You may think a Disney vacation is out of the question if you have a child with autism, but it’s not. With a little extra planning to help accommodate your special child, it can be a rewarding and memorable experience for the whole family.
One of the first steps and most important is to obtain a letter from your child’s physician. This letter should explain your child’s specific condition and any special needs due to this condition. Your doctor’s letter should be detailed enough that it fully conveys your child’s condition to the Disney Castmember reading the letter.
Once you are ready to hit the parks, bring the physician letter to the Guest Services window at any park and ask for a Guest Assistance Card. The Guest Assistance Card is made for guests who are unable to tolerate extended waits at attractions due to their disability. This allows the guest to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current wait time of that attraction. You may only have one active return time and can be used in addition to Disney FASTPASS service and Disney FastPass+ service. One card is good for all four parks.
Before your Disney visit, you can start to prepare your child at home. Knowing what to expect is important! Try having your child watch videos about Walt Disney World. Practice waiting in line at home or at stores since lines are to be expect at Disney. Talk to your child about what to do if they get separated from you.
When packing for your trip, think about making a name tag or bracelet for your child that includes name, disability, important medical information, your name and number. Also pack ear plugs or headphones. The theme parks can get noisy and the ear plugs or headphones may help reduce the noise level. You may want to bring an electronic device to keep your child occupied while waiting in line. If your child has a sensory toy, such as a stress ball, to help them relax be sure to pack that too. Most important, pack items to reinforce good behavior such as snacks or small toys since a day at Disney can be long!
As you can see, it will take a little extra planning and preparation on your part but will be well worth it when you see the Disney magic in your child’s eyes
Lori Steinnerd, Travel Specialist