Is Tourette Syndrome a reason for a GAC?

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by moopdog, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. moopdog

    moopdog Dreaming of Disney....

    Feb 2, 2005
    Need an honest opinion here, please. My DS 11 has Tourette syndrome, and although he has a mild case of it (in the grand scheme of things) his tics are out of control when we are in new, exciting places with a lot of standing around and waiting (sound familiar). Yes Disney has in the past and will again send him "over the edge". We went in 2005 and he was fine - went in 2008 and he was so-so. Now as he nears puberty, which is the pinnacle age for tourette's, he is starting to get bad again, and I'm sure that once our trip rolls around in Feb - he'll be 12 and even worse than he is now. My question:

    Would it be a legitimate reason for him to have a GAC? (Isn't that what it's called that lets him avoid the longer lines??) We do not consider him disabled, and he has no special treatments in school or otherwise, so part of me feels the GAC isn't meant for kids like him, but on the other hand... if there is something we can do to help him enjoy his much-deserved vacation...I wonder if I should go for it. It's really the standing in line thing that he has a very hard time coping with - it just builds and builds until he starts ticcing like crazy and eventually crying from embarrassment, etc. Excess dopamine, if I remember correctly. Anyway....

    I have a lot of concerns about it, first of which is HOW do I go about getting one, and the fact that he mostly looks like a healthy walking, talking boy, that people will give us 'looks' and comments. I can deal with that, but my son would be bothered by that.

    Be honest - it won't hurt my feelings, I just want to know if me requesting one would be looked at as taking advantage of a system that's meant for REALLY serious physical limitations.
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  3. mzozzietj

    mzozzietj DIS Veteran

    Aug 10, 2010
    If standing in the long lines is what triggers the tics then by all means definitely get a GAC. Even if you don't plan to use it all the time, it's better to have it if/when you need it. Once you enter the park, you just go to guest relations. When we traveled with my best friends mother who has MS we got one and it was very simple to do. Unfortunately I think there will always be people who complain about those who use ECVs and GACs thinking they are faking, etc but I think most people are respectful. We only used it a couple times since her mom couldn't get out of her wheelchair at all but when we did, we just showed it to the CM at the start of the line and they explained what to do/where to go.
  4. moopdog

    moopdog Dreaming of Disney....

    Feb 2, 2005
    Never thought of this before - I guess you're right, we can have it and then only use it if/when needed. It's so simple! I was imaging some giant flashing arrow over our family that would be drawing a lot of negative attention. I really need to get a grip.

    And also, I assumed I'd need a doctor's note or something stating he has a condition, etc. I wasn't looking forward to having to ask for that, but if it's not required...even better. Thank you.
  5. TheBum

    TheBum Going to Disney again?? OK!

    Feb 13, 2011
    On this site: it does recommend having some "proof" just in case you run into CM that is being overzealous. Also, bear in mind that this is not designed to jump you to the front of the line, so if there is a long queue, the CM working may make you wait as long as you would have otherwise (just so you know up front). We used one once for my daughter with CF, and probably never will again, but it is a nice option to have.
  6. lanejudy

    lanejudy Moderator Moderator

    Oct 27, 2011
    I would suggest a good touring plan and using FastPass if his issue is mainly waiting in line. GAC is not designed or intended to shorten the wait, and in many instances it will actually lengthen the wait, albeit in a somewhat modified location if need be. GAC is need-based, not diagnosis-based, so you will have to bring your son with you to Guest Relations to explain his needs as related to Disney parks and they will advise how they can accommodate his needs. Many families will "wait and see" if a GAC might be helpful, or they get one to hold as "insurance" if needed. You apparently have experienced WDW with your son previously so you have a good idea of his triggers and you should be able to judge what might be needed for your family. Don't worry what others "think" about you/him, do what you feel is best.

    The sticky at the top of this forum has more information about the GAC.

    Enjoy your vacation!
  7. PeanutButterMom

    PeanutButterMom Mouseketeer

    Jul 23, 2012
    I plan on getting one for my sun-sensitive daughter when we go, and I promise she looks 100% 'normal' except for a 3.5 inch scar on her forehead where she had a precancerous nevi removed last year (and she always wears a hat, so you never see her scar anyway). I would never begrudge someone extra help, and I would never take or accept help or "extra" anything that I didn't need. I'm only planning on using a GAC if we're standing in diret sunlight (and from what I understand most lines are under cover).

    There are many instances where someone may "look" normal and require extra.
  8. Cheshire Figment

    Cheshire Figment <font color=red><marquee behavior=alternate>Friend

    Jan 12, 2001
    If you click on where it says "disABILTIES" at the top of this page it will take you to the Index. One of the top items is the "disABILTIES FAQ" which will gives lots of useful information, including in Post #6 which discusses the GAC.

    A key item is that issuance of a GAC is not based on diagnoses but on needs.

    Or, if you want an easier route to the FAQs, click on the link in my signature.
  9. rileyreese

    rileyreese Mouseketeer

    Aug 16, 2009
    I would also recommend a good tour plan, if you have your day "planned" you can often ride the rides with little wait time so that with the GAC should really help.

    Do you have an idea of a time frame that he could comfortably wait? That might also help in planning and you can judge the rides based on that!
  10. oynk

    oynk Earning My Ears

    Feb 2, 2008
    My older son (now 15) also has Tourette Syndrome (TS) and we have been many times with him during times of tic exacerbations, so I'll offer my observations with a big YMMV.

    1. Vacations definitely seem to make his tics worse. Some of that has to do with being all together for long periods of time. During our normal lives (or as normal as they get), there are plenty of opportunities for him to be by himself to "release" tics. Ten hours in a car followed by sharing a hotel room with someone who yips or snorts every few minutes can seem like torture! Then add in the pressure of him trying to surpress his tics so as not to bother us and it leads to disaster.

    We learned very quickly that it was incredibly helpful to find ways to give him some time alone! We would often send him on ahead (but still in eye-sight), or find quiet corners for him to "play." At the hotel, we would all go down to breakfast ahead of him. He didn't need a long time, but a few minutes of privacy were critical.

    2. Look around you in the park. My kid wrinkling his nose and grunting really didn't stand out compared to the kid in front of us poking his sister and practicing really loud burps or the kid in back of us swinging on the rope, or for that matter the dad with them who kept repeating, "If you do that one more time, we are going back to the hotel."

    3. We now get a GAC for his younger sister (health issues that reduce stamina and the use of a stroller wheelchair). I can't say that having it has made much of a difference for him. Either his tics were mildly annoying and manageable even with a bit of a wait, or they were totally unbearable to those around him even for short periods of time.

    For example, a few years back he had a fairly persistant spitting tic. It didn't matter if we had a 40 minute wait in the standard line, or a five minute wait in an alternative entrance - no one wanted to be standing in front of the kid who spit on the ground behind them every 20-30 seconds. We brainstormed and he ended up carrying around a small wash cloth that he spit into. Pretty gross, but I really don't think most people noticed.

    Anyway, I don't see anything wrong with getting a GAC for TS, but I don't know that it will be of much help. Of course, if your son is anything like mine, i can see a possible benefit to just having it, even if you never use it. We have noticed that just having an "escape valve" reduces the pressure on him and does make him less likely to be very ticcy.

    Good luck!
  11. KPeveler

    KPeveler Moderator Moderator

    Dec 17, 2006
    I just wanted to add my voice to those who said you can ask for a GAC, but that does not mean you have to use it. I have a GAC as well as a wheelchair (full time user), and most trips to Disney (I am in Disneyland 2-3 times a week), I never need to pull it out. I use the GAC largely for issues stemming from my anxiety/PTSD, so I understand how difficult it can be using it for an invisible issue.

    I say go to Guest Relations and just talk to them. I am afraid of talking to strangers in authority, so I wrote down ahead of time what I wanted to say - that way I didn't freeze, babble, or forget something. Also, as he is hitting puberty, his mom talking about an embarrassing problem may be difficult, so writing it down may help there too.

    Also another vote for planning - it can really help lower stress levels if he knows what to expect.
  12. Schmeck

    Schmeck <font color=blue>Funny thing is now my 17 year old

    Aug 26, 1999
    Having a good touring plan and using FP are going to help out a lot more than a GAC - I noticed very crowded 'alternate entrance' areas at most of the nonFP attractions, with waits as long or longer than the standby. This was just a few weeks ago, beginning of August.
  13. SueM in MN

    SueM in MN combining the teacups with a roller coaster Moderator

    Aug 23, 1999
    As an example, last May, my husband and daughter got in line at the accessible line at Small World. She uses a wheelchair, so has to use that line because it is the only accessible way in. Many people were in that same line for other than mobility reasons.
    I came to Small World about 25 minutes after they had gotten into line and it was not possible for me to join them because that line was too full. I checked the Standby line, which had a posted wait time of 20 minutes and called him to let him know I was going to get into line and would text him when I was done since I assumed they would be done way before I would.

    I was watching for them to get loaded on a boat so I would have some idea of how long they would be waiting for me to finish.
    They ended up 3 boats ahead of the one I was loaded in, so when everything was added up, they waited over 25 minutes longer than I did and we ended up being finished within just a few minutes of each other.

    So, my advice is that anyone using a GAC should check the Standby line to see what the likely wait will be.

    A touring plan can help a lot because it helps you to be in the quietest part of the least busy park. That will also help in wys a GAC can't - like just getting from place to place with the least crowds.

    And, as was pointed out, a letter from a doctor is not necessary and CMs will usually refuse to look at it - for one thing, most of the letters are not particularly helpful in telling what the person actually needs. The other reason is that anyone can write a letter and sign it as a doctor, so the CMs have no way of knowing it is a legitimate letter. Plus, they are not allowed to ask for proof of disability.

    Notes written by the person, as KPeveler mentioned, can be helpful to make some people feel more comfortable.

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