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When is the Best time to Go to WDW with an Autistic Child?

by Tiffany J. L. Alfonso
(Tampa Bay, FL)

Recently, I have heard a story of a mother who took her family on a trip to Walt Disney World. The setting was New Year’s Eve 2010 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (There – I said it – NYE is one of the most crowded dates of each one of WDW’s operating years!)

She was having supper at the ABC Commissary when a group of rowdy (and allegedly drunk) teenagers blew noisemakers at her autistic child, causing him to stim. To stim means to do something to control the stress cause by the overstimulation, and he stimmed by hitting himself on his head. Although the family and even the Cast Manager told the teens to stop because they are already adding to the (already high) sensory overload, the teens shrugged it off and said the stimming was not their problem.

Disney apologized the incident, but it really raises an important question: when is the best time to go if a parent has an autistic child? We know the resort in and out all too well, in terms of sensory overstimulation (sounds, smells, sights). Peak times like NYE multiply it by, like, 10.

Again, when is the best time for a family whose child is on the spectrum to travel there?

Dad’s early in the year Answer


Going to Disney World is sometimes overstimulating even for a normal person, (OK, maybe I’m not so normal) it must be very difficult for someone that is sensitive to stimulation.

I’ve thought about this for a few days, and my best guess is early in the year would probably the best time. Mid-January to Mid-February are relatively quiet times at Walt Disney World. I’d avoid any of the Christmas season, because there is lots of blinking lights and pretty decorations that might contribute to problem.

Dad’s January Disney World crowds page
Dad’s February Disney World crowds page

Your story about ABC Commissary is interesting because most of the time the Commissary is relatively empty and quiet. In Dad’s opinion it’s a good place to relax away from the hustle and bustle.

Parents need to be in charge

This does give me a platform to talk about one of my pet peeves. Parents should control their children no matter what age they are. There are some teenagers that need chaperons at Disney World.

Some of the biggest complaints I see, every year, is unsupervised teenagers. From tour groups that come from Central American countries to packs of ballplayers and cheerleaders. Teens that aren’t properly supervised cause lots of mischief at Disney World and it’s just not right.

Parents, you are the PARENTS and should take care of your children and not let them disrupt other families precious vacations. If you don’t, shame on you.

Better stop there.

Dad’s Bottom Line

Disney World is all about stimulation, on purpose. That is the goal. It may not really matter much when someone that suffers from autism goes to Disney World.

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