If you have a child on the autism spectrum, planning a trip to Disney World might seem overwhelming.
While every child is different, and their needs will vary, having a plan in place can help ensure that you and your child have a magical vacation at Disney World.
So what can you do to keep from becoming overwhelmed? After all, we're talking about large crowds, lots of noise, fireworks, and all sorts of unfamiliar things that might cause your child anxiety. So how can you plan a successful trip for your family? What services does Disney offer to help children with autism? Here I'll discuss all of that and more so that you can have a fun and successful trip.
Before you plan your trip, start familiarizing your child with what they can expect at Disney World. Depending on how your child likes to absorb information there are many different ways that you can do this.
- If your child is visual and enjoys videos, YouTube will be your best friend in getting your child aquatinted with rides, parades, fireworks, characters, and more. You can find videos of anything and everything Disney related. Put together a play list of videos they enjoy that show rides and activities that they'll be interested in.
- If your child is a visual learner they may want to explore maps of the parks and your resort. You can find maps at Disney's website here, or on the My Disney Experience app. If you are looking for a physical park map, you can purchase one for a small fee on Amazon here (which let's be honest, these are fun to have for everyone!).
- Listen to Disney World podcasts where people talk about their vacations and plans. I have a Disney planning podcast, but there are lots to chose from!
- Give your child a copy of your Itinerary (I have free printable itinerary sheets here). They can become familiar with your daily plans, and feel like they have some control over routine while at Disney World.
If you want even more information on what to expect on rides, Disney offers a guide that gives a full report on rides that includes notes telling you about bumps, jumps, startling effects, and more. You can find that full guide here.
You may also want to plan to bring personal items like tablets, name tags, books, and any other comfort items that will help keep your child safe, happy and calm.
Keep a Routine
Having a routine is important for any child, but this is especially true of children with special needs. Before your trip think about ways that you can implement your routine in to your Disney World vacation.
This could mean heading back to your resort for a rest time, bringing specific items to the parks with you, stopping for breaks, or whatever keeps you on a similar routine to your typical home routine.
DAS and Stroller as a Wheelchair Cards
Disney World offers a Disability Access Service Card for guests with special needs. This is a card provided to guests who cannot stand in long lines due to their disability. If your child will need to remain in a stroller while in line, you can also get a special tag to attach to your stroller so that you can keep it in line with you.
To get a DAS or Stroller as a Wheelchair Card you must go to the guest relations desk at any of the 4 parks.
For the DAS Card, the person with the disability must be present, but you will NOT need to provide any information on their diagnosis. Cast Members only need to know the guests need for the card, not any specific medical information or documentation.
The Cast Member will take a photo of your child, and their Magic Band will be scanned so that this information is linked to your My Disney Experience account. You only need to do this once during your trip. The DAS card is good for 14 days.
You can then use your DAS on attractions with longer lines. Just head over to the Cast Member at the end of the line at the ride and let them know you would like to use your DAS Card to ride. The Cast Member will then give you a return time so that you can ride in the FastPass line.
You can also use your DAS as a way to take advantage of Rider Switch if your child doesn't want to ride.
Other Services Disney Offers
If your child needs to have an adult with them in the restroom, Disney offers several family restrooms around the parks. All first aid stations have family restrooms, but you can ask a Cast Member where additional family rooms can be found.
If your child is sensitive to loud noises, you might want to consider bringing noise reduction headphones or ear plugs with you. If you forget to bring yours with just stop by the first aid station. They have complimentary ear plugs so that your child can enjoy parades, fireworks, and other activities comfortably.
If you suddenly find that your child has become overwhelmed and you need to sit in a quiet space, just find the closest Cast Member. There are several quiet areas around the parks, and they can help you find one. If your child is younger, you can take advantage of the Baby Care Centers located at each park. Otherwise the Cast Member will assist you in getting to a safe and calm location.
Disney restaurants will also do their very best to accommodate if your child has allergies or sensory issues. You can make a note of the special request on your restaurant reservation, or speak to your server when you are seated. If your child is more comfortable eating foods from home, you can have groceries delivered to your resort via Amazon Prime Pantry so that you can pack foods your child will love.
Disney will do everything they can to make sure that you and your child have a comfortable, safe, and fun time at the parks. If at any time you need anything for you or your child, just grab the nearest Cast Member.
If you would like to chat with a Certified Autism Travel Professional, you can get a quote and ask any questions here
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See you at the parks,