Many people with Asperger’s or autism want to hide their condition from strangers, but sometimes sharing your ASD with the world is the best way to change the world. One Disney employee found that out firsthand when a mother and her child unexpectedly needed his assistance.
The young man, who goes by the name Gary, no longer works for Disney, but he recalled his experience in a Reddit post:
“I was working Aladdin (Aladdin’s Magic Carpet Ride, a 90s-ish tech VR game) and as I was talking with someone in line, this woman walked up to me from the exit,” writes Gary. “I started to explain to her she had walked in the exit when she looked me straight in the eye and said ‘You’re Asperger’s autistic aren’t you?'”
Of course, Gary was taken aback. It’s often a little weird when a stranger confronts you about your diagnosis, isn’t it? But things quickly took an unexpected turn.
Gary continues, “I was for one stunned, then angry, because I hate it when people see that, and I was about to kick her out of the ride because now I was holding up the whole ride, when she said (again making that hard as iron direct eye contact stare), ‘My son, the one you JUST loaded into that ride, just got diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder yesterday and he’s extremely upset about it. We came here to try to make him feel better… Could you talk to him after he gets off the ride? Tell him he can be like you, normal?'”
And just like that, the interaction went from a weird interrogation to a heartfelt plea from a mother desperate to make her little boy feel better and give him some hope for a bright future.
“I agreed, despite being probably the most uncomfortable that I’ve ever been in my entire life at that point,” Gary recalls. “The ride ended, I took him off to the side, he was kinda curious, I gave him kind of a personal version of the Magic Moment we had for Aladdin, showed him this plushie lamp we have set aside for the ride, and told him that it was a secret, but the Genie asked me to tell him that I’m Asperger’s Autistic, and I live just like everyone else. I told him I’ve worked for Mickey (I put it that way too) for nine years, and not one single person there knew except him.”
That’s when the young boy broke down crying as he tried to process all the emotions he had surrounding his new diagnosis. His mother started crying too, as well as the other cast member who was working with Gary, leaving Gary at a loss for what to do. He remembers people in line for the attraction pulling out their cell phones to take video as the young boy asked him, “So I’ll be normal?”
To which Gary replied: “You will be what YOU will be. There is no normal.”
Gary humbly writes that he was simply doing his job, because working for Disney means being whatever a guest needs you to be at any given time. This time, a little boy just so happened to need him to be himself. But anyone else can see that Gary is a true hero to that little boy, and he’s an inspiration for future generations of Disney employees as well.
“I’m told by the manager who responded to this like thirty seconds later (she was in the doorway when it went down and saw it), she tells this story to every Traditions class she teaches,” says Gary. “So for the past seven or eight years, she’s been telling this story to every new Cast Member coming into the Florida locations.”
Thank you, Gary, for being such an amazing role model for a little boy who truly needed you. The world needs more awesome people like you!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?