Disney World Disability Access Service
To get access to Disney’s Disability Access Service, you must first go to the Guest relations building of any of the parks you are visiting.
When you get to guest relations, ask directly for the disability access service card. If you simply explain that your children have autism, they will not help you out by offering you the pass. Since you have probably already stood in line waiting at guest relations anyway, you are better off explaining that your children have autism and ask for the pass right away.
Once you get the pass, ask for a map to the Disability Access Service Kiosks. You will find this very useful as the kiosks are difficult to find. There is not one for every ride and they are in a different location in reference to each ride they are available for.
Go to the kiosk of the first ride you want to go to. They will mark down an amount of time you have to wait to get on the ride. You will get to go to the front of the line anytime after the time they mark on your card. It will probably be an hour before you can get on the first ride. We recommend you take this time to go to every kiosk and get your ride times listed on the pass. In this way, you can go on the first ride after the first hour and then continue on the other rides consecutively throughout the day.
The system is not perfect but hopefully it will help you and your excited and energetic autistic children make the most of the day.
Where To Stay With Autistic Children On A Disney World Trip
You know better than anyone that having a special needs child can be exhausting. Adding to the fact that most hotels at Disney World have tons of crazy and sometimes not well behaved children and you might rethink your lodging plans. We find that many of our visitors with autistic children prefer our private pool homes.
Many of them are just as fun as the hotels and have game rooms along with pools that kids love. In this way, you will have the quiet and comfort of home while still enjoying your vacation to the max!
These vacation homes and town home options are within 15 minutes drive of Disney World and all offer creature comforts you can’t find in a hotel room. You can cook, do laundry, have your own private space and enjoy your family vacation.
Your Autistic Child’s Best Disney World Vacation Plan
Walt Disney World is known worldwide as a top notch family destination. For most guests, planning is easy and exciting. The biggest questions people often ask are what to wear and where to dine. However, for guests living with special needs, the excitement can be tempered with concerns. Crowds, noise, and change of routine can cause problems for children with autism, and trigger a meltdown caused by over-stimulation.
Fortunately, Walt Disney World is well-equipped to handle a variety of guest disabilities. The company’s guest service is legendary, and the Cast Members (staff) are well-trained and eager to assist in any way possible to make their day a very magical one!
Getting Ready For Your Trip
Prepare your child before the trip. A Disney vacation includes an overabundance of sensory stimulation, from strange noises, lights, and colors, to large crowds. Make some trips to local places, such as malls, and monitor your child’s needs. Also, watch Disney movies and talk to the child about meeting the characters. Big stuffed characters can be intimidating, but if the child recognizes those characters, the transition may be easier. It is also helpful to make a well-organized touring plan or social story (be sure to follow it once you get there!) and turn it into a graphic display that the child can follow.
Prepare yourself prior to the trip. Speak with your child’s physician and other specialists, and ask them for recommendations on making the trip easier on everyone. Make sure that you are well-rested and up to the challenge. Bring toys, games, and snacks to distract your child, and have plans in place for making a quick exit from the parks should the child become over-stimulated. Also get a note from the doctor that describes the disability. Though it is not strictly necessary, it will minimize your time at Guest Relations.
Once At Disney World
When you arrive at the parks, rent a stroller or wheelchair if needed, and then proceed directly to Guest Relations. Take both the doctor’s note and the child with you. Due to problems that Disney has experienced with disability fraud, is necessary for Guest Relations to see the disabled child, just to be certain that he or she actually exists. The Cast Member at Guest Relations will issue a pass that is appropriate to the disability and level of accommodation that you need. If you need any sort of additional accommodation, such as a waiting area out of the sun, be sure to ask for those accommodations as well.
With your pass in hand, you are ready to experience the parks. No matter what type of pass you are issued, it will NOT grant the ability to be immediately seated on the ride or attraction. Thus it is necessary to entertain the child during the wait. Books, games, and snacks may all be appropriate.
Be sure to get information on the rides and shows in advance. You know your child, and you know which things will entertain him and which ones may startle or terrify him. Purchasing a guidebook in advance and reading up on all of the attractions is ideal. However, if you are not able to do so, you can get a reasonable description of the rides and shows from the guide map. Ask questions of the ride attendants. Most have at least a passing familiarity with autism and related disorders, and they will be able to answer questions accurately. Do not be afraid to ask specific or pointed questions either, such as “Is this a dark ride?” or “Are there unusually loud noises involved?”
Should you have any doubts as to the suitability of a particular attraction for your child, experience it yourself first. Cast Members are very understanding of this, and will often issue a Child Swap pass which will allow one person to preview the attraction, then the whole party to experience it together, without needing to wait in line again.
A highly structured plan is required for a successful Walt Disney World vacation for a family with an autistic member. Also required is the flexibility to change the plan at a moment’s notice. If you find yourself without a plan, invent one on the fly, but do not leave the child standing around for a protracted time while the adults try to figure out what they are doing.
Expect small miracles. Many parents have reported that their children have made some type of developmental breakthrough while on their Disney vacation. Do not be disappointed if a breakthrough does not come, but enjoy it if it does.
Do not try to pack too much into one day. The sensory stimulation that permeates Walt Disney World can and often does lead to overload. At least for the first few days, until you see how the child will react, take a long afternoon break at the hotel or for shopping and dining in a less crowded environment. If your child is successful during the morning and evening, then you can gradually add additional hours in the parks.
Every day, hit your child’s favorite ride in the park first. This allows him to experience the ride multiple times with little to no wait, and also sets the tone and mood for a happy and successful day.
Finding The Ideal Place To Stay
Walt Disney World is full of accommodations, some of which may not be immediately apparent. Should the child suddenly go into a meltdown, ask any available Cast Member for the nearest quiet location. Family waiting rooms are available at some attractions, and there are first aid stations and nursing stations available in the parks, both of which offer some amount of solitude. A slow ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in the Magic Kingdom or a meal at a quiet sidewalk café in Epcot can also help to soothe the over-stimulation.
Walt Disney World is an excellent vacation destination for guests with disabilities, as well as those who are healthy. Cast Members truly go out of their way to create a magical experience for all guests. You may even find your child the recipient of special recognition from Cast Members and characters. Simply go with a plan and a lot of patience, let your child set the pace, and prepare yourself for the unexpected, and you will discover why many families with special needs return year after year to the Walt Disney World Resort.