dear disney

Ed note: As of ten minutes ago, the following is sitting in an inbox in Orlando waiting for a member of Disney’s customer service department to open it. I pray that it is someone who will take the time to read it – really read it – and to understand why I felt I had to send it. 


Dear Walt Disney World Management,

My husband and I recently returned from a weeklong stay at Disney World with our two daughters, ten year-old Katie, and eight year-old Brooke, who has autism.

Through the network of incredibly supportive readers that follow my blog, Diary of a Mom, we had heard from all corners of the autism community that Disney has made a concerted effort to accommodate families like ours and that you welcome our children with open arms. For most of our stay at Disney, that was precisely what we found to be the case.

We were grateful beyond measure for the Guest Assistance Card that allowed us to largely bypass the long lines that would have otherwise made the parks nearly impossible for Brooke to access no less enjoy.

We were deeply touched by the kindnesses of Cast Members who went out of their way to help when our girl was obviously having difficulty. As such, we are forever indebted to the Fairy Godmothers at the Bippity Boppity Boutique who dang near contorted themselves to make the princess experience accessible to my daughter, to the gentleman who snatched us from a line to escort us through a back door to see Tinkerbell in the Fairy Meadow when she was incapable of waiting and to the incredibly thoughtful Cast Member who did the same as we were waiting to visit the princesses in the Main Street Theater, then gave us vouchers for popcorn when he heard our girl say that she was hungry.

These seemingly small gestures were anything but to a family that struggles with the challenges of autism. Instead, it was moments like these that made your parks a viable destination for us. We are incredibly grateful for each and every one of them.

It is in this context that I share with you the following.

Brooke loves your characters. She was over the moon at the prospect of meeting them – from the Little Einsteins at Hollywood Studios to Tigger and Pooh at the Animal Kingdom, Mickey and Minnie on Main Street USA and of course her favorites, Pluto, Goofy and Donald at Epcot.

When we visited Epcot on the afternoon of Tuesday, August 30th, I was thrilled when a handler noticed the Guest Assistance Card in my hand and ushered us right to the front of the line to see the characters. Brooke was vibrating with excitement as her turn neared. As soon as it was time, the Cast Member who had seen the card guided us over to Pluto.

As we visited with each character, I kept the GAC out and visible, making sure that each handler and photographer could see it. I had found throughout our stay that it was an unobtrusive way to alert Cast Members to Brooke’s challenges.

As you may know, people with autism (and other social/emotional disabilities) often display behaviors that may be considered odd to the casual observer. My daughter for instance, did not necessarily interact with the characters in the way that most other children do. Instead of simply hugging them, she tried to actively engage them. You see, despite her age, she still believes that the characters are real. To her, there is no reason that they shouldn’t want to talk with her, joke with her, even dance or play Ring Around the Rosy with her. In her delicious innocence, she believes them to be her friends.

And so it was that she approached Donald and asked him if he was a banana. Yup, a banana. Because, well, that’s kind of Donald’s sort of humor, isn’t it? But Donald didn’t play along as one might have hoped he would. He didn’t put his hands to his head in a “Gosh that’s silly” sort of way nor turn his palms upward in an exaggerated “Whut?!”

Instead, he shook his head “No” and then made the international gesture for “Crazy.” Actually, during her brief time with him, he made it twice. I happened to catch their interaction on video. Please view it below.


I hope you understand why I feel the need to share this with you.

It may be easy to dismiss me as an oversensitive special needs mother. We do have our moments; I know. But in THAT moment – as I stood there watching Donald Duck call my autistic daughter crazy – or mixed up in the head – well, it stung. You see, autism is a neurological disorder that causes social and emotional impairments. So to direct that particular gesture to a little girl who many might basely argue is indeed ‘mixed up in the head’ is no different than if Donald had greeted a child in a wheelchair by pointing to his legs and laughing. It’s hurtful, and it simply can’t be tolerated.

The one upside? Her big sister, my extremely protective ten year-old, happened to be elsewhere. Had she seen Donald mocking her sister, the Crystal Palace might well have been serving duck a l’orange for dinner that evening.

Joking aside, I try hard not to let the small stuff get to me. But just as the wonderful moments I described above are not really so small at all, neither was this one. I trust you understand why.

There were so many other choices that Donald could have made – so many other ways to react to a little girl with a developmental disability attempting – in her own unique way – to reach out to him.

The obvious compassion of so many of your Cast Members over the course of our stay made it obvious to us that as a whole, you welcome our families and seek to accommodate our children so that they (and their typical siblings) can experience the magic of Disney like everyone else. If that is truly the case, I respectfully ask that you talk to your staff about this. That you show them the video and use it as a tool to discuss what it means to be sensitive to the children they meet, no matter how they may choose to engage them. And of course, that you praise the kindnesses shown to our family and hold them up as shining examples for others to follow.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of help in any way.

Thank you for your time, your compassion and your dedication to creating a world of magic that is accessible to our children.



103 thoughts on “dear disney

  1. I am glad you had such a great time and I don’t mean to make you upset but I think you are being too sensitive. How is Donald suposed to know she is not just joking with him. If someone called me a banana I would joke and most likely do the same thing. It wasn’t as if he rejected her. I think it is important as an autistic mother for us to not be too sensitive. Disney allowing our children to cut infront of everyone else and accomodate to our childrens needs is huge and all though I feel sometimes parents expect it. We should be a little more gracious and a little less demanding sometimes. Not everyone is out to get our children.

    • maxine,

      thank you for offering your perspective.

      i’d ask you to reread the post. i think if you do you’ll be hard pressed to find even an implication that donald’s actions were intentionally hurtful. by no means do i think he nor anyone else was ‘out to get’ brooke. I also think that you WILL find that in no way, shape nor form did i ‘expect’ any of the accommodations that were made, which is why i went so far out of my way to detail our positive experiences and to express my deep and sincere gratitude for each and every one.

      while i admit to being sensitive, i think the point here is that we ALL need to be sensitive. i think this is a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness and heighten sensitivity about what may be hurtful to our kids. and if i can save one parent (or sister or brother or child themselves) from the sting of a gesture that might hurt, well, i think it’s my responsibility to try.

      i appreciate you sharing your thoughts.


      ps i hope that you will also read the comments that follow yours below.

      • Maxine – I just want to thank you for sharing your thoughts too because it is helping us all think through the issue a little deeper and that is such an important thing and I am not sure we would have gotten there without someone bravely offering a different perspective. I started reading the blog because I love the woman who writes it but I think I have learned just as much by the comments of the readers. So thank you for jumping in and adding your voice too.

      • I thought about this most of today and actually shared the story with a few of my friends in the neighborhood. There are 4 mothers on our one street alone with children with Autism. It is amazing how many children have it and how many lives it affects. I was not meaning to be harsh but I guess I just feel sometimes I see “our” feelings and emotions be pushed into our children. When I say this what I mean is we deal with things most parents do not have to. Will my son have friends, will he get married, will people be mean to him and I guess I just felt that when I saw the video and read the blog it seemed like it hurt you. Was your daughter upset and mad at Donald? When she came over to you did you laugh at her and say he is silly, he is crazy? I say I am crazy and my kids are all the time when we are being a bunch of goofballs and I don’t think I am the only one. Am I? I do not think Donald said your daughter was crazy because he doesn’t know how to deal with special needs children i think he made that gesture well cause he is Donald Duck. He is a Character ya know and he himself is Crazy. To be honest even if he knew she was Autistic I would not see a problem with him making that gesture because that is what he would do with a typical child. why is it wrong for him to do that because she is Autistic but ok for a typical child. It’s funny. It’s being sarcastic to a child that called him a banana. I just think it should be laughed about. It is funny you are at Disney you are having fun. She is a happy girl and she had a great time. You all had a fantastic time. Why look for something to be wrong. Disney as you said made accomodations above and beyond. Why would you think this one thing is wrong. I would like to ad they are in big huge costumes in the heat in Florida and can barelly see. That is why a cast member brings them over to him. I don’t think he shuttered from her in some way.

      • I made a reply but I did not put it in the right place. Sorry. It is below the other comment. Also I wanted to add I love your blog and think you are doing a great job!

    • How can you say that this mother is being too sensitive. This is her child and this dam duck is the one being unsensitive to her child. I am the mother of a child with autism and let me tell you if that had been my child I would have taken care of Donald myself. I feel that Jess is a mother that stands up for her daughter. If we don’t stand up for them who will.

  2. Jess, my heart breaks for you. It is in those moments, that our children are usually oblivious to, and others would dismiss, that, as a Mother, sting the hardest.
    I still smile seeing the joy in your little girls expressions as she meets the characters.

  3. I recently started following your blog, and on Facebook aswell. Your stories about Brooke and Katie are so wonderful. This is my first time commenting.. I simply was very confused by this video. ”Donalds” reaction to Brooke is completely and utterly unacceptable. I really hope that whoever is in charge of the characters take this matter into his/her hands and does something about it. It must have been very hard for you. It was hard for me to watch. As a mother of a little boy with autism I understand the pain you went through at that moment.

  4. I was almost in tears reading that, tears of happiness for how well treated your family were as it doesn’t always happen when we visit places with our kids. Then tears of sadness at the way your daughter was treated by Donald Duck, how aweful, how disgraceful. Even though others may view it as an over-reaction given it was one incident the fact is ….. it is the one bad incident that will over-ride all the good. Our children cannot help how they interact with others and others must never ridicule them for their responses, even though they are generally oblivious thankfully. Lastly tears for you, her mother, because you are not oblivious, how that must of stung. I do hope that Donald Duck is suitably dealt with and re-trained in customer communication skills or just plainly demoted to a job not involving contact with the public autistic or not.

  5. I do NOT think you are being too sensitive at all and your letter is a great tool for Disney to train employees. It was also very thoughtful and respectful. I realize Donald Duck is a “quack” but let’s not call our kids crazy….

  6. I am sure this was a fluke. The cast members aren’t necessarily the brightest, most observant people at a Disney park. I agree that Donald probably had no way to know that Brooke has Autism . . . That said, I think that it is so important that people in these sorts of jobs are trained that not all “special” kids look special. They aren’t all Downs’ Syndrome or wheelchair bound. I know that Disney will make this right. That is how they roll.

  7. Jess, I don’t think you’re being oversensitive. I am the mom of 3 boys, all “typical” per general standards, but am involved with many families with special needs children personally and through our local Autism Society. I don’t see this as maliciousness on “Donald'”‘s part, or at least that’s how I *want* to see it anyway. If Brooke had not had her card in full view, perhaps Donald may have just been as oblivious to cues that their interaction wasn’t “typical.” However, if her card was visible, I really see no excuse. His gesturing would have been appropriate for an 11 or 12+ year-old that might have been ribbing him, trying to be funny in that inexplicable tween way, but he should have been able to see that was not the case here. The fact that he looked out to everyone around and made the gesture pretty much says it all. The “mixed up in the head” gesture should just be banned from the character’s “vocabulary,” it’s not really cute or funny anyway. It’s just a “wink, wink” way of saying something inappropriate. I hope Disney does address this, and ensures all of its employees understand why it’s so sensitive to others who may not be exactly like them.

  8. Disney is supposed to be a land happiness and wonder for ALL children. The staff should have a thorough training about what is acceptable behavior – the same way racial slurs are prohibited, so too should offensive gestures such as the “crazy” gesture.. As a mom of a precious 6 year old boy with ASD I applaud you for your efforts to alert the people of Disney to what happened. I also believe that neuro-typical or not NO child should be called crazy!

  9. That was grossly inappropriate of the cast member. I am sure that if a supervisor had seen it at the time then he (Donald) would have been reprimanded. My husband worked for Disney for two years and there are rigorous standards for cast member child interaction. That was not in the esprit de corps of Disney and you have every right to be concerned and upset! Glad the rest of the vacation went well.

  10. Dear Disney,

    It’s not acceptable to tell a child they are “crazy”. It doesn’t matter if you knew or didn’t know they have autism, ADHD, a learning disability, or are a typically developing child. Our society needs to change it’s attitude. I have been a teacher in a “regular” classroom and now work in early intervention with special needs children and their families. No parent wants you to tell their kid they are crazy.

    Shame on you!


    A parent of 3 boys: one with a hearing impairment, one with dyslexia, and one with asperger’s. None of which are crazy.

  11. Wow, that’s SUPER upsetting. I’m in tears. How could that person be so insensitive? It’s not funny. It’s not even acceptable behavior in ANY situation..but especially from some one who is supposed to be trained to be aware of children with special needs. Maybe I’m harsh, but I hope they get fired. I know that’s not your intention at all in writing this letter, but this makes me really angry.

  12. To me, what Donald did was just as bad as using the “R” word. I do no think what so ever that you are being over sensitive at all. In fact, im not sure i would have make it our of the part with out making sure that some one knew how insensitive he was. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and fight for our kids! I cant wait to hear what their responce to this is!!!

  13. I am appauled. You are in no way being over sensitive. I would have been upset if this was done to my typical 8 year old son when we were at Disney in March, let alone my 6 year old autistic son. I agree with you that Disney bends over backwards for our children with the guest assistance card. So, having Donald signal that your little girl was “crazy” is just plain unacceptable. Unless you personally know the child and that they can handle that kind of humor, you NEVER joke like that. Thank you for writing this letter to help Disney better train their cast memebers!

  14. Whether or not anyone who reads your blog/letter thinks you overreacted is irrelevant. The issue is that what Donald did upset YOU. YOU were upset about it and you have a right to feel however you want. You will find people on both sides of this. Yes, Donald should have known better or have been trained better. Maybe he/she is 16 and has no clue. Maybe he/she had a fight with a girlfriend/boyfriend 10 minutes before. Maybe her/his parent has cancer and she/he didn’t sleep all night and is just plain pissed. Who knows. People *should* act one way but we all know this isn’t always the case. Yes, they should be trained and this gesture is not appropriate in the autism/special needs community, but it still happens while joking. I think Disney mgmt will be happy you brought it to their attention.

  15. It was inappropriate and shameful. I disagree with the first comment about being over sensitive. In this scenario to make the gesture for crazy was uncalled for. Whether or not her disability pass was in full view, she was simply small child making a request. Shaking his head no would have been the appropriate response. Who is to say Brooke didn’t understand and that it won’t come out in some way later?

    Love ya!!! xo


  16. Denise ~ eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

    Vic ~ my 4 year old son was only diagnosed last week. I’m really raw still – if Mr Duck had done that to him, I would’ve cried. Thank you for your bravery in tackling them and I hope it leads to more understanding and awareness.

    Mindy ~ I have never wanted to kick a duck in his “chestnuts” before. Holy cow that is heartbreaking. I really hope they “retrain” that cast member on how to empty garbage cans. He should NOT be working in Donald costume. My ASD son’s favorite character is Donald .. this makes me so sad.

    Ann ~ Although I agree Disney (most of the time) goes above and beyond, we also had a heartbreaking experience this summer. I am so glad you voiced your concerns… As I did, in June. Some people are just ignonorant!

    Vicki ~ Wow! Totally wrong but maybe Donald didn’t have a whole lot experience with children with special needs and thought she was pulling his leg. That’s the only reason I can think of for this.

    Helen ~ I wish i was as articulate as you! I would love to write a letter to a childrens theme park here in the uk who think that it is acceptible for an asd 7 year old to queue for over an hour for a ride (having been promised on the phone the day before that the longest queues experienced were 15 mins max so there was no need for special access)

    Vicki ~ I didn’t expect my question to show up under your Disneyland comment. I thought it would be it’s own thing, sorry about that. We recently went to Disneyland but Nick was with his dad during that time. I really wish we could have taken him but I fear it would not have worked out very well.

    Angela ~ Thanks for taking the time to educate them Jess – and in such a kind and thoughtful manner.

    Jennifer Silver you are bang on with your point.. i look forward to hearing their reply.

    Annie ~ Whoa that hurt! Had to watch it a few times in disbelief. Once again I am thankful for the fact that Trenton never bats an eye at the boneheads who stare and are so quick to judge. Gonna google me a recipe for a gluten-free duck dinner! Muhahaa!!!

    Jeni ~ What he did was just as bad as if he had used the “R” word to me!! Thank you Jess for standing up for our kiddos!! I too cant wai to hear their responce!!

    Tim ~ Great letter. The only thing I’ll say in Donald’s defense is that the way those costumes are designed, it can be very difficult to see out of them (which is why they have the handlers lead them around). Donald may not have seen you or the GAC or even Brooke very well and thought it was just a kid being silly to him and so he was being silly back. Regardless, there were better choices for him to make than what he/she did.

  17. The video hurts my heart, mama. You’re not being overly sensitive – the cast member was being completely insensitive! Brooke is a little girl, not an adolescent or tween. What gives anyone – especially somone working for the most magical place on earth! – the right to mock a young child? Hey Donald! It’s not funny. I hate that this is the taste you were left with after waiting years for Brooke to be ready for Disney. I hate this.

  18. We, too, enjoyed incredible hospitality at Disney. Had my autistic son seen this gesture, he would have punched Donald in the stomach and tried to scratch his face. (I wonder how they would handle THAT?) He is very aware that he is “different” and is very aware when someone is making fun of him. It would have hurt him so deeply that he would have wanted to fly home right then and never return. And he would probably relive that evwry time he saw anything Disney for the rest of his life. (He REALLY holds grudges!)

  19. Jess, in no way do I think you’re being oversensitive. And I’m so sorry that this happened.

    Disney prides itself on the fact that they are “the happiest place on earth” and they take that branding very seriously. They offer the access pass, the gluten-free options in restaurants, etc just to show how inclusive they are.This gesture is beyond inappropriate.

    Let’s even remove the access pass from the conversation. Is this appropriate for him to do to any kid? I’d say no. What about the other kids in line? The other parents? The other siblings? The message this sends from Disney is polar opposite for everything they stand for.

    I would expect that Disney would be appalled to see this video, and would take steps to educate their staff about what is and isn’t acceptable.

    We spread awareness wherever we go, and I’m sure the powers that be at Disney are grateful that you are bringing this to their attention so they can use it as a teaching moment for their staff. The power of your incredible words will help thousands who will walk through Disney’s doors from here on out.

  20. I don’t think you are being to sensitive. I think Donald needs to be retrained. Whether a individual has autism or some other disability – or is just being a CHILD – Donald calling that child crazy is beyond what I would even consider ok!!! My neuro typical daughter would ask the same thing as a joke! Donald could have played that a lot better!… On a side note – I am glad that you had a better experience at Disney than I had. I had explained to them that I was coming with an autistic child and they told me that there was not a guest assistance pass – that I would have to get a line hopper pass at every ride I wanted to go to. Needless to say – we saw only one character and went on 1 ride. I am hoping for a better experience next time….and hopefully I won’t run into crazy donald!

  21. Wow … I think it’s good that you caught it on camera. W/o the video it would be easy for people to dismiss your (our) concerns. Actually seeing it made my heart hurt. I do hope the people at Disney take this seriously. Whether Donald knew about a special need or not, his response to Brooke’s question was totally inappropriate. If he was having a bad day and didn’t want to play along that would have been fine, but there was NO need to call a child crazy.

    • I’m with The Jay Train. Thank goodness you taped it. Not only do I hope Disney responds to you, I hope the cast member has to respond as well. This video should be included in any future Disney cast training on what not to do. I got a bad feeling before the crazy gesture, that head shaking was COLD. Why not gesture a warm belly laugh instead? So disappointed. It reminded me of Bad Santa. I’m glad you’re calling them on it Jess. Re: that first poster…. letting this sort of thing slide is gracious? Really? Where does it stop? Wait, don’t answer. Let Jess and the rest of us do all the heavy lifting for you. Advocacy comes in small increments.

  22. interactions are probably confusing enough for brooke, she doesn’t deserve a reaction like that from the duck. very sorry that happened.

    one thing i love about the video:

    when the communication became difficult, brooke and donald reacted in very different ways. the duck made fun of her. and brooke? she just gave him a hug.

    she handled the siutation far better than he did.

    • M,

      it’s one of those moments that i thank god that she misses social cues. though i sometimes wonder if that’s just a way to rationalize away the hard stuff because in the end, while she isn’t able to process and react on the spot, i have found that she isn’t actually missing anything. days, months, years later, we hear about the things that we thought flew right over her head. just one more reason to make sure they don’t happen.

      oh, and the hug? in the audio of the video (which i removed because i say her real name), you can hear only two lines – me calling to her, trying to move us along and out of the situation without calling attention to what was happening. i say, ‘brooke, can you just give donald a hug?’ followed by ‘there we go’ as she does.



      • painful, painful. and i think you’re right, she’s absorbing tons, taking it all in, sorting through it, making sense of it all in her own time.

      • while she isn’t able to process and react on the spot, i have found that she isn’t actually missing anything. days, months, years later, we hear about the things that we thought flew right over her head………That hit home and is sooo true! That’s exactly why this letter was needed. What if that happened to a child that “got it” right on the spot??? This is why your letter was needed. I don’t think that employee meant anything malicious,but ignorance is what hurts our kids the most. (remembering an insurance agent that asked “So will he grow out of this autism thing?”) God bless you, Jess.

  23. I am always amazed by your ability to capture and express a moment with such emotinal exactness(?). Thank you for being a voice for those who cannot do what you do and speak for our children in ways we want to so very much. Thank you for sharing your lives with us and making a difference every day.

  24. Wow that is a straight blow! I would’ve started crying right there! It hurts me even more that Brooke had no idea what he was doing by those movements but to us parents, well lets just say I’m speechless. Regardless of whether Donald was able to see the access card, he shouldn’t be treating any young child that way. I’m hoping the Disney company will take this matter seriously and will provide an appropriate training for all its characters. I’m so glad to hear that everything else went well and for the most part went out of their way to help. Please keep us updated on their response!

  25. Not oversensitive at all Jess. It would have hurt to watch a character do that to Roc, and it hurt just as much watching him do that to K. I can only imagine what it was like for you to watch. Shrugging his shoulders is fine, but calling a child with a neurological disorder “crazy” is not. I commend you for bringing this to Disney’s attention and I hope that you get a response that they will work that much harder on sensitivity training for their employees. Not just for us parents, but for the children like ours who are growing up, because there will come a time when K will *know* She will know what that gesture means. And we want our children to be proud and comfortable in their own skin. This is a part of spreading awareness and you are doing it well. Because there were lots of people, adults and children, not affected by a child with special needs in their own lives, watching that interaction K had with Donald–and they got to see that it was okay to call her crazy. And it’s not.

  26. What upset me most was that Donald seemed to step away from her when she got closer the first time. Or so it seemed to me. There isn’t sound, so I am not sure what she was saying, etc, at that time, or if she was going in for a hug, or just changing positions. But, he backed up…and didn’t seem that into the hug. I could say that, yes, he was just being silly back, but the “body” language of the person in the suit makes it seem like he/she was uncomfortable and that bothers me more.

    • jen,

      i’ve been trying so hard not to obsess about the fact that he backed up like that, but yes, it really looks (and felt) like he was recoiling from her. i’d really like to think we’re both reading that incorrectly, but it’s hard to perceive it differently. 😦


  27. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, but have never commented. I am disgusted at the way Donald reacted to Brooke. There is NO EXCUSE to ever make the crazy sign at anyone who you don’t know. I’m not sure who said it above, but I agree that the sign he made is just as bad as the R word.
    I’ve dreamt about being a character in Disney (I’d prefer to be Tigger), and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t even need training to tell me to not do that! If you don’t want to play with kids who are “typical” or have struggles then don’t become a character. He should have played along! Isn’t that the fun of being a character in Disney? You get to play every day!
    I hope that Disney reads your note and responds (and hunts down that Donald and forces training on him or fires him). I think they owe you that.
    Otherwise – I’m glad you had a good trip!
    Take care!

  28. Okay, this video really bothered me. I know we have to be careful not to be too sensitive, but this crosses a line. As someone who has two family members with autism and several other family members who have struggled with mental illness and have been diagnosed as bipolar, I take strong offense when people start joking about being “crazy.” We all know sometimes people just throw that word around in pure fun and silliness, but for a costumed character at Disney to make that kind of gesture to a CHILD who has a “disability pass” seems grossly inappropriate. I agree the character DOES look uncomfortable and there was a better way this could have been handled. Thank you for sending this letter!

  29. While I agree with those who say Donald may have just been reacting as he normally would, I do agree with you, Doam. Was there even an apology from him or the park?

    • pepper,

      i just sent the letter this morning. i got a very nice auto-response assuring me that they’d received it and would respond within a week. i’ll let you know!


  30. wow. Donald was definately “speaking” to the crowd when he gestured. Clearly bringing the audience in saying, “Isn’t she nuts?”
    I think if he had of been interacting soley with your daughter it may have been an answer to her question, that it would be crazy for him to be a banana, but looking to the gathered people or even YOU… that isn’t appropriate. At All.

  31. Jess you expressed the training need perfectly. As a former YMCA Director I have used Disney Customer Service videos often in training camp counselors, coaches and other misc staff how to work with people in the “right way”. I have hired former Disney workers and can only rave about their professionalism and what they have taught me, my staff and participants. Donald was more than wrong and I am sure that this issue will be addressed. Kudos to you for sharing it. If more of us were vocal how many issues our children face would stop. And probably not just for them. Thank you!

  32. I think you expressed everything perfectly. The praise you heaped on the cast members and staff was well-deserved. And the incident with Donald is something that needs to be addressed. Having a video of it helps make it a concrete example, not just a parent saying an incident happened. I work frequently with college students here in my town who are film students. In their “off school” work – the fun stuff they do for YouTube, etc., I see such prevalent use of the R word. I haven’t found the right teachable moment to address it (or I haven’t had the courage yet?). I am glad you said what you did. Important.

  33. Whether or not you’re being sensitive is not the issue. When there is an issue, you speak up. Period. Even if it was just 5 seconds out of a week long stay. I know staff at Disney and they’re very dedicated (as the majority of your stay reflected) to the idea of Disney being the happiest place on earth. This was a complete fluke, but it still needs to be mentioned. The employee, the park and all future visitors will be better for it. And you will be better for it, also, because you stood up for your daughter.

    When someone I’m talking to says something offensive (on any subject at all), I tell them that it’s offensive. Brooke cannot. Overly sensitive would be letting that one moment affect your view of the entire park. You’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that every effort made by Disney was appreciated. That doesn’t mean you overlook someone calling your ASD child ‘crazy’. It’s not a tally.

    Disney is a wonderful place. I’m sure that they appreciate constructive feedback that will only serve to make their park wonderful for all who visit.

  34. Oh, Jess. I am so very sorry. I can assure you that I would not have reacted so calmly. I desperately hope that Disney takes your advice and uses your video as a mandatory educational tool. We are planning to take our first trip to WDW in January and I truly believe we will have a better experience if the cast members and characters have had a recent dose of sensitivity training. Thank you so much for writing this very important letter.

  35. There are so many other gestures that Donald could have chosen here to indicate misunderstand/miscommunication. This one is unacceptable. It’s not OK to mock a person with ASD as crazy. It’s not OK to mock a crazy person as crazy. Whether you think it’s funny or cute of what… if you call my kid with ASD crazy, I’m offended. Period.

    Thanks, Jess, for your balanced approach to this situation and letter. Disney is great, but it/they can be better. And I am grateful to you for alerting them to this “teachable moment.” No duck heads should roll; just hey, Donald, you can be better. *quack*

  36. The video speaks for itself. This is a teachable moment, my friend, and you are a master teacher. Well done, and I look forward to answers, and finally, some peace for your heart.

  37. This is my first time responding to one of your posts. I have a son with autism who is 5 — he has a twin brother who is NT. We are leaving on Saturday for Disney. I was so happy to read about all of the wonderful ways the cast members treated your precious girl. When I got to the video I just couldn’t believe my eyes. How dare he! Thank you for writing such an amazing letter. I will pray that the powers that be see it and take swift action. Thank you for all your posts. They make me feel as if I am not alone out here in this world.

  38. This post was NOT over sensitive. It was very inappropriate for Donald to make a crazy gesture to a child with a disabilty pass. Glad you sent this letter!

  39. More disturbing than the gesture is his stand-offish posture. He even backs away one step…..clearly not a seasoned cast member, and not remotely representative of the quality interactions we have had many many times at Disneyland. I am very pro-Disney for all of the reasons you listed. While we have never needed the pass (long lines not an issue for our daughter), we HAVE experienced characters who left me feeling like my heart may explode for the tenderness they showed my child. Hoping you hear back from Disney and that “Donald” goes back to sweeping up after the parade.

  40. Thanks for standing up for our kids, Jess. Donald’s response would have been inappropriate to any child, disability or not. Looking forward to how Disney responds. You rock, truly.

  41. again you have brought awareness to something with grace and respect. you were not over-reacting or being overly sensitive. we see this first hand so often. we can tell when others notice our child’s differences. we see the change in reactions. we see the puzzled looks that they give us, expecting an explanation. i’m glad that my boy doesn’t see it but it still hurts to witness. i’m thankful that your family had so many happy moments at Disney. i also hope and believe that Disney will address this.

  42. Brilliant letter, Jess. I really hope Disney management takes the time to figure out who Donald was that day to educate him or her. The character’s body language (in addition to the gesture) bother me too and clearly this employee needs some more training or a job swap. I also hope you will share all of these comments with Disney because, as usual, there is a ton of wisdom in them. XO

  43. Breaks my heart to see this. We recently visited Disney with our 3 children, a 7 year old and 2 year who are typical and a 4 year old with autism. We found that Disney did a good job overall. Without the GAP we would not have been able to go, so we loved having that available to us. We did not have the luck you did with being pulled out of the character lines, so we had to bypass many of the kids favorite characters because the lines were just too long for our son. I really wish the GAP was not just for rides, but also for the characters.

    I pray that Disney does use your video and letter to educate their staff. If it is truly going to be ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ this type of behavior from a cast member can not be tolerated.

  44. As a divorced mother of two young children, I have been slowly saving money so that I could take my children to the Land of Disney as my son says. As I read this post I wonder, would I have handled this as well? My son is 5 and has Asperger’s with a side of Attention Deficit as well as severe allergies and asthma, the thought that this might occur makes me want to put the money elsewhere. I work hard and the thought of saving for 3 YEARS to send my kiddos to Disney and have them treated this way is heartbreaking. I hope and pray that Disney will take the time to watch this video and work to repair the thinking of this Donald and any one else who would behave this way towards any child. Thank you for your thoughts and views, Jess.

  45. What a great letter, it so truly needed to be sent. You are not being overly sensitive. It was utterly unsensitive for Donald to have behaved the way he did. The fact that you got it on tape is proof positive that there was no way to misinterpert what he was saying. I hope they do use it as a basis for training the staff, because if I ever am lucky enough to get there, they had better hope it doesn’t happen again!! cause Katie’s not the only sister who’d be happy to be serving up Duck L’Orange!!

  46. By the way – I think you should send Disney a copy of all the comments you’ve gotten on this post…. should be interesting for them to see how many people have read that this happened to you. May be an added incentive for them to make a change!!

  47. Wow. I can’t even begin to read ALL of the comments, but I did get pretty far. As a former cast member, and character, I can tell you that Donald’s actions were completely inappropriate. Had his handler and/or manager witnessed his gesture I can assure you he would have been (and maybe in fact he was) immediately reprimanded before his next rotation out. All cast members are trained to be sensitive to ALL guests and not to ever make any type of demeaning comments or gestures toward ANY guest. This is ESPECIALLY true with those cast members who are entrusted with portraying characters. Characters are held to behavioral guidelines and must “stick to the script” of behaviors prescribed to each character. Characters are also instructed not to make ANY noise (speech, cries or even a “woof”), no matter what the situation (including abusive behavior such as being kicked by a guest). It is the handler’s JOB to police these behaviors and report ANY infractions before the character’s next rotation (yes, this means that unfortunately, the character who “woofed” for Brooke was most likely subject to progressive discipline).

    I don’t think you were/are being too sensitive, and I truly believe that Disney will make amends and in fact was probably already aware of Donald’s behavior, and most likely already addressed this issue with him.

  48. Disneyland has become a yearly trip for me and my son with autism. Hunter will be 18 in January and still loves his time at Disney (Goofy and his physical comedy is a constant crack-up in our house) He is mature in lots of ways but still loves the Disney experience, as do I at 43 😉 Disney has been very accomodating for us as well and I applaud you for letting them know all the things they did right. I do not feel you were being too sensitive. Let’s face it, our situation has made us more sensitive to the callous way that “crazy”, “special bus” and “retard” or similar labels are used in jest. I think the whole world should be a little more sensitive to things like this, rather than thinking we are over-sensitive. Some things, in my opinion, are not a joking matter. Thanks for being a great advocate!

  49. I guess I’m going in the middle here. First, are you sure Donald saw the wonderful magic card alerting employees top a special situation? If not it may be something (and I would think it would be) Donald does often and yes, I think you (as we all can be)might be a little overly sensitive. I also think its great you wrote the letter because they should talk to the characters about being more sensitive. It’s a great idea to keep it visible. I probably didn’t do that enough when we were there. I do think the reader who said that “one bad incident over rides all good” is bound for a very sad depressing life. Disney does an amazing job. One character made a mistake. Take away the good and use the situation to teach (as you are doing!)

  50. I’m so glad that our Disney visit last year was such a positive one with Alex. We didn’t apply for a Guest Assistance Card that would have alerted staff members to Alex’s Asperger’s Syndrome; only once did we wish that we had done so. Alex was getting ready to aim his Old West-style gun and shoot him down some targets when out of the blue a pioneer lady stepped up, took the gun out of his hand and proceeded to tell us all about the “Disney Magic Moment” she was about to give our family. Alex got upset immediately: Who is this stranger? Why did she take my gun away? Why is she touching my arm and talking so loud? The poor woman didn’t have a clue. We said no thank you several times, but this bonneted busybody would have none of that. She needed to fill out our information on this card, explain in great detail what Magic Moments were all about, then Alex could step right up and start shooting. And by that time, Alex was hiding behind a wooden post and wouldn’t show us his face, which meant he was crying. Ahhhh, Magic Moment indeed. Thanks, Disney.

    If Brooke’s experience had happened to Alex, I think I’d have headed back to the Old West for a gun and loaded buckshot in it for Donald.

  51. I’m so glad Brooke didn’t seem to notice. My guess is that the character didn’t have a sign for “silly.” But that is no excuse. It made you uncomfortable, and was grossly inappropriate. If Disney cast members can learn not to point (since it is rude in some cultures), surely they can learn not to sign “crazy.” Your letter is perfectly written.

    The biggest shame is that this moment, though brief, surely caused a pang in your heart as you were enjoying a moment of peace and even enjoyment, something all too rare for us!

  52. Gotta jump in here because I WAS a costumed character for a few years at Sea World and I can tell by “Donald”‘s interaction and movement that he or she is one really crappy character. The person is not well matched to the job, that’s for sure. We would never act that way with any child. Also, he or she is so completely dull it’s amazing. When we didn’t understand what someone was saying or what they wanted (think about all the foreign language speaking tourists we met!) we simply HUGGED them! We’d never act annoyed! I believe it is VERY likely that your video will be shown to those in the character dept. So glad you taped it!

  53. I just showed this video to my 12 y. o. son (who also happens to have Aspergers). At first he didn’t notice the hand gesture, but when he watched it again, he said, “Epic FAILURE!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  54. Personally I did not feel like he was trying to be disrespectful. To me it looked like he was bit confused like he didn’t understand and was looking up for help. Perhaps it was simply a gesture telling you it didn’t make sense to him and that he did not know how to respond. And let’s remember that everyone comes from different backgrounds perhaps the gesture doesn’t hold the same meaning to him as to a mother who is always on the lookout and trying to protect her daughter.

    • cziems,

      as i said above, i did not mean to (and i certainly hope i didn’t) imply that the cast member was TRYING to do something hurtful. not by a long shot. and i agree completely (or at least would very much like to believe) that s/he did not understand the meaning that the gesture would hold to ‘a mother who is always on the lookout and trying to protect her daughter’.

      if i thought that s/he did, this letter would have taken on a very different tone.

      but since i assume that s/he didn’t know, i feel that i have a responsibility to my girl and to the children of all those who have responded here to try to make sure that next time, s/he will and will therefore be able to choose a different response in the future based on that new sensitivity.



    • I wuold have to agree… it seems as if s/he was not comprehending what was said. I don’t believe that the gesture was that of “crazy” but more so I am not understanding her. With no audio it is hard to tell how clearly she is talking to him, or what kind of background noise there is. If it was a “crazy” gesture, them shame on them. But I would like to believe that it was a communication issue IMO. I have a younger sibling with Downs and it is hard for them to communicate with others if they are not used to his speech pattern. I am sorry if I offend, but am glad that the rest of her experience was memorable. I will be taking my children to Disney for their 1st time this year and can’t wait to see their smiles.

  55. On the whole, Disney goes above and beyond with regard to accommodating our children. The only small comfort in this post is, that as you point out, they get it 98% right. This guy got it wrong, big time. As other posters have pointed out, the “crazy” sign should not be in a character’s repertoire. Period. Hopefully your note will raise awareness, and take the 98% to 99%. Because that’s what you do, Jess.

  56. Sheila ~ I know you lead with compassion and share with grace, something I have been trying to do as well since I came in contact with you/blog a year or so ago, but just once I would like you to get in contact with the inner angry fierce lioness and let them have it. Oh, I would like it taped for my viewing pleasure. Just once. Okay? And thank-you.

    Diary of a Mom SRR, i tend to save that for the people who already know me and what i’m about. i find that it carries a lot more weight that way. and when it happens, it’s still controlled, but it ain’t pretty. 🙂

    Sheila ~ Thank-you J and J ain’t standing for Jess:)

    Kerry ~ Well said – as always, thanks for being a strong voice for the rest of us. I’ll be writing something similar to the audiologist who told my 5-year-old daughter with autism that she needed to do the hearing test “like a big girl,” insisting that “she’s old enough to do this.”

    Cheryl ~ Please let us know the outcome, if Disney responds at all. Thanks for the posts – always helpful in soo many ways!

    Holly ~ Donald Duck is my very favorite character and this actor was shameful and heartless in my eyes! The video make me gag and I know it will be making me sad all day. Sweet innocent brooke should never be treated less then the perfect she is! I am heartbroken about this and at the same time, happy the rest of the trip was filled with kindness and caring. I hope a good outcome comes from your letter and things are worked out for the best!!

    Melody ~ As a former costumed character at a major theme park, I can tell you that this person is awful at their job….

    Candi ~ I have to say some the comments posted on the blog bothered me. We expect everyone should understand and try their best to accommodate our little ones when they need a little extra help, but I know most of the time I don’t even know how to react to my autistic daughters fits and nonsense speeches. I feel like asking the entire world to be on the lookout for our special needs children isn’t as important as making sure our children know that they are a bit different and that people may not always understand.

    Diary of a Mom ~ candi, i hear you and in some ways completely agree. but i think a balance is called for. i think it is vital that our children have the tools to interact in ways that are as expected as possible, but i also think, especially given our increased numbers, that it is up to us to educate the world about our kids and to ask them, once they have the information and hopefully the understanding to be as sensitive as possible, especially when they are alerted to their differences.

    Candi ~ oh yes i agree with you as well. it is our job to educate the world as well as our children. but is it fair to condemn those who do not understand? i just didn’t agree with some of those who posted that he deserved to be fired and he was an awful person. although i have felt the same way when it has been my child. but perhaps instead of waiting to send a letter to his boss and possibly getting him fired, maybe a few words of encouragement could have proved more helpful. i find when i’m out with my daughter and people are confused by her conversation, simple stating “she is autistic, just play along” helps end the confusion and allows people to play along and open up. i feel that perhaps donald simply didn’t understand and a comment on the side may have allowed him to play along without the confusion.

    Diary of a Mom ~ perhaps, but the situation did not allow for a ‘comment on the side’ with donald given that there was (and always is) an endless line of people DYING to see him and they rush you through. and truthfully, i couldn’t process it fast enough. i was hurt. and angry. and i wouldn’t have been able to approach it well. the whole thing took literally 17 seconds to happen. that’s how long the video is – 17 seconds. also, if i’d tried to keep brooke by my side while chatting up donald a) she would have heard me talk about it and i was hoping she had been unaware of the gesture and b) she would have likely started tugging, pulling, crying and yelling. it just wasn’t feasible. i might have to go read the comments carefully. i certainly hope that *i* didn’t give the impression that i wanted anything punitive to happen. not at all. i just wanted it to be a learning tool.

    Candi Ziems you did probably the exact same thing i would have done. you’re letter was very professional and unbiased. that’s why we all read your posts. you bring these situations to light and show us an elegant solution. i know i have learned much reading your blog. my daughter is only 4 and i can only hope to be as understanding as you when these situations arise. i found nothing wrong with the way you handled it – after all i was not there, i don’t know the whole story. that is what i was hoping to imply to some of your readers. they seem ready to string this guy up for a serious insult, when obviously none of us know what really happened or what his intentions were. “Perhaps we shall not be so quick to judge”
    about an hour ago · Like

    Jackie ~ DOAM, please keep us posted as to any comments you receive from Disney. I hope that they see it as an opportunity to train their employees.

    Diary of a Mom ~ jackie, will do, thanks. and candi, thank you. i really appreciate you pointing it out to me – i posted a comment to make sure that my intentions were clear. never would have seen the need to do that had u not brought it to my attention 🙂

    Holly ~ I hope I did not give the impression that Donald should be punished. I do, however, completely disagree with the gesture he made and it wouldn’t be acceptable to Any child, ASD or NT. I hope as Jess does, that Disney will learn understanding and compassion for all who vacation there.

    Diary of a Mom ~ thx holly!!

    Justine ~ this video broke my heart and i think no matter what the reasoning is, i’d have a hard time understanding his point of view. can’t get past the look of joy on brooke’s face as she was meeting one of her idols – she just looks so happy – and ‘donald’ being stand-offish with her. hope she was none the wiser and he didnt make her feel bad… you’re definitely doing the right thing jess. it’s people like you who put it out there and demand respect for our kids and i’m soooo thankful for that! xx

  57. Teachable moments are sometimes all we have among stings and stabs of painful experiences.

    What you have done, Jess, is bravely taken this moment and shared it honestly with those who can truly affect change. One Donald Duck at a time. One rare, precious special needs family vacation at a time.

    Make no mistake – what you have done here is no less than the most generous, loving act a mother can perform – you have AGAIN made the world just that much better for your child and mine.

    And you did it with class.

    Thank you.
    Love you.

    • PS

      After lengthy discussion, only one thing sticks in my head about the actual situation here.

      You see, we are talking about DISNEY Cast Members. NON-TALKING characters. They must be screened to within an inch of their lives just to get that honored position in the entertainment world.

      So they must have ‘script parameters’. Which in this case would be ‘acceptable gestures’ since they do not speak.

      I think it is a pretty simple request to ask that Disney scratch off ‘crazy’ from their character scripts.

      Just sayin’.

      • They do indeed have a script. And I am sure that this cast member strayed from Donald’s script and was dealt with (hopefully) immediately and appropriately (see my comment above #51)…

  58. All (and particularly Disney!),

    I want to make sure that I did not give the impression here that I believe that the Cast Member who was working as Donald deserves or should be subjected to punitive action.

    Instead, I hope that Disney will, as I’ve suggested above, use this experience as a teachable moment for all of its staff, of course including this particular person.

    Assuming that this was not part of a pattern for this cast member (which I don’t imagine it was), then hearing that Donald got fired would certainly not bring me satisfaction or joy. Quite the opposite as I’d think that all we would then have accomplished would be to have someone out there harboring resentment for losing a job without a real understanding of WHY his /her actions were hurtful.

    I’d much prefer to see Donald continue on – with a heightened sensitivity to our kids.



  59. As a mother of a child with special needs it is easy to become over sensitive to these things, it hurts like a punch to the heart to see it.While I am also sure no hurt was intended the simple fact remains that it hurt you Jess and it hurt most of us to watch it,not just for Brooke but for our own kids.The duck was wrong.I like you am so glad Katie did not see it,although from what you write of your daughter I think Donald may have had the most enlightning discussion of his career if she had. 🙂

  60. Wow. That is incredibly insensitive. I think it would be offensive to make that gesture in reference to *any* child, typical or ASD or anything else! I hope something positive comes of making them aware of this.

  61. Thank you Jess for having the courage to speak for SO many. 1 in 110 is a staggering number. I pray I have the chance to provide others with a great opportunity to learn about our kids.

  62. What a great letter. You showed real grace in the way you handled the situation. I truly hope that Disney will take the time to read through these comments too. I look forward to seeing their response and also hope they don’t react by firing the cast member. This is a great opportunity to teach that all kids deserve respect and should be treated appropriately.

  63. Oh Jess… Thank you for being so calm, and so articulate. For using a painful situation to attempt to effect change. My heart hurts a little bit right now…

  64. This smacks of the day when Nigel (also 8 at the time) approached two neighborhood kids and one of them informed the other that Nigel was “loco.” I was nearby and he said it in Spanish thinking that I wouldn’t understand. I told him that I did, and turned it into a teachable moment, even though I was hurting. You, my brave friend, have done the same (on a much larger scale), and I applaud you.

  65. Jess,

    Whether Donald saw the Guest Assistance Pass or not doesn’t matter. Whether Brooke knew that Donald made the sign for ‘crazy’ doesn’t matter. What matters is that this is a teachable moment. This is a moment that caused hurt. And hurt is hurt, whether intentional or unintentional. Thank you for having the courage and strength to share a moment that stung so that others can learn from it.

    Sharing all of the wonderful positive experiences you had while at Disney gives first hand perspective on the things Disney is doing right. And, sharing Brooke’s interaction with Donald shows Disney that training, sensitivity and compassion goes a long way.

    Once again, you have clearly struck a chord with so many. You write with respect and compassion and always try to look for the positive in every situation. This is what makes you such a wonderful teacher and advocate. I love that about you!

    • janet, i received an auto-response ensuring that they’d respond within a week, which i thought was great. i can only imagine how ,any inquiries they get daily for one reason or another! i’ll let you know 🙂 J

  66. Though it was most likely not intended as an insult, I agree…this is behavior that the Cast Members need to phase out. There are so many people in this world with invisible disabilities, and it should never be considered okay to call another person “crazy,” “stupid,” or any of the other horrible, hurtful words that have become a part of this world’s everyday vocabulary.

    Jess, I am so thankful that so many people are in your audience, and I am in awe of you. Your ability to make a “teachable situation” out of an otherwise disastrous one is commendable. Thank you for writing this letter to Disney, and for sharing it with us.

    You really are changing the world, girl…one person and one situation at a time.

  67. I am so sorry–this made me so very sad and hurt! So glad that you wrote such a perfectly constructed email to them. We are going in a few weeks. Can you tell us about your process and what information you gave for your guest assistance pass?

  68. *sigh* and *pursed lips* I have nothing productive to add except that I would like to pop that particular Donald Duck in the face. This was a beautiful letter Jess, if anyone can get someone to listen it is you 🙂

  69. *sigh* and *pursed lips* I have nothing productive to add except that I would like to pop that particular Donald Duck in the face. This is a beautiful letter Jess, if anyone can get someone to listen it is you 🙂

  70. Of course we are sensitive. These are our babies and they struggle. It rips our hearts out. Weather Donald knew she was autistic or not, it was rude and ugly. Being as she IS autistic, it makes it ten times worse. I would have been in tears if it was my son. I’m glad you didn’t let it go and that you had it on tape. Hugs to you, Jess!

  71. I am so happy to have found your page. I was referred by Autism Speak 🙂 I have 4 year old twin girls, one of which is autistic. We are also planning a trip to Disney World in December and I was so concerned with how to manage because my little Veronica is actually easy at home and at school but when it comes to going to a function, ie: wedding, party, family gathering, or a place like Disney, she’s overly excited and anxious and just wants to break free from me and run and touch everything and it becomes a mission of just running after Veronica making sure she doesn’t get into trouble. And if you try to stop her she gets quite upset. I was happy to find here that there is a Guest assistance pass, I know this will help so I’ll watch for your posts on the subject. I was saddened with the video you posted as were others, because seeing your girls reminds me of mine. Julia watches out for her sister a lot too and it’s so great. We want to protect our angels from any harm and cruelty out there but reality shows us we can’t protect them from everything and it’s so difficult to deal with sometimes. Thank you so much for this blog, my only sanity sometimes is just constantly researching and connecting with others. My little one needs ABA therapy which my insurance wont cover so thru courses and researching I’ve had to become her therapist along with my husband and her twin sister. Well thanks again!

    • racquel, welcome! if you’re on facebook, join us there on diary of a mom’s page. you’ll find a whole community waiting 🙂

  72. I debated whether to leave a comment, because I don’t want to offend you; however, I want to share another view with you as you have so often given me another perspective to consider. When we were in Disney earlier this year, we took our kids to a character breakfast at Epcot, hosted by Belle and attended by many princesses. When we were introduced to Belle for our picture, she asked how many were in our party, “two beauties and two beasts?” I could have gotten really upset that she called my son a beast – to his face – out load – for everyone to hear. Could he have felt offended? Embarassed? Insecure? Bullied? Sure, he could have. But we want everyone to treat our kids “normally” and she wasn’t saying anything to him that she didn’t say to anyone else. She treated him like every other kid. Isn’t that what we hope for? Do we want our kids to be singled out? Should everyone walk on eggshells around us? I am grateful when no one seems to know that my son is different – it means that he is fitting in. I think it’s fair to say that we have all had an open mouth – insert foot moment. On several occasions, I’ve wished for a “take back” because I said or did something that came out all wrong or hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally. I see where his gesture hurt your feelings, but sometimes I think we have to let it roll like, well… water off a duck’s back.

    • Emily, I appreciate your concern, but I am never offended by a different perspective when it is delivered so respectfully!

      I do think however that the situation that you detail here is so wildly different from what we experienced that they are essentially incomparable.

      your son was referred to by the name of the character in the related story – a heroic one in fact – as were all the other kids. which was perfectly appropriate in the setting. (we went to the same breakfast and heard belle refer to all the guests that way too, us included. i thought it was quite cute.)

      i find it hard to compare that to a character reacting specifically to my daughter’s behavior by calling her crazy, jokingly or otherwise. as i wrote in a later post, disney felt the same way after watching the video. the woman i spoke to repeatedly said she’d been ‘floored’ by ‘donald’s’ actions.

      i do agree that we need to meet the world halfway and that we have to make efforts not to be overly sensitive. and god knows i’ve had more than my fair share of open mouth – insert foot moments – far, far more than i’d like to remember.

      BUT, in the best of those bad moments, i learned something. many times i hurt people completely unintentionally with my language or my actions. in those moments, i was grateful to the people who had the courage to let me know that something that i had done was hurtful to them and why. it allowed me to monitor my own behavior in the future so as not to do it again.

      perfect example — i used the word ‘retarded’ for years with no idea that it was hurtful. and i thank god that i now know better so that i can do better. i was grateful to find that disney had the exact same attitude. they were very effusive in their thanks, letting me know how much they appreciated me bringing this to their attention.

      thank you again for sharing your thoughts.


  73. Emily, you don’t mention what your child’s disability is or that there was a special assistance pass being used or in view, so it’s not quite clear that this is an apples-to-apples context. I understand the point you are trying to make, but you yourself just pegged it…Belle said the exact same thing to everyone. Your children weren’t singled out in their interactions as Brooke was. I’m pretty sure Donald Duck doesn’t make the “crazy” gesture or back away from ALL the children he encounters. (In fact, based on Disney’s response to Jess, I KNOW he doesn’t!)

    Bottom line is, no matter whether there were special needs identified or not, in the case of the duck, the gesture wasn’t appropriate to use at all.

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