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A Frantic Email to Walt Disney World Disability Services

Epcot 2012

As Promised I am sharing my frantic email to WDW Disability Services after reading through their Disability Assistance Services available to those on the autism spectrum. I understand that our situation (as is each and every family everywhere) is unique, but many of our concerns as families on the spectrum are similar. Just as people have to spend a lot of time wondering about questions like “how much does disability insurance cost per month?” and other worries, so too can going on vacation be a trial in of itself. Below you will find my confusion and fear of Disney’s system, and why I am afraid it will not work for us.

Good Afternoon,
I am hoping that you are able to help me with some information and perhaps calms some fears that I have! I have to be honest right now I am TERRIFIED for visit Disney World with my special needs children. We have visited in the past (before the DAS and Fastpass+) with a good experience but now I am very frightened. I am about to book our trip but am considering cancelling as this DAS / fastpass etc. info does not sounds like it is going to address my family’s needs and honestly feels much more convoluted and complicated than we will be able to manage.
Quickly, we are thinking of visiting mid-August with a party of 10 – two separate families traveling together. I am traveling with FOUR disabled children, and myself (temperature regulatory issues etc.) We are traveling with two 13 year olds with autism, a 6-year-old with autism, and a 2 yr old who is non-verbal, must stay confined in his stroller (as a wheelchair), cannot speak (apraxia) uses very limited sign language, elopes, and has sensory issues.
Our issue/question is complex as the DAS system as currently explained sounds like it MAY work for SOME families traveling with a single disabled child. However, for us, how would this work? We, many times need to divide and conquer, and do not know in advance which parent/adult/disability staff aid will be with which child at which time. So how would the magic bracelets be linked together with multiple disabilities and children going in multiple directions?
Also, my youngest cannot wait in line ( sensory, temp reg., no language, and limited receptive speech understanding skills–so there is no reasoning (if…then…etc.) And there is NO WAY we can visit a ride in order to get the return time, and/or have a “runner” as suggested to get ride times. Who would stay with the child while the adult “runs”? Do you understand what I am having trouble figuring out?
Additionally, with limited time in the park… the ability to use FP+ in conjunction with DAS is not feasible for us. I can certainly see how in a different circumstance this would work fantastically if for example we traveled with just ONE of our children. The system would be great–I think, maybe. However, with Fast Passes EXPIRING? In a certain time frame, they become completely useless to us, as we have no way of knowing if we can make it on time (what medical needs may arise in between – the youngest also has absence seizures and life is unpredictable at best).
Another question arose with “rider swap and DAS” as there may be / will be times where the young one’s disabilities will preclude them from the ride (although not the height) and it will not be something that can be anticipated in advance. For example, we may get a DAS return time – in where the whole party actually waits for the time to get on the ride, only to have the DAS child NOT ride because something scared them boarding, or in line, and they try to take off, or there is a meltdown.
From what I understand, if the DAS child cannot ride–no one rides, and that would be a huge issue as the other children have all waited. I just do not know how to navigate this system. Can you provide us with any advise, alternate accommodates, ideas or suggestions?
Somethings that MAY be helpful would be perhaps FP’s that do no expire? Or a way to schedule DAS times WITHOUT having to take the child to the entrance to do so? Additionally, from what I am reading even with the DAS return time, there will be a wait on a line? That is not going to be possible. He would need to stay in a wheelchair (or stroller as wheelchair) and in an alternate location. Am I reading all these new guidelines correctly?
Honestly, I have at least one child who is dying to come to WDW. For the last few years, we have opted out (out of the fears above) and chose to head to Universal instead (easier to navigate by far–my apologies but that is just the truth of it.). This year, he REALLY wants to see the Mouse–I don’t blame him, but I am truly terrified to attempt this and have a nightmare at WDW instead of a magical vacation.
Please advise.
Are any of the ideas/accommodations possible? Non-expiring FP’s / additional ones, etc. DAS times without visiting the ride? Is there a computerized system that can be accessed, or times done in advance in the beginning of the day (that do not expire) through Guest Relations?
Is there anything I am missing? I can provide doctor’s notes (although I know you all do not take them) but I am desperate and need assistance. Thank you so much for your time and attention. I will be anxiously awaiting a response BEFORE I finalize my booking. (Early-mid August)
Jeannie Davide-Rivera
Follow-up: Disney’s response and Our Plans

You may have similar concerns when you holiday with family members who require wheelchair access, but have you considered whether or not you have done everything you can to make home-life as easy as possible? More and more people are choosing wheelchair lifts over wheelchair ramps now to further ease access into their homes for example. Visit Terrylifts.com to see some examples of how a wheelchair lift could help you at home, even if holiday destinations are taking a little longer to meet your needs.

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, on the autism spectrum.

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