just as much as I do and that he is showing a great affinity for painting and juxtaposing colours together in a complementary manner.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Now I understood why he would come home covered in paint up to his elbows, and patches of paint spots and smears over his clothes. Not that that ever bothered me, I knew he wouldn’t wear an artist’s smock. I figured he loved the texture, feel and smell of the paint and the way it would peel off when dry. I got that, so on I went dissolving the paint on his clothes without question or frustration. What I didn’t know was what he was producing during Art Therapy, what masterpieces and explosions of expression would find their way into the trunk of my car. The ironic thing here is that he has trouble identifying his colours! Go figure!

When home, I couldn’t stop talking to Andrew about my excitement about his paintings. Andrew listened. I began to go through his artwork and prop the canvases up against the wall and he would come around and tell me, “no, like this”. I hadn’t found the right position and he had to correct it. If I placed certain paintings apart, he would come in and re-arrange them to be positioned together. I later learned from his therapist that many paintings were executed simultaneously. What a guy! My Andrew. My Andrew who would quietly watch me photographing his paintings and who would come over and quietly turn them this way and that way until they were positioned that way in which he painted them.

I was floored. Andrew was in my world. Another means by which to reach him had just surfaced and I was elated.

So then I started a Facebook Page called Andrew’s Art. Hundreds of people clicked ‘like’, many folks asked and are continuing to ask if any pieces are for sale. While I see some future potential for Andrew to make a bit of money and possibly become self-sufficient, right now, I don’t have the heart to part with any pieces.

They tell a story. They tell me what his thoughts are. They tell me what he is feeling. How can I let them go? I cannot.

Most importantly, Andrew takes mental inventory and knows the position and filing of each and every piece. What would happen if I took one away? I cannot do that to Andrew.

I want to treasure this new form of self-expression from my son because it allows me to see into his soul for the first time in my life.

Here is the first glimpse I had into my son Andrew’s thoughts.

Andrew Blue Art

Unbelievable pairing of colours. Look at the deep blues, mixed with red to create that beautiful shade of purple. The deep blues mixed with white. And how on earth did he decide on that oh so beautiful splash of brown?

Incredible.