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Traveling with a Down’s syndrome child

by Diane
(Roanoke, VA)

We will be traveling with a child with Down’s Syndrome. Are there any special accommodations for her? She is quite mobile but has a very short attention span.

The Enchanted Tiki Room

Good place to take a nap? – Photo by Tom Bricker

Dad’s It’s a Two Way Street Answer

Diane, Disney wants all families visiting Walt Disney World feel comfortable and safe, and they even have some special accommodations for guests with specific needs to help ensure everyone have a magical time. However, Disney can only go so far without being unfair to other guest for whom the special rules don’t apply, so do your homework before leaving home. Remember that the road to having a Perfect Vacation is a two-way street.

The biggest benefit that you’ll want to look into is the ability to get a Guest Assistance Card. Prior to your trip, give Guest Services a call and discuss your family’s needs, and once you get to the park on your first day, head straight to Guest Relations and explain your situation. You’ll be given a card which will allow you to use alternate entrances at specific attractions which may mean an easier wait for your family (note: this is NOT a front of the line pass).

Each Guest Assistance Card is issued for specific needs, which are noted on the card so that cast members you encounter can assist you in the most appropriate way. Before leaving home, you may wish to see your child’s doctor and get a note outlining her condition to help the folks at Disney better help you.

In terms of what you can do to take the wheel and drive your family towards the Perfect Vacation, make sure that you’re educated on the perks that Disney offers to their guests that might have a positive impact for your family. Perks like FASTPASS and Rider Swap will help reduce wait times and ease attention span issues, as will using Extra Magic Hours (if you are staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel).

Since your daughter has a short attention span, make sure you accommodate her at Walt Disney World as you might at home. If you don’t think she can sit through a 20-40 minute show, don’t try to force her – your party can split up while some people take on a longer attraction and some occupy her with another activity. (Or you could do like we did with the Man-Child and let him nap in these attractions. He’s never seen the Tiki Room.)

Make sure you have something to entertain her in line – small toys, a book, or a tablet with her favorite videos may work well.

Destinations to Travel

Dad’s Bottom Line

Diane, I probably don’t need to tell you this, but, make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be to help your daughter feel comfortable and provide her with activities to keep her occupied in line, and I know that you’ll have a magical time at the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Comments for

Apr 05, 2013 Additional Advice and Pointers
by: Catherine

Hi Dad,
Just want to point out that the Cast Members usually will NOT look at physician letters as there are problems based upon the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). I get a Guest Assistance Card for my husband (Mobility Issues) and, when my daughter travels with us, we have a card for her (emotional disability…invisible disablities are often more challenging!) In order to prepare, think about what would help your child. Will she be overstimulated or frightened in a loud crowded wait area? An alternate entrance may help her, it helped my daughter. Will she be bothered or feel out of control if many people are around her on a ride? Front seat accomodations helped my daughte. Does your child take medication that makes her more sun-sensitive? Ask for a shaded wait area. Disney is GREAT at addressing the needs of Guests with disabilities! Just think about what you will need and ASK!

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