Monday, April 20, 2009

Disney, Day One: With a Hard of Hearing Toddler

Nolan and Daddy wait to ride Autopia

We had two days scheduled at the House of Mouse while we were staying in Southern California. Our three year old was quite excited to visit "Mittey Mout," though Nolan was oblivious to the building excitement.

Doing Disney with a toddler is challenging enough, particularly when the toddler in question is on the less-than-adventuresome side of the personality spectrum. It is quite difficult to cess out which issues were created from his hearing loss/hearing aids and which were simply due to personality, but there were clearly some additional challenges presented by the addition of "ear gear."

We drove down to Disneyland on a sunny Tuesday morning, though rain clouds loomed. Luckily, the rain stayed away for our entire visit. The two hour drive in the car was trying on Nolan, who finally fell asleep as we entered Orange County. He woke up a tad cranky, but was fine once we entered the Dowtown Disney area.

Entering the park was fine, and we headed straight toward Dumbo. This is one of the few rides in the park that is universally loved by all toddlers, regardless of the timidity quotient. The noise level did not bother Nolan in the least, and there was nothing "scary" in this portion of Fantasy Land. Due to the time of our arrival, we needed to head to lunch after Dumbo. Lunch was great, and Nolan ate well. We also rode Buzz Lightyear and Autopia (neutral reaction from Nolan, Matt loved them so much he quivered).

After Tomorrowland, we made our fatal error. We headed over to Adventureland, which offers a few attractions for the very young. It also offers a few attractions that could send a timid child over the edge. The Jungle Cruise was great- both boys LOVED the animals and the boat. Since Nolan was doing so very well, we decided to head over to Pirates of the Caribbean. Matthew loved this ride at 15 months and Nolan seemed to be following in the same, brave ilk as his brother.

Oh, had we known then what we know now!

Nolan is not fond of the dark. Whether this is related to his hearing loss or not is up for debate, but he became much more clingy after entering the environs of the attraction. The waterfalls did him in (there are two in the Disneyland version of the ride, though they are rather short flumes). Then the pitch darkness, cannonballs, and gunshots sent him through the roof. We survived the ride, but all would have gone much better if we had avoided this ride altogether.

After Pirates, we decided Nolan needed a hearing break. Actually, he decided he needed a hearing break and ripped his aids out as soon as we left the ride. We stopped for an ice cream sandwich, some juice, and a funnel cake in a quiet corner of New Orleans Square. Nolan calmed down and relaxed a little.

Nolan, recovering from Pirates of the Caribbean.

We headed over to Tom Sawyer's Island to let the kids run around, and Matt was quite excited about climbing into the myriad tunnels carved into the island. Nolan made a wide berth around each and every cave entrance, refusing to get close to anything dark. The caves are quite harmless, but he wanted nothing to do with the dark.

Running on a bridge with Grandma

Finally recovered from Pirates.

After the snafu on Pirate's, we made our second fatal error. We rode Winnie the Pooh.

This one was not our fault, of course. What better ride for a tiny child than Winnie the Pooh? Except this was Winnie the Pooh on an acid trip. Lots of bright, swirling visuals as you navigate through Pooh's dream. And the volume level set to a minimum of 200 dB. I might be over-exaggerating, but the volume was so loud that even Matt put his hands over his ears.

To the uninitiated, loud volume for a hard of hearing child would seem to be a good thing. Trust me, it is not! A tea kettle whistled loudly in the ride, and Nolan screamed and ripped at his hearing aids. Luckily this ride is very short, but the damage was done and Nolan wanted nothing to do with his aids or dark rides after this point in time. Since it was already in the evening, we decided it was time to leave for the hotel. This was a good plan, because both boys thought the hotel bathtub was the greatest attraction ever invented.

What We Learned:

  • Nolan's hearing aids might not suppress all loud sounds enough to keep him comfortable.
  • Nolan is afraid of the dark.
  • Extremely visually stimulating rides drove him crazy.
  • Taking off his hearing aids around loud areas made for a happier toddler.

What We Would Do Differently:

  • Avoid most dark rides.
  • Focus on the outdoor rides in Fantasyland.
  • Avoid anything with a loud volume.
  • Avoid Spring Break.

Stay tuned for Day 2, in which we finally get it right and have a great time at Disney!


Dibs said...

Loved your post. Had to smile at a memory of ours. Our four-year-old son is terrified of the dark. Last December, we were at Disney/Epcot where my husband was attending a conference, so I was on my own with the kids. My 10-year-old wanted to ride the Epcot ball ride, so the three of us went. We got the the prehistoric part of the ride with the cave people and woolly mammoth... and the car got stuck. So we are there stuck in the dark with a hysterical (and Apraxic) little boy who did his best to tell us how much he hated it. I'm glad to report that he recovered fine!

Can't wait to read about Day 2!

Ericka said...

Oh that looks like so much fun! You are so brave to travel with a toddler. I haven't tried yet. Thinking about going on a 6 hour car ride to lake Michigan this year. Can't wait to read about day 2! Your little boys are so cute!
Hopefully, tomorrow I'll be posting about Miles getting his hearing aids. Wish me luck!

Pattie said...

All in all, it sounds like a great trip so far. Read the post on Matt's blog about the flying experience. Leah, trust me, I was not laughing at you! I just chuckled because I could totally imagine the flight from boarding to kicking the lady's seat to the look of exhaustion on your face when the grandparent's took over! Bless you, dear. YOU need a vacation after that one!

Loudest Mom said...

How fun...and I hope day 2 went well :) We've taken the kids to DIsneyland quite a few times (Grandma and Grandpa live 30 minutes away), and I was always afraid of hearing aids/implants flying off of rides :)

I had visions of digging through the brush under Thunder Mountain roller coaster!

Anonymous said...

Winnie the Pooh on an acid trip? Priceless! I love your sense of humor Leah!

tammy said...

Nolan really does look wiped out in that picture ... poor buddy ... but seems to have bounced back quickly! Pooh on acid - LOL! Glad you all had a great vacation and a better second day than the first. I guess everyday is a learning one with a hoh/deaf child. Aiden's been turning on the light at night when I put him to bed (it's the only place the crib will fit - by the light switch), then he'll fall asleep. I wonder if it has to do with not hearing anything AND not seeing anything. I'm sure they feel safer having some sensory awareness, whether it's sight or hearing, but when both are taken away, it's gotta be pretty scary.

Glad you all had a fun trip and had some nice sunny days after all the snow you had this year!