Monday, March 15, 2010

5 Tips for Taking A Child on the Autism Spectrum to Walt Disney World

5 Tips for Taking A Child on the Autism Spectrum to Walt Disney World

                                      Noah the Scientist at the end of the Imagination ride in Epcot

Traveling on vacation with children with special needs can be a very overwhelming idea and task. But with a lot of preparation and research, even with the challenges of Autism a family can have more fun than they could have imagined. This was the case for us this past December, I have composed here my top five tips ( full article including 5 more additional tips coming to a newstand near you)

1-Obtain a mobility pass, this is basically a fast pass, where the person with the disability as well as their party ( up to eight people) do not have to wait in the main line or wait to get the fast pass. Pass holders proceed in the fast pass return and show the Disney employee / cast member the mobility pass which works as a fast pass. This pass is obtained at guest services of the first park visited. Cast members from Disney do not need “proof of disability”, but the child needs to be present. However, bringing a doctor’s note, IEP coversheet with disability or other identification may be needed if the cast member is in training and a manager is not around.

2- Make restaurant reservations months in advance with a Disney agent, or on the Disney vacation site. This is an especially important aspect when dealing with food allergies and specific diets. Disney Chefs are very accommodating and can make almost anything with the proper notice. Reservations can be made six months in advance and should be made as far in advance as possible. The week of the guests trip a phone call should be made to confirm everything. When dining the chef will come out to the table to go over the menu and take requests. This also cuts down on wait time. All locations that serve food have informational packets with the ingredients used in the food sold. Menus are available on line at

3-Travel at times when the parks have lower attendance. The parks are very over stimulating for everyone. Traveling when the parks are less crowded cuts down on wait times everywhere, crowd noise and unexpected bumping into other people. Disney is typically lighter in attendance the week before Labor day through October 1st, late November through December before winter break, and again the second week of January through the first week of February

4- Be flexible -Traveling with a child on the spectrum is challenging, and flexibility for all involved is key to success. Plan on taking a lot of breaks, and to not be in the park all day. Fortunately the parks are loaded with Play areas and all of the resorts in the area have pools.

5- Be open to positive changes, Disney’s tag line is “a place where dreams come true” and the perspective of many parents that have taken their children there with autism is just that. Parents have reported a variety of improvements in their children after a trip to Disney World such as the child being more engaging , being able to handle waiting a bit longer in lines to even drinking out of cup when previously not being able to. A lot of patience, love and a little pixie dust can go a long way.

Noah and his cousin holding hands, something he never did before this trip. It is a magic kingdom!
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