While travel is my passion, many don’t know that I also have a passion for teaching. I teach in a self contained classroom for children with special needs. They are 3, 4, and 5 years old and have varying needs including cognitive and developmental delays such as autism.
So, when the parent of a former student asked me to help her plan a trip to Disney, I immediately wanted to learn more about how children with special needs can be accommodated.
Cognitive and developmental disabilities, like Autism, often are not visible to someone by just looking, so I wanted to know exactly what services can be provided. Many children have sensory issues, a hard time waiting, or other behaviors that may prompt a parent to feel nervous to bring their child to Disney World. I hope that this article will help parents feel more at ease and understand that Disney will go over and above your expectations to bring the Disney Experience to ALL children.
Here are just some of the services that Disney will provide to all guests who ask:
Children with disabilities that must remain in strollers while in a line cue can visit guest services and get a special pass which enables the guest to stay in the stroller. It is important to note that this is when it’s necesary to use that stroller as a wheelchair.
Disney has a variety of strollers, wheelchairs and motorized scooters for rent as well.
If you are traveling with 2 or more people, you may be able to take advantage of the Rider Switch program. For example, if a ride like Dinosaur is too intense for a child with autism, the rider Switch program will allow the other members in your party to ride and not have to wait in a line more than once. A description of that program from the Disney website is below :
Parties with more than 2 Guests may be able to take advantage of the attraction Rider Switch program, which enables you to experience an attraction while another member of your party waits with the Guest who does not ride. You then “swap” to enable the other party member to enjoy the attraction without having to wait in line again.
Disability Access Service:
In addition to standard FASTPASS service, guests may obtain a Disability Access Pass from Guest services upon entering any theme park. This service is especially good for those guests who cannot wait in a long line. You will receive a time to return to the attraction so that your wait time will be minimal.
Just like Disney has infant care centers throughout the park, there are plenty of locations that a child or adult with a cognitive disability can take a break as well. Many times Disney parks are very stimulating and for a child with autism, this can be very overwhelming. The parks can be loud, crowded, hot. A break may be just what your child needs. Ask a cast member for the nearest location. They are eager to help.
These are just some of the services that Disney will offer. When you go to guest services, you tell them what you need to make it easier for your child and they will do everything they can to accommodate you. And it’s also important to note that no documentation must be provided for these accommodations. So don’t worry about traveling with extra doctor notes.
A full article on the Disney website can be found here. It’s a great resource as it also gives some great planning tips to help make the experience magical for you and your child.
Disney is a magical place that is for every child.
I would love to help you explore the special accommodations that can be made for your special needs child. Together, we plan a trip that you and your family can truly enjoy. Please feel free to contact me at Jgarcia@onceuponavacation.com