Updated: Jul 13
As a parent of an autistic child, you may be struggling over whether you can successfully take your family to Disney World. After all, these theme parks can be crowded, overstimulating, and loud. However, as an autism-certified travel advisor, and a mom of two autistic boys, I know visiting theme parks like Disney is more than just possible. It’s an incredible experience your entire autistic family will love! You simply need to make sure you utilize the resources that are available to you. Today, I am going to share some of what Disney does to make its theme parks accessible to families with autism. You may have a few questions by the end and that is normal. I am always here to chat and make sure your next Disney vacation is the best it can be.
Autism-Friendly Vacation at Disney World
Before I dive into how Disney World is autism-friendly, I thought I would share the different areas of Disney your autistic family might want to visit.
A Disney vacation can include stops at:
Typhoon Lagoon - Waterpark
Blizzard Beach - Waterpark
Disney Springs - Shopping District
You can purchase park hopper passes to experience Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and Animal Kingdom. The two Disney waterparks are not included in the park hopper pass. You would need to purchase passes separately to enter those two Disney parks.
No ticket is needed to experience Disney Springs. However, to avoid massive crowds, I recommend arriving early in the day. Doing this will allow you to find a closer parking spot and be able to see everything without tons of people around.
I will discuss Disney Springs in a few minutes. First, let’s talk about how the Disney Parks are autism-friendly.
Autism-Friendly Aspects of Disney World Parks
Disney World offers numerous services to assist those with disabilities. Each service was designed to ensure autistic families could maximize their experiences.
A few of the services Disney World provides those on the Autism Spectrum include:
Advance Ticket Purchases
It is common to wait in line to purchase tickets at the park entrance. Purchasing your tickets in advance can save a lot of time. I will purchase your tickets for you, as I am planning your Disney vacation. So, this is one thing you will never need to worry about when you arrive at Disney.
The Rider Switch option is one of the best autism-friendly services at Disney World. If you know your autistic child will not go on specific rides, but the rest of your family will, you must take advantage of this service.
You can wait with your autistic child, while your family goes on the ride. When they are done, you will then be let on the line for your turn.
Accessing Attractions is another wonderful autism-friendly service. We all know how most autistic children do not tolerate long wait times in line. Yes, you can try practicing this before your trip, but it’s never the same experience.
So, at Disney World Parks, you can obtain a time to return to the ride that has a long line. This is part of their Disability Access Service. The return time will usually be the current standby wait time. Once you receive your return time, you can go on other rides or walk around until it is your turn.
Overstimulation is common for many people visiting Disney World. Autistic children are really susceptible though, which is why Disney created Break Areas. A cast member can always point you in the direction of the closest Break Area.
Stroller and Wheelchair Rentals
Strollers and wheelchairs are available to rent at Disney if you didn’t bring one with you. We can discuss whether you think you will need a rental, as I plan your vacation.
Companion Restrooms are located throughout the park. These restrooms are larger than the regular restrooms. This means you won’t struggle if you need to assist your child.
Almost all dietary needs can be accommodated when dining at Disney restaurants. If your autistic child has a food intolerance, you are allowed to bring food into the park.
Each ride at Disney Parks has its own features and special effects. It can be difficult to know about all of them without a little research. As you are planning your visit to the Disney Parks, you may want to check out Disney’s Attraction Details for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities. This guide will let you know which rides have loud noises, strobe lights, or other special effects you know will trigger your autistic child.
Most of these services at Disney are available without any advance notice. However, it is important that you sign up for the Disabilities Access Service prior to your arrival.
Autism-Friendly Aspects of Disney Springs
When you arrive at Disney Springs, it is usually helpful to stop at the Welcome Center in the Town Center. That is the perfect spot to pick up a map of Disney Springs and find out about their accessibility information. The staff can be quite helpful in pointing things out that you need to know.
If you want to dine at Disney Springs, please let me know as I am planning your Disney vacation. I can make your reservations in advance, so you won’t miss out. You can also pre-order food at certain restaurants through the My Disney Experience app. This is an excellent option if you don’t know where you want to eat or don’t have a reservation.
Disney Springs offers stroller and wheelchair rentals if your family needs one. You can even rent one here for the duration of your stay and return it to another location.
As you can see, Disney World, and Disney Springs, are very autism friendly. A lot of their services can be obtained by signing up for them in advance and I can assist with all that while I am planning your Disney vacation. Let’s connect today, so I can get an idea of what your Disney vacation dreams are. That will allow me to plan a vacation that is not only autism-friendly but perfect
for your entire family. No detail will be left out, so you can all experience the magic of Disney in the theme parks and destinations you want to visit.
You can never be too careful when visiting a theme park with your autistic child. As a parent, you are going to want to make sure your child can communicate with a theme park employee when the need arises.
Unfortunately, tablets and other devices are not always readily available in theme parks. Especially since you can’t take those items on many of the rides. So, what can you do to help your autistic child communicate when they don’t have their device handy??
I recommend utilizing a travel PECS system. PECS is a picture exchange communication system. Your child can simply point to a picture on their travel PECS and the person they are communicating with will understand your child’s needs or concerns.
I recently created a travel PECS to use with my autistic boys. I simply attach theirs to a lanyard, but you can also attach it to a keychain latch on a belt. Honestly, I would use the method that your autistic child can tolerate and that works best for them.
Download your own copy of my travel PECS today and know that your autistic child will be able to communicate so much better at theme parks in the future.