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Guests with Special Needs Discuss WDW and Autism in the Vacation Planning forums; My son is now 8 and will be spending his 4th time at Disney. Some of the things we found that helped him are: 1. Plan, plan, plan 2. make ...
  1. #16
    KTRsDaddy is offline A-Ticket holder
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    My son is now 8 and will be spending his 4th time at Disney. Some of the things we found that helped him are:
    1. Plan, plan, plan
    2. make a plan for when you can't follow your plan
    3. he has specially made earplugs that fit his ears snugly
    4. Don't park hop - do only one park a day - transitions are too hard
    5. get a GAC and don't be afraid to use it
    6. Daily swim in hotel pool
    7. get to the parks early, beat the crowds then get out
    8. take a little personal fan so he can keep himself cool
    9. pack snacks - if he is a picky eater
    10. Listen, Listen to what he needs- better to spend a few quality hours than one whole day miserable.
    11. Pack any needed sensory items - chew tubes, squishy balls, texture balls, brush etc..
    12. does he stim - let him do it - who cares what others think, it will help him cope

    That is all I can think of off the top of my head.
    Charlotte

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chickapin Chick View Post
    My 6 year old son was recently diagnosed with autism. We are planning a late August 2008 trip to WDW. Can anyone recommend some great activities for a sensory sensitive child? (Character meals are out because he is terrified of the characters.) He went to Disney when he was 4, so we have a good idea of what will/will not work for him, but I thought it might be interesting to hear what has worked for other people's children!
    Me and my brother have Autisum and I have Sensory Sensitive (for some reason it's called sensory depervation idk why) and I'm TERRIFIED of the characters (again idk why I always have been) and we go to WDW every year. There are lots to do. It all depends on what park your going to.
    and these people that have answers all work for me and my family listen to them.
    also try asking asking what he want to do and then if he tells you, go do it.
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  3. #18
    WDWNerd07 is offline A-Ticket holder
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    My brother is autistic and we always get a GAC because he cannot wait in long lines. I would def. suggest getting a GAC pass at guest relations, and as for rides, the only thing he does not really like is Stitch because the harness is too constricting for him. He also does not like very dark things. I am only 15, and cant put in the advice of an adult, as others ca, but hopefully this helps even the slightest bit.

  4. #19
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    My five year old daughter has Asperger's Syndrome and we just went to WDW a couple weeks ago. The best thing we did was get a Guest Assistance Card. My daughter has no concept of standing in line when her favorite ride is right in front of her. Many times the stand-by lines were so short that we didn't have to use it, but when we did, it let us use the fastpass entrance. The best part of our trip was actually Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween party, because there were so few people at the Magic Kingdom compared to the normal day that we hopped right on every ride we wanted and saw as many characters in one night as the other 4 days of our trip combined! We got a private ride on my daughter's favorite ride-it's a small world. It really worked out for us and I'd really do that again. However, I've heard bad things about Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party having WAY too many people, so I'd check before paying for that one. Hope this helped. If anyone else would like more details of what worked for us, please feel free to PM me.
    I believe in Happily Ever Afters.

  5. #20
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    I have Asperger's Syndrome. It's pretty easy to give advice lol the last time i went was in '06. I was 17 at the time and scared to death of riding the Twilight Zone "Tower of Terror" (mainly because of my phobia of high places) so I opted out of going on it. But I did go on Aerosmith's "Rockin' Roller Coaster" (Big Mistake! ) As I don't like being upside down and am prone to bad haedaches and possibly seizures. this ride also had loud noises and flashing lights blaring in the riders' ears (which scared the daylights out of me!) I went on this ride twice. Once in '06 and once in '04. But Epcot has some good rides (spaceship Earth and Journey Into Imagination to name a couple.) Plus there's Disney Quest at Downtown Disney when you need a break from the parks! I think at Epcot you can catch a ride on a boat and sail to for a while to just to enjoy the view from the water (this may be a bad idea since your child is sensitive around big crowds...'tis a small boat) I would advise also to ask the cast member at the ticket booth where you first come in or maybe at your hotel if riding the monorail would be a good idea for your child because of the movement of the tram he/she may get bored and want to move around and you could lose track of him/her (unless he/she paces in circles i know someone in college who does this or if he/she rocks back and forth you may want to give him/her something to do to ease his/her boredom while on the monorail...and during the wait to get on!)
    As far as character free food goes, there is a restaurant in Frontierland called Pacos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, the menu has no character-themed food.
    I copied their kids' menu for you:

    Kids Picks
    For Guests 9 and Under

    All meals include choice of two side items: grapes, applesauce
    Choice of: 1% Mickey Milk, small bottled water or apple juice
    Chocolate Chip Cookie, Fries or Soft Drink available on request

    Hamburger $4.49






    Mixed Greens Salad with Chicken $4.49
    Chocolate Pudding $1.19







    (p.s. i know one of the drink items says 'Mickey milk' but if your child is still upset, you can always choose something else)
    I have also posted a link that contains menus for the different disney restaurants so u guys have an idea of where to eat on the days you're there:


    I hope this helps anyone with an autistic child and to anyone planning a trip to WDW in '09...have a safe trip!
    oh yeah i should mention one more thing about the character meals (or meeting characters in general.) if you have any Disney character stuffed toys or those Disney Princess dolls lying around your house I suggest practicing with your child, Watching Disney movies also helps too. Give yourself and the child a 'Disney day' before the big trip arrives.
    Last edited by MMCgirl20; 02-16-2009 at 03:08 PM.

  6. #21
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    My 15 year old daughter is Autistic and Downs Syndrome even though it is hard work at WDW i really do feel she benefits from being there as long as you do it in moderation and be sensible minimise noise and crowds and dont stay there all day, every ride she goes on she has learnt to cover her ears up now so i am considering taking some ear muffs next time as when she was younger she refused to wear them, she also uses a wheelchair as she can't walk big distances and does feel safer in it so a GAC is essential for us.
    My wife passed away a year and a half ago and last year my mother came along to assist me and found it quite tiring and said she wouldn't do it again so that leaves the two of us! but the show goes on! it will be very hard work for me on my own with her but with careful planning it can be done!

  7. #22
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    My about-to-be-5-yr-old son is Autistic. However, I should mention that generally speaking, he does not shy away from most sensory experiences. Just the opposite! But I am familiar with your problem and have had trouble with transitions and lots of other things "autistic parents" have to deal with/be sensitive to.

    I concur with Charlotte's suggestions, and with all those who mention you should get a guest assistance card. Although they say this is not "necessary," we still brought a dr. note. All you have to do is go to Guest Relations at the front of a park to obtain one. Usually they help virtually eliminate the problem of waiting that is so difficult for Autistic kids. Sometimes you still have to wait if you're electing to child swap.

    Just remember that the child must be present to get the card and must (normally) be present at the attraction you wish to ride. This was actually a problem for us over at Dinosaur. My husband and I wanted to ride it, but our littlest one couldn't. A friend offered to watch him in the boneyard for us so he didn't have to wait for us to child swap for no good reason. The CM was actually very rude to us, but I promptly reported him to Guest Relations and wrote Disney afterwards. (I also wrote about CMs who were AWESOME, BTW, by name.)

    For the waits, I would suggest bringing in an activity that your child enjoys (maybe even a little egg of silly putty, a container of play dough, a small magna doodle, bubbles, whatever) and definitely snacks. I have never EVER had a problem bringing in significant amounts of food if I wanted! And as far as I'm concerned, when you have a young, Autistic child, snack foods and even "meal" foods are a medical necessity since often they are so picky. Make sure you have something on your person, but if you don't want to lug around a meal all day, you can get a locker, even bring an ice pack along.

    I think steering you away from individual attractions or events could be a mistake since kids are all so different. As for the parties discussed earlier, I've been to MVMCP twice and I think it would be doable. It all depends on how you plan and handle things. That is key. But someone suggested Innoventions, and that is something that I probably would avoid even with my own sensory-seeking son. Point is, you know your kid best and probably know what will potentially set him off. Whoever said, "Plan, plan, plan!" hit the nail right on the head.

    As for accommodations, I scrimped and saved so we could stay at the Polynesian. Remember, at the Polynesian you can walk to the TTC if you want and hop the Epcot monorail easily. You also have the availability of the launch to and from MK. I would HIGHLY recommend it or another monorail resort if it's possible for you. Perhaps BLT would be good b/c it would give you the option of having a kitchen in the event your child is a picky eater. You can have groceries delivered right to you. I've ordered them online before even leaving. You could also have things shipped to your resort ahead of time. I've done that also (diapers and baby food when the kids were young). Epcot-area resorts may also be a good option because you can walk to both Studios & Epcot. Plus both Boardwalk and BC both have villas with kitchens.

    Character meals. I wondered if your child would be afraid of the face characters also (you know, like Peter Pan and the Princesses, the ones who do not wear bulky costumes)? If not, look into one of those meals. Don't skip out on a character meal if your child would be ok with a character waving from a distance. Disney absolutely will accommodate that need!

    Lastly, I would say that although many of us parents don't like to pigeon-hole our children, it is useful to make a habit of reminding people of your child's special need since it's something not usually physically seen (sometimes it just looks like bad behavior!). CMs will be very understanding on the whole if you do let them know what's going on. One parent I know of had a neat bag or pin or shirt (maybe all 3) that said something like, "My child has Autism. Please be patient." I thought that was ingenious. I would consider making some buttons to that effect and wearing them in the parks. Our speech therapist also told us that there are little cards you can buy (or I suppose, make) that say something similar and you can just hand them to people/CMs as necessary. This way you don't have to say a word, particularly if your child is sensitive to being continually called Autistic.

    You can do it, and you will have a great time!

  8. #23
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    This trip sounds fun I always enjoy hearing about people living with special needs enjoying the Parks like the rest of us

    Here are some suggestions and thoughts in random order

    First of all trust yourself and the fact that YOU know your child the best!!!

    And I agree that what works for one child living with Autism isn't necessarily going to work with another child living with the same diagnosis. Each person is an individual who has different sets of symptoms and ways of coping with those symptoms. So take all the advice given with a grain of salt (and I mean that in a good way for all those who are giving the advice...me included)

    I highly recommend the book that Deb Willis and Deb Koma wrote about Special Needs at Walt Disney World....they throughly researched all the Parks for the book and it will allow you to decide what rides would work for you and your son before you even head out on your trip.

    I would also recommend that you get a Guest Assistant Pass (goes by another name that I can't think of right now) ....anyways...the pass (available for length of stay at any guest services) and the guide book that is available for each park will help you figure out where you can get shorter lines/waits and where the baby stations and first aid areas are in each park....so you can go into cool places when the heat gets to be too much.

    If you are planning on stay on Disney property I would highly recommend that you plan times to go back to your room and do something in the coolness of your room or in the pool during the middle of the day....it gets desperately hot in Orlando in August and having that down time really helps.

    Something I recommend for anybody who is in the parks with small children and/or children with special needs is to put the following somewhere on your child....IF LOST PLEASE CALL and your cell phone number but DONT put your child's name with that information ...if a child's name is involved in this it can be visible to anybody who might come across the child and that include people who dont have the best interest of your child in their mind. I have used a pen or a permanent marker to put the info on an arm so it is seen by whoever finds them but I know that can lead to other concerns related to the ink getting into the blood stream...again do what you feel you need to do to keep your child safe

    I also point out Disney security guards and anybody with an official Disney name tag as being a safe person that the child could go to if they get separated from you. I use the name tag rather than costumes due to the numerous amount of costumes that are in the parks and the fact that area managers wear "civilian" clothes while they are working

    One more suggestion, when I lived in Orlando I worked for the in room child care provider at Disney and one of the things that they offer is a PARENT'S HELPER. This is when one of their child care providers who joins your family in the parks and in the case of a child with special needs they can be there just for that child...this way you can enjoy your time with your entire family as well as have a good experience a the Parks. This suggestion costs money as you pay the provider a hourly wage as well as for their park ticket....for more information about this head over to their website at KIDS NITE OUT. Also if you use this suggestion please let them know that you have a child with special needs so they can assign somebody to your family who is knowledgeable about the needs your child might have.

    Whew...this is a long post...so I am going to end it for now

    If you have any questions please don't hesitate to email me kdizne (at) gmail (dot) com (replace at w/ @ and dot w/.)

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  9. #24
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    my sister is 10 (going to turn 11 next month) and she is Autistic...whenever my family goes to WDW, she always knows exactly where we are, and is excited to be there..she always asks to go to Downtown the first day we are there...it's always great to see her happy in the parks

    Quote Originally Posted by dizneluver View Post
    I would also recommend that you get a Guest Assistant Pass (goes by another name that I can't think of right now)
    Absolutely, yes. We always get this for my sister and it is such a huge help. My sister gets ornery even waiting the 15-20 minutes in the Fastpass/Handicap lines. Without it there'd probably be no way for her to wait in some of the insane lines. Plus, she is (finally) tall enough to go on all the major attractions, and she does go on them and loves them (for a small 10 year old girl, she is fearless)...so my whole family can go on them (well, except for my mom...she doesn't really like anything that goes much more than about 5mph)...the Guest Assistance Pass is a great thing to have with a child with special needs...and plus, the CMs are always more than helpful for if you need anything, even especially in the restaurants when you need a special request (ex: my sister will only eat pasta or macaroni and cheese)
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  10. #25
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    My brother has autism and we have taken him to the parks about dozens of times. the first time we went, he was very scared to go on most rides and we would usually end up just walking around. DONT take on buzz, very loud and a sensory overload. we had to work up to this ride for my brother. the 1st time he went on he was screaming. however, after several rides, it is now his favorite and he will ride most anything that is not a roller coaster. try to ride the open air rides like sarafi in AK, and get him familiar with the movies so he is familiar with the characters and finds comfort in seeing the characters in attractions.
    good luck!

  11. #26
    dreamitºoºdoit is offline A-Ticket holder
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    oh, and be SURE you go to guest services and tell them you need a guest assistant pass because you have a visitor with autism. use it as a fast pass in the fast pass line. if no fast pass line, go in the handicapped entrance (usually at the exit)

  12. #27
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    Quote Originally Posted by dreamitºoºdoit View Post
    oh, and be SURE you go to guest services and tell them you need a guest assistant pass because you have a visitor with autism. use it as a fast pass in the fast pass line. if no fast pass line, go in the handicapped entrance (usually at the exit)
    Agreed 100%. This is essentially a God-send with my sister. It is used for fastpass lines where available, otherwise you go through the handicap entrance (which sometimes may make you wait as long as the regular line, though)

    Quote Originally Posted by dreamitºoºdoit View Post
    My DONT take on buzz, very loud and a sensory overload.
    Also, every child with autism is different. Yes, for many there is a sensory overload, but for some not. My sister LOVED Buzz, as well as even Tower of Terror, RnRC, and Everest. She loves these things; not so much Dumbo or it's a small world. They bored so much that she started to act up...because of boredom. Just remember...every autistic child is different. There are many like you're brother, and many like my sister, but in their own ways.
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  13. #28
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    The above post about getting a Guest Assist Card was the best thing that we did. We were just at WDW & Disney Dream. Go to Guest Services and get a card. It is a blessing! My almost 4 yr old granddaughter is mildy autistic....we rode Jungle Cruise; Aladdins carpet ride; Pirates of the caribbean within the first hour of being at MK..... she loves Dumbo and teacups..... and we rode them right away.... also the motorized cars was something she wanted to ride.... and we got RIGHT on.... It sure saved a melt downs ......
    I think another thing - don't plan toooooo much in one day...just go with the flow. We had quite a wait at Soaring - and that wait didn't go too good.....also it was HOT waiting in line and that causes a problem.
    Every child on the spectrum has different issues.... just have fun and enjoy!

  14. #29
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    I'm almost 22 now and I don't have kids (yet!) but when I do, WDW will be on my list of fun places to take them. Anywho, I really enjoy seeing all the changes and updates they've made to WDW when seeing videos on youtube, but one thing I wished would have kept was mickey's philharmagic in but i know some ppl on the spectrum can't keep up with it because of sensory issues
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  15. #30
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    Re: WDW and Autism

    My 6 year old son (Autism spectrum; speech delay, some social issues) has been to the world 5 times so far. He absolutely loves all things with transportation (Airplane ride down, Orlando airport train, Magical Express, Disney bus/monorail) then once in the park - all the rides and 3D shows. Last time he wanted to go on the TTA - my sister's family thought it was a waste of time until they got on and forgot how relaxing a ride it is. My advice it to let him/her set the pace and you might rediscover a few rides you forgot about....
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