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
(Yes, I know, they haven't put the light bridge up for a couple of years.)
Dad’s Do Your Homework Answer
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.
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.
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!