Cody rode his first roller coaster and I survived

Ever since I can remember, Cody has had a love for roller coasters. From the first moments he began stroking keys on a computer, he was building roller coasters with various software, his first favorite being Ultimate Ride Coaster: Disney Edition. Combining his love for all things Disney and a computer program where he could build elaborate coasters meant for hours of focused time spent using a creativity in his brain that he certainly didn’t inherit from me. His Dad and I would sit and watch in awe as he built these coasters to specific engineering standards with patience and precision, with the end reward being able to sit back and ride the coaster on the screen. This led to purchasing more software for him and with the popularity of YouTube came a whole different approach for Cody. He would search for videos of his favorite rides at the Walt Disney World parks, pull up his roller coaster program and build using nothing more than his strong visual skills while playing and viewing a video, pausing the video, replaying the video, all while creating the ride using his software and nothing more to go on than watching it play out on video first. Again, we’re in awe of him and his powerful visual skills.

Oddly enough, with Cody’s special love for roller coasters, he never wanted to ride on one. On our first trip to Walt Disney World, I’ll admit I was relieved when he chose to sit out as his Dad and his little brother eagerly rode all of them. Cody was my bench buddy. We’d gladly roll around on Tomorrowland’s Transit Autority while Paul and Nick repeatedly flew around on Space Mountain. I’ll admit, I was worried he would want to ride them after having seen how truly obsessed he had become with them via computer software and YouTube. This isn’t because I have my own personal fears and stay away from any ride that sits on rails and goes at speeds I barely care to reach while driving in my car. Nope, that’s not the reason at all. The real reason is because Cody’s brain works differently than the rest of us. His autism brain thinks in a way that’s very concrete and black and white. He can’t fully grasp what he can’t see and I’m sure you probably know that most roller coasters at Disney are housed inside and you can’t actually watch the ride before getting harnessed in for a thrilling trip in the dark or with rock music blaring from the walls. That’s part of the fun of it, I suppose. For me, though, where Cody is concerned, it brings fear. Fear that he’ll get half way into the ride and be begging to get off and not understanding why he can’t and why his Dad can’t make it stop. It makes my stomach feel ill and my body tremble. It’s hard to explain what it might do to him, though, because I can’t truly speak for how he feels and he can’t necessarily verbalize it, either. For that reason, I’m usually relieved when he decides to sit out for the more thrilling rides.

When we recently decided to visit an amusement park a couple of hours from our home, I fully expected the same scenario to play out. Cody and I would stand and watch as Paul and Nick rode the rails of Excalibur, the wooden roller coaster at Funtown, USA. Or maybe not. When we approached the station for the ride, Cody said he wanted to ride the coaster. It wasn’t an excited exclamation, more of a cautious whisper. We weren’t entirely sure this was what he truly wanted or not so I suggested he stand with me the first time while Paul and Nick went on the ride. While we waited and watched, he expressed to me once again that he, in fact, wanted to ride Excalibur. I told him okay and immediately wished I had a drug of a relaxing sort stuffed into my bag, but no such luck. My stomach began to do flip flops and my hearted started to race and although his mouth was saying he wanted to go on the ride, his face was telling a different story. I just wasn’t so sure.

We met Paul and Nick at the end of the ride and I told Paul that Cody was ready to ride his first roller coaster. He’s a sixteen year old young man and not my little baby anymore, but it felt like it at that moment. They waited in a very short line while I paced back and forth, breathing deeply, and hoping his lap harness was fastened well. I had all I could do not to approach the attendant, to be sure. Yeah, all of my boys would have loved me for that. So there I stood, watching as they left the station and began the initial incline to what would be the longest ride of my life. I quickly walked over the where they would exit the ride and waited to see Cody’s reaction. He had sort of a pale, blank look on his face, like he was still trying to register what had just happened to his body. I asked him if it was fun or if it was scary. In a very low voice he simply said, it was fun Mom. And then he asked to go again. My body can’t handle this.


  1. Just reading this story made my stomach churn for you! What a long ride for you!! Had I been there I would have had just the remedy for you but the ride would have been over before it had kicked in! I’m so happy for you and Cody that he finally realized what a roller coaster ride was all about after having built so many himself!!:)

    • Funny! I actually thought of you and how *handy* it would have been to have you there with me. These kids and what they do to our bodies……starts at pregnancy and I swear it won’t ever end.

  2. While reading your post I was feeling your anxiety. What a frightening situation-to wonder if he would want to bail half way through. Yay Cody! What an accomplishment. And to top it off-he loved it! You survived. Maybe next time you’ll go too


  1. He might never get a driver’s license « cathy herard says:

    […] bit relieved, much like I’ve always been relieved when he turned down many opportunities to ride roller coasters at amuesment parks, but it also saddens me a little that he may miss out on something truly […]

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