Walt Disney World is one of my favorite family vacation destinations (for more on why click here). Oftentimes, parents of autistic children are concerned about taking the plunge and going to Disney, fearing that their child might not be able to enjoy all of the magic that Disney has to offer. Fear not, Disney’s got you covered. If you have a child with autism or a developmental disability, consider these tips when planning your Disney vacation and prepare to be pleasantly surprised:
1. Before your trip, obtain a documentation letter from your pediatrician or psychologist that includes your child’s diagnosis and their need for special accommodations while traveling.
2. Once you arrive at a Disney park, bring your letter to Guest Relations. The location of Guest Relations is easily found on the park map, and they are usually located very close to the park entrance. With your letter, you should be provided with a Guest Assistance Card and Guidebook to use during your trip. With the Guest Assistance Card, you and your child can bypass some of the longer lines and waits that can be difficult for a child with autism to endure.
3. Some of the attractions at Disney World are loud and might upset a child with autism. Be sure to pack earplugs or earphones to help soften the noise. Similarly, fireworks are a frequent occurrence. If your child is afraid of fireworks or the noise associated with them, consider going to an indoor attraction during the fireworks display. This is often a great time to enjoy attractions without the crowds because most park guests are busy outside looking at the fireworks!
4. Even with a Guest Assistance Card, at Disney World sometimes a wait is inevitable. Bring your child’s favorite electronic handheld game to distract them during waits. Also, try to avoid peak travel seasons if at all possible so that the crowds are less overwhelming.
5. Check out guidebooks and websites about Disney World in advance of your trip. Some of the attractions might be too scary for a child with autism, so you might want to skip those. Also, if you know your child is scared of a specific character or movie, you can plan to avoid attractions that might include their feared character.
For more tips on traveling to Disney World with a child with special needs, visit the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, where you can ask specific questions about your upcoming trip, All Ears, or Disboards. Any of these resources, along with the official Walt Disney World website can provide you with all of the information you will need to make your trip a success.