Walt Disney World is open to all families and guests, doing their best to make each and every visit special and important. Families that want to visit Walt Disney World with a child with special needs should know that there is a lot of help and assistance available to them to ensure their time in the parks is as smooth and fun as possible. Because you know your child best, a lot of the planning and preparation comes down to you.
Use these five tips to make a trip to Walt Disney World easier for a child with special needs.
Look Over Park Maps
Especially if this is a first visit for you, it is important to study park maps to get an idea of how large they are and where amenities and facilities are available. Not only is it beneficial to have the lay of the land, but it gives you familiarity with Disney’s facilities for those with special needs.
You can work with the kids to pick out the places they most want to see, and map out your park progress ahead of time. This will help children with an idea of what to expect, and avoid some feelings of being overwhelmed once you get there.
Establish Meetup and Break Areas
If your child needs regular breaks and a place to spend a few minutes, work with Disney staff to find out where their break areas are for families and children. With the family, set up special meetup and break areas for when you don’t need the solitary break rooms, but can use a break. Doing this ensures that everyone knows where to meetup throughout the day if groups decide to split up and explore the park on their own.
Watch Park Movies
Familiarity is also beneficial for children with special needs and the entire family. Watching park videos gives children a sense of what they will be seeing, doing and experiencing before they are surrounded by it. This will also help with deciding what parts of the park children want to visit the most and then have a couple family days where everyone sits down to get a look at what you will all experience.
Use your maps as you watch the movies to circle spots of interest and then plot your trip and add your break/meet up areas. Have a map for each family member so they’ll always know where to go in case someone gets separated.
Some movies I recommend checking out include:
One of the biggest areas of concern for families of children with special needs are the lines and children that have a hard time with them. Disney has a couple different things in place that families can use, including Rider Switch and the Disability Access Service card.
Rider Switch allows the entire family to wait in line together, and then when it comes time to ride, family members can switch riding and waiting with children that do not want to ride– avoiding another wait in line.
The Disability Access card gives riders the option of waiting out their time in line elsewhere, returning to the ride when it is time for them to ride. In addition to deciding which option you are going to use at Disney, talk about having to wait in line and practice with children so that they are comfortable with waits that are bound to come up.
You can learn more about the accommodations Disney can provide for guests with disabilities here.
Rent a Locker Daily
Children often have many comfort items or things that they need or want on hand. Carrying these items around all day can become difficult, so rent out a locker where you can stash items throughout the day. Return to the locker, switch out items and hold all the extras as the day progresses without having to return to your hotel or car which will eat up a lot of time.
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(Note: This is part of series of posts, entitled Getting Your Child With Special Needs Summer Ready)