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Yes, I Have Sensory Processing Disorder and Love Disneyland

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My parents first brought me to Disneyland when I wasn’t even 6 months old. So obviously, I don’t remember that trip.

The first trip I do remember was when I was 3 (almost 4) years old. My great aunt took me and we had a day of fun. I can’t remember what all we did, but I know we met characters, must’ve rode a ride or two, and just walked around.

Until after I graduated kindergarten, we had annual passes. We’d go after I got out of school around lunchtime, eat in the picnic area, enjoy a few hours in the park, maybe eat dinner, and then my brother and I would sometimes be dropped off at my grandma’s house while my parents went back for a couple more hours.

From that point on, I’m pretty sure I can count the number of times I’ve been on two hands.

Within that time I’ve learned about sensory processing disorder (SPD). I was diagnosed as a child but never took the time to learn and understand myself. I started to understand why I hated going to certain restaurants, why some clothes bothered me, etc. Of course, none of this was new, but really understanding the why was new, and it was important.

Once really beginning to understand SPD and and hearing stories about me as a baby, I looked at my deep love for Disneyland and questioned that. Why can I spend an entire day at Disneyland with little to no issues, but I have to hide in my own house? I still don’t know the answer to that question. However, I do know that I thrive at Disneyland.

When I explain SPD to friends and family, I always joke about my love for Disneyland and how it doesn’t make much sense. They agree and think it’s odd, and we laugh and move on.

The author hugging Minnie Mouse at Disneyland

When I’m at Disneyland, nothing matters. It doesn’t matter that I can’t drive or ride a bike. The fact that I’m almost 21 years old doesn’t matter. The moment I step through those gates, I’m consumed by the magic.

Those sites, smells, and shows are home. I feel “normal” there. Like I belong and am accepted. As I walk down Main Street, my worldly problems tend to just slip away. I feel safe.

It’s pretty amazing that someone who can barley handle the hour at a noisy restaurant can handle a full day at the Happiest Place on Earth. Disneyland is a special place to me, and I am forever thankful for all the magical memories and special hugs I’ve gotten there. I’m celebrating my 21st birthday there, and I can’t think of a better place.

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Originally published: January 4, 2017
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