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Disney, Autism and Place Blindness: They Hid the Concierge from Me; Why would they DO that?

Every wonder what place blindness looks like?  Here is an example of what happens when you have autism, experience place blindness and are visiting Disney World.

I am still technically on vacation. Today we will begin our trek back up to the North Country from Orlando, Florida. I’ve been away from home since for nearly four weeks. That’s a long time, but I never do feel ready to head home from my travels. I like to wander and I have an obsession with amusement parks. I even wear the kids out to where my 13-year-old asked if we could please not stop at Six Flags on our way back home–we will see.

So are you ready for our Disney adventure?

When I can, I always stay on property at Disney, and with our family, it usually isn’t any more expensive than staying outside Disney. I do this for a few reasons–none of which are transportation related–although Disney has a fantastic transportation system in place for guests to travel between parks. For us, this would be a nightmare.

Room and Resort Dilemma

Can you imagine me trying to drag my ASD kids on the bus, screaming, crying, crowded with other passengers? Me neither. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve done it. I’ve hated it, but I’ve done it. So it is a rental car or more likely, as it was this time we drive to Orlando. Drive, and drive, and drive, and drive. Three days later…we arrive.

Originally, we would stay at one of Disney’s All-Star (value) resorts, but at the last minute –literally while driving into Florida, I panicked. The value resorts are small room-wise meaning the room is approximately the size of a Motel 6–two full beds, a bathroom and little to no walking room. Motel 6 may be larger.

For many, this is fine, who stays in their room at Disney anyway? However, for us, traveling with five (the oldest stayed home–and yes, I am freaking out, and No, I am not ready for him to be eighteen! But, that is a separate post entirely), it would have been very tight. And, if any of you know anything about my kids by now…tight spaces, on top of each other = not good.

So my justification was, this is my 20th freaking Wedding Anniversary, and I am going to Disney with kids so I should at least treat myself to a little more space! (Sounded good anyway, right?). Seriously though, the rooms at the Caribbean Beach Resort can accommodate (5) because of a very cool little Murphy bed that Thomas fell in love with, and slept in every night!

Disney Room with Murphy Bed

Very proud of him, and he didn’t sleep melted to my back. Plus, the beds in those rooms were Queen sized! Two queen size beds, and one Murphy bed that fit us MUCH better, than two full sizes. I don’t know what I was thinking with that original plan. We have a King Size home, and there still isn’t enough room because the kids insist on sleeping on top of me!

I freak out and change resorts at the last minute

We saw “Welcome to Florida,” I clicked change reservation and switched us to the Caribbean Beach Resort! Awesome. Only, I didn’t read the alert about the construction. Or, that the restaurants in that resort were closed for renovation. Or, that it is a very large resort with internal bus transportation to get around. Or, that the standard view rooms could be very far from the main (and very cool) pool, we were after. Or…. you get the idea, right?

I read all this information after I changed the reservations, and after Disney sent me the room confirmation and online check-in saying I could go directly to my room. This is why I must research the hell out of every little thing because when I don’t, when I try to be spontaneous, try to go with the flow and just do it–this happens! I freaked out and read a gazillion reviews–some good–some awful about staying at this property during the construction period.

By the time we arrived, I admittedly had worked myself into my usual frenzy of panic and uncertainty. When we turned into the resort, I was convinced I’d made a huge mistake. I didn’t feel that Disney excitement, or hear the kids running and splashing into the pools. It was too quiet, and the room was hard to find and no-where near the pool area. I would have to load all the kids into the van every time we wanted to go to the pool. Not at all what I was looking for–I wanted to walk outside, and stroll to the pool, and stroll back to the room.

I regretted changing resorts

Mark and I ran up to the room to check it out before taking the boys out of the car. The room was nice, but way too far from anything. So I panicked a little more and thought of switching resorts. We went to the pool area to look around and see what it was like…walked around the pool, down the path over the bridge that crosses a little island filled with playgrounds and gathering areas. The resort was nice, but to take a car to get to that area? No, that would not work for us.

Before jumping ship, which was my first thought, I decided we should talk to the Concierge to see if there were any rooms closer to the pool area–maybe that would help. If not, we needed to switch resorts. The only problem–I couldn’t find the Concierge.

Place Blindness finding the Concierge Office

I hate being lost, hate feeling lost, and when places are too big, confusing and hectic, it is a recipe for instant meltdowns–think Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, College freaking Campus (yeah, another story)–Ugh. Those places I enter, walk around, get disoriented, walk toward the back of the store thinking I am walking toward the front and freak out because I can’t find my way OUT! Then I burst out the front door with a mission to get to the car, just to stop short because I realize I can’t find the car! I have that throat tightening queasiness just writing about it.

One lifeguard gave directions to the Concierge, which was housed in a room in an adjacent building. Finding the office should have been easy, but you know those buildings with those signs? Room numbers from this to that —this way with arrows pointing left, then numbers from this to that—this way with arrows point right, and then from number this to that–straight ahead with arrows pointing forward???

The Meltdown

I hate those signs. I don’t know why they make my head spin and get me lost and frantic but they do and this day was no exception. They hid the Concierge from me, in plain sight, with arrows pointing to the room. I couldn’t find it; it was hot (my temperature regulation issues suck.); I was flustered, frustrated, upset, regretful. I’d worked myself into a complete tizzy, and the meltdown was coming on strong.

By the time I finally reached the office, I was near hyperventilating, husband says, the hand flapping had begun, and I must have looked a mess because a very nice gentleman rushed to the door, opened it, and told me to come in and sit down. And, the kids were in the van freaking out because after that long drive we were in Disney World and Mom would not let them get out until I figured out what we were doing!

Thank you Disney!

In the usual fantastic Disney fashion, the Cast Members were kind, calm, (unlike me) and helpful. It was no problem to move us to a room within walking distance to the pool area we were after, and they gave me a map! A map! A map is usually all I need to feel calmer. Why hadn’t I thought to get a simple flipping map???

The room was the same, nicely decorated, Murphy pull-down bed for the little guy, and a short walk over the bridge through the play area and to the pool, which we made a b-line for the minute we were settled and suited up.

Pool at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

So Let’s talk about this disorientating, not being able to locate myself in big places, panic-inducing place-blindness, and what happens if I have no MAP!

Many people with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome have place blindness like me. I get lost, a lot–in stores, in buildings, on campus–not usually on roads because I am armed with a MAP. Every time it causes panic. There is something about the feeling of being lost I can’t handle. Remember what happened during recent my MFA residency? I will. I am still processing so much, but this lost thing…yes, I will tell you a few funny, frustrating, and embarrassing stories. At least I can laugh at myself.





Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.


  1. Oh no!! We stayed at Caribbean Resort one night on our last trip just to see how the construction was affecting guests and it was terrible! I am so glad everything worked out. If you need any help planning any future trips please let me know.

    • Although we had a great time, and didn’t spend much time at the resort but all the days in the park, I won’t stay there again during construction. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones to get a discount due to construction (because then my cheapness would take over and I would definitely stay!). I hope to have a better resort experience next time, otherwise, I will just stay off-property. There were a multitude of other issues with accommodations and difficulty navigating the new DAS system so it was a hectic trip to say the least. But Disney did do as much as they could to compensate where they could, but lesson learned for sure.

  2. I hate these ⬆️too!
    maps we can climb into ?
    Last time I did Disney with 6 littles.
    Now I am planning a trip with just my grown aspie girl. I love reading your adventures .

  3. When I walk out to a parking lot, my car, I call my “baby”, is not always parked where I last left it. That is, the spot where I remember parking it. How my baby wanders off to another aisle three aisles away is beyond me. HA!

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