Special pass for autism

Special pass for autism

by Margaret
(Springfield, MO)

We will be at Disney World in December, and I was wondering if the parks still have a special "front of the line pass" for autistic or disabled children. I know they did the last time I was there in 1995 because my aunt had one for my autistic cousin.

There is lots of extra stimulation during
Christmas at Disney World

The Christmas Bridge at Epcot

Photo by Jeff_B.


(Yes, I know, they haven't put the light bridge up for a couple of years.)

Dad’s Do Your Homework Answer

Margaret,

Disney does a whole lot to make all families feel welcome in the parks, and they try their best to ensure everyone’s comfort and safety. Cast members will really go above and beyond to help families traveling with disabled or autistic children (or grownups for that matter) but there is only so much they can do while still being fair to other guests. My best advice is to make sure you do your homework before you go: know what to expect, know what to ask for, and prepare yourself for what’s in store.

So, what can you expect? Well, you’ll be visiting at Christmas, which is Dad’s favorite time of the year at Walt Disney World, and it’s a beautiful time to go. But, there is a lot of extra stimulation with the Christmas decorations and activities in addition to the regular, often overwhelming, Disney experience. And crowds get heavier through the month, reaching a peak between Christmas Eve and New Years Day.

Dad’s December Crowds Page


But that’s okay, you can manage the crowds, and here’s how. First, you should read Dad’s great tips on how to beat the crowds in the parks on any day. Second, you should look at Dad’s information on Christmas at Walt Disney World so you can start to pinpoint what might be particularly troubling for your child. Third, you should be prepared with a list of techniques to try and quiet spaces you can find in each park to take a break in. Just like the Boy Scouts, you should be prepared!

Disney really does try to accommodate guests with hearing, visual, or mobile disabilities, guest needing service animals, guest with light sensitivities, and more. Seriously, you can read all about it here. For some reason, they don’t go into lengths on their website about how they can help families traveling with autism, aspergers, or other similar issues. But guest services will certainly be able to help, especially if you know what to ask for!

Before your trip, I recommend calling up Guest Services to discuss your family’s specific needs. Some folks report receiving a lot of help on the phone, some say they still felt unsure, but every account I’ve read, including ones on the Disney Mom’s Panel say that when you arrive, if you go to Guest Relations and explain your situation you’ll be issued a Guest Assistance Card. No, this isn’t the magical front of the line pass it once was, but it will go a long was to helping your family have the Perfect Vacation.

The Guest Assistance Card works differently for each guest depending on the assistance needed, but in your case it should allow your party to use alternate entrances to many attractions, reducing your wait time and providing a much less busy environment in which to wait. You may want to consider a visit to your doctor before the trip, requesting a note to be written outlining any specific issues your child faces – this should help the Cast Member at Guest Relations to ensure you receive the assistance you need.

Now I know we keep coming back to this, but like Scar says, you really do need to be prepared. If you do your homework prior to your trip, it will go a long way to helping your vacation run as smoothly as possible. Map out your days, building in time for a mid day break at the hotel for swimming or napping. Read up on perks like Extra Magic Hours,, FAST PASS and Rider Swap and use them to your advantage!

Each day of your trip, crowds will fluctuate from park to park. You can visit Touringplans.com for a detailed projection of where the crowds will be on each day so you can avoid the worst lines – which is especially important in the Magic Kingdom since it’s less spacious than the other parks.

Dad’s Touringplans.com Page



Dad's Bottom Line

Margaret, families visit Walt Disney World every day, each with a unique set of needs, and Disney does their best to accommodate everyone. If you do your homework and prepare yourself and your family you’ll be just fine. There’s a great article on allears.net about visiting Disney World with an autistic child, you may find it helpful – check it out! I wish you a safe and magical trip!

Comments for Special pass for autism

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Sep 17, 2012
Special needs children
by: Danielle

Our first trip, my high intensity child was sick & spent half of our Magic Kingdom day in the hotel room. He felt better the next day & we had a lovely vacation doing other activities (than the parks themselves).

On our second trip, everyone was healthy & we tried to make the most of our one day in Magic Kingdom. We spent the entire day in Magic Kingdom...and this was a bit too much (for all of us.)

When we first got to the park,I went to guest relations & explained I had a high intensity child that has sensitivities to crowds, sounds, etc. & I asked if Disney World had any accommodations to make our visit to Magic Kingdom more magical.

Basically, I was told "no, there is nothing we can do to help you."

I was pretty surprised with the curtness and I asked again,"do I need a doctor's note?" and they replied again that they could not offer any special accommodation for my child, especially on a weekend (it was Friday) because it was more busy than normal (even though we visited in a slow time in Feb.).

We had a fun time...but I do think Disney guest services could have at least been more polite...
These are a few tips I would have for traveling to Disney with a child with asberger's or similar concerns:

1. Try to get help from guest services (it seems others on this message board were successful)
2. Limit your time in the amusement park (definitely stay on property & go back to the hotel in the middle of the day)
3. Select a single park to visit. Keep you vacation calm and very simple.
4.Plan your trip at a time when there are no huge crowds (there are some especially good dates in Sept. and Jan.)
5.If your child likes music, an mp3 player with headphones can be useful.
6. Enjoy your time together as a family, don't rush your family to get to every ride,etc. The hustle and bustle of the parks is really quite enough stress for everyone.
7. Find quiet places to rest (this is a good suggestion I've read from others).
8. Do some of the other fun things to do at Disney...Boat rides (the free transportation kind)are super & relaxing (day & night...great for watching fireworks without the sound)...also most hotels rent little boats...there are lots of fun places to have picnics & of course swimming at your resort is always super.
9.We are not a big fan of parades (b/c of the noise & crowds)...I recommend this time as a good time to hot some of the rides that normally have long lines.
10. ** Go on youtube and watch videos of rides (you watch first, then you can share your own pre-selected clips with your child)...so you can plan together which rides/experiences might be the best suited for your child.
11. Downtown Disney can be a fun place to visit. The T-Rex restaurant is pretty exciting for kids..but you can take a quick peek inside to see if it is right for your child (we did so, and then specifically requested a certain area that was quieter).

hope this is helpful~~

Aug 13, 2012
Special Pass
by: cmorris50

Hi Dad,
I have always been appreciative of the service that WDW provides to guests with disabilities as I work in the field of Special Education and have spent many happy vacations at the World with my child (now an adult) who had special needs. I just wanted to let you know that the Cast Members at WDW will NOT ask for a letter from your physician documenting the need for accommodations. I tried to give a letter to the Cast Member at Guest Relations in MK the first time I realized that this service might help my child enjoy WDW with fewer challenges. The Cast Member politely told me that he could not view the letter and asked that I simply explain the needs my child had. We received a GAP and my child was much better able to enjoy all that WDW has to offer. I agree with another respondent that the challenge is often the "comments" of other Guests who do not seem to realize that all disabilities are not visible.

Jun 21, 2012
Guest Assistance
by: Drew's Mom

Our little boy is recovering from cancer and everytime we have gone, we had no problems with the Guest assistance pass. The only issue we have had was with people waiting in line seeing us walk by, believe it or not. We were very pleased to find out that they offered this and thank Disney for helping out families that can't stand in line for hours.

May 09, 2012
Disney with Autistim
by: Kirstin

We traveled to Disney in 2009 with my then five year old son who has high functioning Autism. As Dad mentioned a bit of preparation goes a long way in making your holiday really special. Yes Disney do still offer a guest assistance card but it doesn't always get you to the front of the line straight away. Sometimes they will give you an alloted time to come back (like a fast pass) so that you are doing the waiting elsewhere.

Other times they will show you to a quite place where you can wait your turn. This all depends on the time of year you are traveling and how busy the parks are. Take some ear defenders for noise sensitive types. Also if they have a familiar object and plan in plenty of down time to combat the over stimulation. The Dibb on the internet has a great special needs section for people who have questions about traveling to Disney. My Son said his first words at the magic kingdom, it will always be special for us, you will have an amazing time.

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