Disney World is supposed to be the “happiest place on earth,” but for some kids, especially those with special needs, it can sometimes become a bit overwhelming.
For children with certain conditions, large crowds and busy environments can become scary. When Jessie Barber and her wife, Allison, brought their three children on a trip to Disney World from Kentucky, they weren’t sure how their son would react to the high-energy environment.
Their son is 18 months old and has cerebral palsy, the product of a traumatic brain injury when he was born.
Not only is he easily overwhelmed in stimulating environments, but people sometimes don’t know how to interact with him. It’s a common thing that children with special needs experience. But the little boy’s family was touched by one Disney character who went out of his way to communicate with their son.
Winnie the Pooh is known for being a friendly guy, but he went above and beyond to reach out to this baby, as seen in a video his mother uploaded to Facebook. While the family ate breakfast at the Crystal Palace in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the beloved bear approached them and started to reach out to their son.
“For those of you who have disabled children know the feeling when people look but aren’t sure how to interact with your kiddo,” Barber wrote on Facebook. “This Winnie the Pooh melted my heart and knew exactly what to do! He spent 10+ minutes with our little guy and he loved every second of it. Thank you, Pooh!”
Pooh approached the little boy and engaged him gently and affectionately, with lots of snuggles and pretend kisses.
The baby was clearly thrilled. He cooed, smiled, and made faces back at the Disney character.
“Winnie the Pooh hung out for 10 minutes,” Barber said. “He wouldn’t let go of our son’s hands. He really calmed him.”
The family wasn’t sure how their son would do at the crowded theme park.
But Barber said he loves Disney characters and was thrilled to see some of his best buddies there that day. They spotted Pooh as they went around the park later that day, which made the baby burst into smiles when he spotted his friend.
“We weren’t sure how he would handle the day, but he did amazing,” Barber said. “He didn’t pitch a fit at all.”
The family doesn’t know who the actor in the Winnie the Pooh suit was, but they hope that their video and story get him or her the recognition they deserve. Barber said it was incredibly meaningful that a stranger would spend so much time and effort reaching out to a little boy in a restaurant. It made a dramatic difference in their trip.
Cerebral palsy is a brain disorder that occurs while the brain is developing, affecting movement abilities and muscle tone.
It usually begins to show symptoms at a very young age and can cause odd or rigid movements or trouble moving without aid. People with cerebral palsy also frequently have a tough time swallowing and might also have an eye muscle imbalance. This means that they have trouble moving or focusing their eyes in sync.
There is a wide range in what cerebral palsy means. Some people may need help walking, while others can move on their own. Some have intellectual disabilities, and others function on a common level. Others may have speech delays, seizures, blindness, or deafness.
But Disney World is known for its outreach to people with disabilities.
The park has passes, programs, and a lot of other services to make sure that visits to its attractions are pleasant for everyone. Some of its disability services include letting people with a special pass skip to the front of lines for rides and be seated in certain seats for daily shows. Many people with special needs, especially children, become easily overwhelmed or upset by long wait times.
It also offers stroller and wheelchair rentals, which can be especially useful for people who have physical disabilities, like Barber’s son.
Additionally, the park has many areas placed strategically throughout the grounds, so any park visitors who become overwhelmed or overstimulated can take a break away from the crowds and noise for as long as they need.
Testimonials say that the staff members at Disney World often do everything they can to accommodate those with special needs, and it’s often just a matter of notifying staff about what you or your child needs to feel comfortable.
Some people with special needs feel the need to engage in rituals, such as riding a certain ride two or three times before moving on to the next one. As far as they are able, the staff members at Disney World try to make this possible by learning about a visitor’s needs and giving them a special pass.
Ultimately, Disney World might not be able to accommodate every need.
But the staff members try their best. Sometimes, that’s by offering someone a quiet place to take a break when they’re feeling stressed. Sometimes, that’s a cast member approaching a baby to engage him as one of his favorite Disney characters.
Regardless, it seems like the park cast and staff really do their best to live up to their reputation of being “the happiest place on earth” — for everyone who comes to visit.
Watch the heart-warming video below.
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For those of you who have disabled children know the feel when people look but aren’t sure how to interact with your kiddo. This Winnie the Pooh melted my heart and knew exactly what to do!
He spent 10+ minutes with our little guy and he loved every second of it.😍
Thank you Pooh!
Posted by Jessie Barber on Monday, November 12, 2018