Disney World has become our getaway from regular life. We get to pause therapy, formal learning, doctor’s appointment’s, and day to day life and experience the magic of Disney. Our daughter has racked up 28 trips in her almost 10 years of life, so we’ve had a few chances to learn how to help her enjoy Disney World. We would love to share these 4 Tips For Navigating Disney World With A Special Needs Child in hopes that it will help your family.
Disney With Special Needs
A little less than 10 years ago we were blessed with an amazing little girl. She was the caboose to our family of 5. She was born with significant hearing loss, and since then we’ve found out a few other special needs as well. While going to Disney World certainly wasn’t the first thing on our mind after diagnosis, we did travel there with her as a 4 month old! Crazy I know. Her oldest brother was turning 4, and life doesn’t slow down for anything. That trip wasn’t the easiest, but they have gotten significantly easier and we’ve learned a lot. We would love to share that with you!
Here are a few ways Disney World makes our trips fantastic:
- Depending on your need, Disney World’s Disability Access Service (DAS) may be available to you. As you enter any park, you can go to Guest Relations and discuss the pass with them. They will let you know if it is a good fit for you. If so, they’ll take the Guest needing assistance’s picture and then scan everyone in the party’s magic band (up to 6). To use this service you will approach a cast member at the entrance of the ride, ask them for a return time, they’ll scan your magic band, and tell you to come back at a specified time. For example, if Big Thunder Mountain has a 50 minute wait, the cast member will give you a return time to come back 40 minutes from the current time. This is excellent for kids (or adults) that have trouble waiting in lines. Something we have found to be of help is to get someone else other than our daughter to get the return time. It can be a struggle for her to understand why her magic band is getting scanned but she can’t get on the ride. When we send someone else, it typically is a crisis averted.
- Hearing Impaired/Handicapped seating – any show on Disney World property has Hearing Impaired/Handicapped seating. If you will approach the cast member as you enter the show and let them know you need this specific seating, they will direct you to seats very close to the front. This is excellent for our daughter because, even though she has cochlear implants, she relies on visual so much. Being close allows her to see what’s going on better, even if she can’t follow what they’re saying. Our family doesn’t use sign language, but Disney World does provide sign language at all shows in the park on specific dates. Check with parks before your trip to see when translation is provided.
- Disney World can be sensory overload for any kid, but especially some kids with special needs. When you feel a melt down coming, take a minute to get out of the heat and sit in a quick service restaurant. Get a snack. Let them watch a show on your phone to decompress for a minute (we don’t do ipads, but sometimes this is a needed sensory break for her). Baby Center’s are also available at every park with a TV and chairs to sit and relax for a few minutes. We prefer to find a quiet quick service spot though. Some of our favorites are Columbia Harbour House or Pecos Bills at Magic Kingdom (they’re both pretty dark and have rooms out of the way to sit), PizzeRizzo at Hollywood Studios (it’s huge, so there’s always going to be plenty of room), Sunshine Seasons or Electric Umbrella at Epcot, and Satu’li Canteen at Animal Kingdom.
- If your child struggles to easily get out of the stroller, Disney World can provide a wheelchair tag to attach to your stroller. Your stroller is then allowed to go anywhere a wheelchair can go. We’ve only needed to use this service once, and it was so helpful.
These four tips obviously does not cover everything Disney World offers for special needs children. Disney World goes above and beyond in all they do. If they can make your trip easier for you, they will. And just maybe, you will find some pixie dust along the way.
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