What kind of Autism does Tommy have?
There are so many different ways that a person can have Autism or be Autistic. That is why it is called Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. Each person with ASD is unique, and their gifts, strengths, talents, as well as their challenges are different in every person.
The important thing to recognize is that all people with Autism have the same dreams as anyone, and the same emotions and feelings. They love, laugh, hope, and long to be embraced by others. They have gifts to offer others that make the world a better place. And they just want to be loved. Just like anyone.
So, the answer to this question is really- Tommy has the same kind of Autism as any person with Autism- the kind where he deserves respect, acceptance, and to be embraced for who he is. And the kind where his contribution to the world is to be celebrated and enjoyed!!!
What does Adel do for Tommy?
As Tommy’s Autism Guide Dog, Adel helps keep Tommy safe. Her role is more complex than just that, though. Please visit the Autism Dog section of this site for more detail 🙂
How often does Tommy go to Disney?
Tommy first went on March Break in 2009, and it was going to be just one trip. It was so incredible for him, and filled him with so much joy, and language! It was, without a doubt, a true peak life experience, for which we were so grateful.
When the calendar turned to March 1st, 2010, Tommy announced with glee “I’m going to Disney World on March break 2010!!!” The look of true hope and excitement on his face led to his parents looking for last minute deals on flights, etc, and off they went again!!! The second trip was, amazingly, even more magical than the first. Tommy was more at ease, knew what was going to happen (always important in Autism) and this was when Tommy surprised us by proposing to Anastasia <3 A fairytale journey had begun!
At this point, we knew, as parents, that we would move heaven and earth to keep providing Tommy with Disney trips, for it seemed like Disney World had become a second home to him. It has become an annual event for Tommy to visit Disney.
Are there kids waiting in line while Tommy talks to characters for a long time?
Because of Tommy’s Autism, we very carefully choose to visit Disney at the least crowded times- least crowded times of day, and also times of year. We always make sure there are not kids waiting. If there are, we ask Tommy to say goodbye quickly. Many of Tommy’s longer visits with characters took place during “Characterpalooza” at Hollywood Studios, and tons of characters all came out at once at a time when the streets were almost empty of guests. Other visits where Tommy chats for a while with characters often take place at night when there are no lines, and few children in the parks or restaurants. We are very, very respectful of kids (and others) waiting. We love kids!!!! Sometimes while Tommy chats with a character other guests nearby are listening in, and enjoying his chat too. The character handlers are also helping make sure that no other guests are waiting. Lastly, many of Tommy’s longest conversations with characters took place when he was invited to come for a visit set up for him, at a time when the characters have chosen to see Tommy after the line of guests has ended, and before they go on their break. The characters are often very willing to spend a little extra time with Tommy. He has been treated very kindly by the characters, who understand how much it means to an autistic person, and their family, to have extra kind treatment. Life is often very frustrating and challenging for those with disabilities, and Disney recognizes this, and makes them feel truly supported and understood.
Is Tommy in University?
Tommy is auditing one class per semester. He enjoys being part of the learning community of students his age. He is not studying for credit or writing exams. However, he does enjoy learning new vocabulary, and attending class with a support person and Adel 🙂
Does Tommy have a job?
Tommy has dreams to work at a number of jobs. He is a hard worker, and looks forward to a job someday. For the moment, he is a full time elite athlete, which is a huge commitment in terms of time and effort. He is a para athlete with dreams of competing at the world level some day. So, at the moment, that is his focus!
Are Tommy and Anastasia really married?
Tommy says they really are! But Tommy knows that their wedding was a part of a fairy tale and therefore imaginary! (He knows that “Prince Tommy” is married to “Anastasia” in story land). Tommy has a huge imagination, and really loves to play along with the characters at Disney World, and loves to make up stories and share them with others. We are grateful to the Disney World characters that have made Tommy’s stories come to life for him, and embraced his joy in their stories <3