“We’re following the leader, the leader, the leader. We’re following the leader wherever he may go. Tee dum, tee dee. A teedle ee do tee day…” This is one of the routines I typically start my Saturday mornings with. Singing and humming to Disney tunes is my way of interacting and spending quality time with my little brother.
At the age of 5, I knew there was something peculiar going on in my household. Of course, this was always a feeling and something that was never directly communicated. Sure, my brother did not speak a word nor did he ever seem motivated to approach others, but I didn’t see anything different about him whatsoever.
It was only until I reached elementary school that I noticed the difference between my sibling relationship and other sibling relationships. As a young girl, I have always assumed younger siblings never spoke with one another and threw tantrums out of frustration. Boy was I wrong. Going to school, I did not see any of this occur with other sibling relationships.
Up until high school, this atypical feeling inside of me grew into something much more apparent. My family’s words were never the root of my acknowledgment that my brother Chris was different. It was sheer instances and other encounters I faced with Chris that put the puzzle pieces together for me to finally learn that he had autism.
There were many activities I was and still am able to engage in with Chris. A majority of them involved partaking in outdoor activities such as bike riding, swimming, taking walks, and venturing out to parks. However, there were two activities he enjoyed the most: watching Disney films and going to Disneyland. It was not a typical fan obsession, but more like a close friendship he had with anything Disney related. For instance, if you asked him anytime, “Who is funny?” his automatic response would be “Mickey Mouse”, “Donald Duck”, or “Goofy.” Without a doubt, there was a special bond he shared with these characters.
Some of his favorite films to this day include classics such as Fantasia, Peter Pan, the Rescuers, Pinocchio, Robin Hood, and much more. What I noticed when we watched these films were his unique mannerisms. He would replay certain scenes, pick up certain lines, and utilize them in his everyday speech. It was clear that this magical world was his haven and something he found comfort in.
As time went on, I realized the power of that Disney feeling. Many folks have a story as to why Disney means so much to them. For me, Disney brings happiness to my family. There is no greater joy in life for my father, mother, and myself to see Chris with a smile on his face. Not only does this brand bring him exuberance, it also acts as a fun learning avenue for him to improve his communication skills on. For him to feel confident and happy with himself reassures me that he is a brilliant individual with a bright future ahead of him.
– Jamie, 23, La Canada, CA
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