Updated: Nov 2, 2022
There are quite a few theme parks scattered around the world. You have probably been to at least one of them at some point in your life. As a parent of an autistic child, you may currently be hesitant to visit one of these theme parks. However, you can easily spend a day, or a week, at one of the best autism-friendly theme parks. Autism-friendly theme parks have services in place for autistic families like yours. These services ensure your entire family will enjoy your visit, despite any minor blips along the way. I am going to share the different autism-friendly services available at some of the more popular theme parks today. By the time you are finished learning about each service, you will be more than ready to contact me for a little help with planning your next theme park vacation.
Best Autism-Friendly Theme Parks
Disney World and Disneyland
One of the best ways to experience Disney World or Disneyland as an autistic family is via a VIP tour. These tours allow your family to avoid the lines at rides, sit in reserved areas for shows and parades, and get other preferential treatment.
However, VIP tours are not always possible for all autistic families. Thankfully, Disney also offers a Disability Access Service. This service was designed for people with disabilities. The Disability Access Service, or DAS, is completely digital. It is either integrated within your Magic Band or on your digital ticket.
You used to need to obtain your pass when you arrived at a Disney Park. That changed as of the Fall of 2021. You can now pre-register for DAS at least 2 days, but up to 30 days, before your arrival. The registration process includes a live video chat with a cast member to ensure your family is eligible. The individual who is eligible for the service must be present on the video call.
Once you have obtained approval for DAS, you will be able to book two Advance Selections for every day of your visit.
If you forget to pre-register for DAS, you can simply go to Guest Services at any of the Disney Parks. It is important to note that booking Advance Selections cannot be done when registering for DAS at Guest Services.
Accessing the DAS button in the My Disney Experience app will allow you to make return time selections for rides. You can then venture to other areas of the park and return when it is time to go on the ride or any time before the park closes. When it is time to ride, you can enter through the Lightning Lane entrance for almost immediate boarding.
You are only allowed to book one return time at a time. Therefore, you will be required to utilize your return time for one ride before you will be allowed to book another return time. This is something to keep in mind, as you are planning your day.
One of the best ways to experience Universal Studios is to sign up for the VIP tour. I wrote a blog post about Universal’s VIP tour, and you can read more about the experience here. Believe me when I say it is the best way to avoid lines, dine without the crowds, and have an amazing time at Universal Studios.
If you can’t do the VIP tour, then Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass is always a better option for autistic families. The Attraction Assistance Pass, or AAP, is quite similar to Disney’s DAS. The one major difference is Universal still has a paper version.
Obtaining the AAP is as simple as talking to the team members at Guest Relations at any Universal theme park. As long as your autistic child meets the requirements, you will be given a pass with a barcode.
At Universal Orlando, you may wait in an alternative queue for rides with wait times that are less than 30 minutes. At Universal Hollywood, the wait time is 45 minutes. If the wait time is longer than those times, your family will be given a return time.
Universal also only allows you to have one return time at a time, like the Disney parks. The only exception is for certain rides like Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. Since the wait time can get to over 2 hours for that ride, there are times when ride attendants will allow you to receive a return time for another ride.
SeaWorld offers a Ride Accessibility Program to guests with disabilities. The Ride Accessibility Program, or RAP, was designed to ensure the safety of every guest. Autistic children will easily be able to participate in many of the rides.
Sesame Street Land is an area in SeaWorld that has specially trained ambassadors. Those team members have the knowledge and expertise, as well as skills for working with people with all disabilities. Any of those team members will be capable of assisting you throughout your visit.
SeaWorld also offers a sensory guide, so you are aware of what rides and attractions may be more stimulating than others. There is a low sensory area located between Turtle Trek and Dolphin Cove. There is even a quiet room inside the Child Care Facility in Sesame Street Land. Team members will be able to show you these areas when you need to access them.
There are different passes available for autistic children and people with other disabilities at each of the LEGOLAND theme parks. The passes do not have the same name, but they all offer similar options for those with disabilities.
In LEGOLAND Orlando, your autistic family can obtain the Blue Hero Pass. In California, the pass is called the Assisted Access Pass. And over in the UK, at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort, it is called the Ride Access Pass.
Determining which pass you need is as simple as choosing a LEGOLAND park and then seeing which pass is offered at that park. The pass will allow you to avoid long lines.
Six Flags offers an Attraction Access Program for guests with autism and other disabilities. Any guest who wants to receive special accommodations within any Six Flags Park must have a valid IBCCES Individual Accessibility Card. The card can be obtained here.
Before a visit to any Six Flags Park, you must fill out an online application and upload documentation. Upon approval, you will be able to access a digital version of the Attraction Access Program card.
That information, as well as the IBCCES Accessibility Card, will need to be shown at the Ride Information Center. The team members will share the necessary accommodations your family will receive at that time.
These are the best autism-friendly theme parks to choose from for your next vacation. If you are visiting a theme park for the first time with your autistic family, I recommend choosing Disney or Universal. They seem to have the best services available for autistic families like yours. Disney makes it extremely simple since you can now register for the service before your arrival. That definitely will save a little stress when you arrive for day one of theme park adventures!
Now that you have a good idea of where you will be visiting for your next theme park vacation, it is time to contact me to start the planning process. I can plan your time at the theme parks of your choice while guiding you through the process of obtaining the pass your autistic family needs to thoroughly enjoy each theme park you visit. Remember, travel is for everyone! So, make this the year you plan a fabulous theme park vacation for your autistic child and make those memories you will remember forever!