Going on a vacation when your loved one has Autism or any other disability can seem completely overwhelming. My son was diagnosed at 3 with Autism but was labeled developmentally delayed since 1.5 yrs old. He is now 4 and we go to Orlando usually 2 times per year. With each visit we wonder what will go wrong but we are always surprised because like all Autistic children ours changes what upsets him moment to moment.
We just got back from our most recent visit yesterday from Disneyworld. We drive about 7 hours to get there so we had movies and games and snacks and planned for lots of stops to include one stop at a restaurant with play area. Disney and the other theme parks in Orlando are great with disabilities and dietary concerns o please don’t let these things deter you from visiting.
When we get to a park at Disneyworld our first day we head straight for guest services to get a Disability Access Services Pass. Make sure your whole party is there so they can link your fastpasses. What this pass does is allows you to do is ride without that long wait in a loud cue. How it works is you go to a ride entrance and ask for a DAS return, they scan a band (you do not all have to be present at the ride to set it up). The ride attendant will give you a return start time and you can come back any time after that and enter the fastpass line. Always scan the person with the disabilities magic band or park ticket first at ride then everyone in your party can enter.
This last time around our son was in a ripe ole mood and wouldn’t get out of his stroller or ride anything. On the second day we returned to guest services and asked for a stroller tag that turns our stroller into a wheelchair and gives it access anywhere a wheelchair can go. This was such a blessing!! The last 2 days went so much better since our son could stay in his stroller focusing on his ipad until right before the ride entrance when we took him out real quick and got right on the ride before he could get scared. Our son has ridden these rides over and over but every time is a struggle through the que and he is over 45 lbs so it is hard. Being able to use the stroller as a wheelchair made our life soooo much easier.
If your loved one is averse to loudness and will wear headphones definitely bring those. Our son has not taken to the headphones so for shows we sat far away which helped some. With that some days he would do shows and some days he wouldn’t. We kept trying because you never know when he would like something or not. One big example was characters. He wanted nothing to do with it but when Mickey, Donald and Pluto came out without a line to meet guests I couldn’t pass it up. Our son would not get out of his stroller until he saw me go visit with Pluto and he jumped out and visited too. The next was Donald and by the time we got there he had again retreated to his stroller but jumped out when he saw me talking to Donald, when we got to Mickey I had to hold him back because Mickey was with another guest! Now fast forward to any character after this and he still wanted nothing to do with them… ha ha Just keep trying because you just never know.
If you need a quiet spot for your loved one head to the baby care center for some AC and less crowds. If you have food allergies all of the restaurants has food allergy menus they can give you if you ask and if you still need help don’t be afraid to ask! A lot of times they will send out a chef at the restaurants who will help you figure out something you can eat even if it’s not on the menu!
We have also visited Seaworld and Legoland in the past year and they also have amazing disability access. I would even say better then Disneyworld probably due to fewer visitors. For Legoland go to guest services and they will give you a heropass and a list of rides and what to expect as far as intensity, lights, sounds etc. At Legoland when you want to ride you go in a separate entrance, usually the exit and are placed on the ride so quick with no waiting at all. Legoland also has a small quiet space in the baby care area that has a swinging pod if you need a moment to refocus. Seaworld also offers a pass where you bypass the regular lines and a listing of rides you can use it on and with an explanation that you get at guest relations and quiet areas if you need to get away from the crowds. We have only been to Seaworld and Legoland once, and we have not taken our son to Universal since we don’t think he is ready for it, so I know there is more to learn but just know they are trained to help and just let them know what you need. Don’t let a disability or dietary need stop you from going to the parks.