In October 2003 David was given a holiday to Disneyland in Paris as he had not had a proper holiday in over 10 years. To anyone else this would be a dream come true but to David it was just a holiday away somewhere as he had no knowledge of Disney and the reputation that surrounds it.
David had a friend that had been previously and told him that it was no good, so David had it in his head that he would not like it and he wanted to pay himself and go to the Isle of Wight instead.
I was unaware at the time that it would be me that would be taking him, but it was my job to convince Jimmy that he would like Disneyland, but where do you start with something so big. He had no memory of any Disney films, or Mickey Mouse, he had also never been on any rides. Luckily I had been there before so with memories, and a local Disney shop I started to tell David the story of Disney.
I had 3 months to teach David what I think was appropriate and useful information for him to aid his first visit. I broke it down into different parts such as travel, money, food, daytime, night-time, characters and rides. And I worked on 1 at a time. .One of my main concerns was the characters as there was a risk that David may think they are real, so using costumes I explained to him how it worked and how the children would think they are real.
I also showed him various toys in the Disney shop and built up the stories a bit at a time, explaining that they were just stories for children and were not real.
I remember telling him about various inanimate objects that walked and talked and he got very confused.
I use toys a lot in my work as they are great tactile objects of reference and sometimes the only way that you can access a certain object. Once again a lot of criticism often comes from this due to toys being non age appropriate. But I feel that if they help the situation and David knows that they are just a child’s toy for him to feel to help him get a picture or a better understanding then in my mind there is nothing wrong with that.
Despite there being a lot to cover I believe I managed to inform David of the necessities which enabled him to have a better understanding and also give him lots of brand new experiences to look forward to although I often wonder what pictures all of this information I was feeding him was making in his head as a lot of it was new and very abstract to him and he would not really understand a lot of it until he had experienced it.
For instance telling him he would be having a ride in a tea cup made him laugh so much, and he questioned me by asking how would we fit?
I believe that if a description can be followed up by an object of reference it always helps and clarifies the information and helps put it into some sort of perspective.
After David had experienced Disney for a day he was full of questions and I found myself interpreting various stories about characters that we had met through the night as he kept waking up and wanting to know more.
With regards to rides we started small and worked our way up, when we reached one that David was uncomfortable with then I did not try anymore and we kept within our limits.
Speed and height was not as important for David as it may be for us when choosing a ride, it was all about the movement, we found ourselves going on the haunted mansion several times, although slow, the seats, moved around quite a lot and David loved this.