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Old 03-14-2011, 10:52 PM   #1
Sirenajen
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Question Disney and autism

Hi all. I have heard Disney is great with autistic children. We would love to take our autistic son to the world when he turns 4 next year. Does anyone have any personal experience or advise for me?

Thanks so much,
Jen
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Old 03-14-2011, 11:49 PM   #2
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to the boards! I would check out the Special Needs forum. Lots of great people there with experience and advice.

Vacationing Your Way: Your Special Needs - PassPorter Community - Boards & Forums on Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and General Travel
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Old 03-15-2011, 01:51 AM   #3
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Welcome to the boards!

I'd check out that forum too, I'm sure you'll find what you're looking for there.
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Old 03-15-2011, 08:56 AM   #4
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to the boards! I'm sure there are folks here who can help you out!
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Old 03-15-2011, 12:17 PM   #5
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Old 03-15-2011, 12:32 PM   #6
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I found it helpful to read trip reports from families who have been blessed with an ASD child. My daughter has asperger's. Our first trip (she was 5) was pretty hard. But we learned a lot about her and about what our family needs to have a successful vacation. We returned last summer when she was 6 and had a wonderful trip. I am hooked on WDW. I cannot imagine any other vacation destination that would work as well for us. You have found a good place to help you plan and prep. Be sure to have a plan. My recent TR is linked with my signature. You can find my first one from there. That is mostly the list of what NOT to do at WDW with an ASD child! (If only I had read that TR before our first trip...). Welcome and enjoy your planning!
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Old 03-15-2011, 04:07 PM   #7
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My 5 year old Godson is Autistic and he and his parents went to Disney World last winter.

It was overall a pretty great trip but....
Disney World sent him into several pretty severe melt downs.
Mostly near the end of the time before a break.

My best friend said that if she were to do it again she would make sure that she planned 2 or 3 breaks throughout the day to go back and regroup during the day instead just one mid-day break.

Therefore my advice is have FUN, take it SLOW, and don't try to keep a strict schedule.

She also said it was truly amazing to see him interact, ESPECIALLY with the characters (he is usually very nervous costumes i.e. Chuck E. Cheese, Clowns, etc.) but they let him watch youtube videos every day of kids interacting with different characters so he knew exactly what to expect and how to properly interact.

They are going to try it again in a year or two, now knowing how to better keep a handle on the situation.

I really hope this helps and that you have a truly amazing time!!!
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Old 03-15-2011, 05:36 PM   #8
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Sirenajen, to the boards!!! There are lots of great moms and dads that post about their trips with autistic family members (or friends) on here. I know they will have some awesome advice for you.

Although I do not have an autistic child, I have learned some great tips from our members.

If your son still uses a stroller (which is often recommended for all the walking at WDW), then you can get a "stroller as wheelchair" tag at Guest Services. This way your DS (dear son) can stay in his stroller and use it as a safe spot when he needs to. Others have even talked about butting a sheet or other lightweight material over the stroller so that their children can have a place to "hide" when they need to.

I would definitely suggest a Guest Assistance Card (GAC). Just let the Cast Member (CM) at Guest Relations know what needs your son may have, like a quieter place to wait for the rides as an example, and he/she can determine what accommodations Disney is able to provide. They will then issue your DS a red and white card with the appropriate accommodation stamp(s). Guest Relations can be found at each of the four parks and will be good for the length of your stay.

I know others will come along with even more tips and tricks they have gathered throughout their travels to Disney.
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Old 03-15-2011, 06:23 PM   #9
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I do not have kids but have learned a bit about kids.

Take your child to local places like parks, zoos, fairs, malls, and restaurants. This gets him used to new things and shows you what to expect. Each child is different so what works for one person may not work for you. DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. There is something magical about Disney parks. I have read about kids saying their first word, taking their first steps, and coming out of their shell.

Roll with the punches as you would with any person you take to the parks. Too often I have seen parents dragging kids onto rides or shoving a kid toward a character at a meet and greet. Kids tend not to tell parents that they are in distress especially sensory overload, heat exhaustion, sunburn, dehydration, and hunger. I have seen the cranky children who are overheated and low on sugar. Observation is important especially with the humidity and heat.

Pamela is right about the stroller. Taking toys, treats, and other things to interrupt the child helps the child get through waiting in line. Do not be afraid to use a leash on an older child. I was at Disneyland's Big Thunder and saw a special needs kid on a leash. The kid headed right toward the pit where the track was and would have fallen in if not for the leash. Some kids are born runners. In lines you can take your stroller if you do like Pamela said. You can make a space by having your group split up so that the child is in the middle with a cushion of space.

Most important is to plan for the worse and expect the best vacation ever. My mother is spoiled at Disneyland. They do not talk down to her but treat her like a grandmother and like an adult. The cast members on both coasts tend to be very special with special needs kids.
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Old 03-17-2011, 07:07 PM   #10
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You've gotten some great advice. Our DS has an autism dx and we'll be taking him when he's 4.5 after taking him once at 18 mos. We wouldn't be going if we weren't staying at an Epcot (or a Monorail) resort, a convenient location is huge. Huge!
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Old 03-18-2011, 05:56 AM   #11
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Hi and Welcome!!
My DD (Darling/Dear Daughter) is an adult now, and not autistic but physically disabled. We've encountered some of the same challenges other parents have posted about. I've always enjoyed reading some of the tips by parents whose children happen to have an AS diagnosis.

Other than the wonderful ideas/tips by previous posters, I think the most important tip I've read on here is; do NOT change your DS's schedule. If he goes to bed at 9pm and wakes up at 6 am, then that's what he needs to do at WDW. Sticking to a schedule is good for just not parents of ASD parents, but all parents. Tired kids make cranky parents! Can't tell you how many times I've heard "I didn't pay this much money for you to cry. Shut up and have some fun."

CM's (Walt Disney World Cast Members or employees) are always wonderful about children with special needs. It's one of the few places we could take our DD and she could be "normal".

Know that you won't be able to see and do everything, I suggest getting a guide book (Passporters are great!) and deciding what you really want to experience and what you can let go.
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Old 03-18-2011, 07:25 AM   #12
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Hello, Jen!
Welcome to the boards. I'm running out the door right now, but wanted to say "Hello".

He sure to ask any specific questions you may have. This is the place for the answers!
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Old 03-18-2011, 07:48 AM   #13
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Hi Jen - Welcome to the boards.

I have an Autistic daughter (Abby who's soon to be 11) and we've taken 4 trips to Disney already. The biggest thing I can suggest is getting a copy of Passporter's Open Mouse and start reading through it. I happen to stumble upon the first copy before our first trip (it was Passporter for Your Special Needs then) and it was a huge, huge help for me in terms of planning. Even though I'd been to Disney many times growing up and knew about the rides, queues, etc the book really helped me. It gives tips geared towards Special Needs at the end of each attraction and some of the things I would never have thought of until too late (i.e. like if a ride has flashing lights - Abby doesn't have a problem with this, but I know some kids do).

Another thing I can suggest off the top of my head is if your son has problems with how loud things are, bring a pair of headphones and keep them with you AT ALL TIMES. You never know when he might need them. We do that for Abby and one of the times she wanted them was at a Meet and Greet with Lightning McQueen. Abby's not bothered by cars in everyday life so I was kind of surprised but something about that bothered her and she wanted them on. It made her happy and she happily had her picture taken. Lenny (my hubby) hated it as he didn't want pictures of Abby wearing the headphones but Abby is who she is - I'd rather have a picture of her happy and wearing the headphones than a picture of her miserable or no picture at all.

I have to get going to work now but feel free to ask any and all questions. I know a trip to Disney with an Autistic child might sound daunting but with planning (and I mean lots and lots of planning) it can happen and it can happen relatively smoothly.
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Old 03-18-2011, 07:54 AM   #14
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One last thing before I go - I have trip reports (TR) for 3 of our 4 trips (I didn't take good notes for our first trip and while I did start to type about it, I don't know if it's available anymore). If you have time, you could always read through them and get an idea of how I did my planning and how our trips turned out (the links for both my Pre Trip Reports (PTR) and TR's above my picture)
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Old 03-18-2011, 08:32 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simbarel View Post
You've gotten some great advice. Our DS has an autism dx and we'll be taking him when he's 4.5 after taking him once at 18 mos. We wouldn't be going if we weren't staying at an Epcot (or a Monorail) resort, a convenient location is huge. Huge!
I agree. Our first stay was at Coronado Springs. Next was at BC and the convenient location and the more spacious rooms really made a difference. When DD (ASD) is happy and not over-stimulated, the whole family functions better. We are not likely to be able to afford deluxe for the next trip, but hoping that experience will be able to better prepare us for making the most of a moderate. I would never consider staying offsite.
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