• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Autism Friendly Disney World: Are your Autistic Children Dreaming of Disney World?

I love Disney. I would live there if I could. There is something about feeling like I am in a completely different time and place that captivates me. For me, Disney is truly magical, but being autistic myself, and knowing how my children handle lines and crowds brought panic and severe doubt on whether we could survive a trip like this.  

Us at the Magic KingdomThis is us, last May at the Magic Kingdom.

A few things that I did ensured that we had a fantastic time despite our challenges at Disney World. First, plan, plan, plan, and plan some more. I made sure I had a touring plan, downloaded apps that showed me wait-times for the rides we were planning to ride, and knew which parks were going to be the least crowded on which days. It took some time to plan out before we left, but it was all worth it.

First, we never stood on a line to wait for a ride! Our trip was in the beginning of May, so the crowds were light, but what really made the different was Disney’s Guest Assistance Card.

Disney issues Guest Assistance Cards (GAC’s) to guests with disabilities, which includes autism. The card/pass is then presented to the Disney Cast Member at ride entrance and you and your children are afforded an alternate entrance to the ride, a place to wait away from all the crowds. Usually this meant going in through the fastpass entrance (if the ride had fastpass)or through the handicap access entrance. Either way, the wait time was almost non-existent, and the kids enjoyed all Disney had to offer.

I was nervous when I was planning the visit because I didn’t know what to expect when I got there (in regards to getting the GAC), but the process was so simple and pleasant. As soon as we entered the Magic Kingdom we went straight to the Guest Relations Office.

I went to the desk and told them that I had a disabled child, and he smiled and said, “How can I help you? Just tell me what you need.” They offered the alternate entrance option (which is the one we took) and had a stroller as a wheelchair options.

Anytime you ride a Disney bus, or wait on a line for a ride you must remove your child from the stroller and park your stroller in the designated area. If you have a runner, like I now do with my two-year-old, using this option would be of great benefit. You will be allowed to keep your child in the stroller on the buses and in lines, just as if it were a wheelchair. Very helpful.

Overall, thanks to the wonderful accommodations Disney provided, and my planning (patting myself on my the back here) we had a great time. I had intended to write about our experience last year when we got back home, but life interfered and I never got around to it. Since I am vacation planning again, I’ve decided to offer a few tid bits from what I learned last year.

If anyone is heading over to Disney, or thinking about it and you have any questions, please feel free to ask. I wish we were going back again this year!

Coming up…Autism Accommodations at Universal Studios, and why they were even better than Disney’s!

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Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.

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