Visiting Disneyland when you have children in tow can be a tricky task and usually involves some amount of planning to insure everyone has a fun stress free visit. Visiting Disneyland when you have a child with Autism can be even more difficult and requires a great deal of planning. As the parent of a fourteen year old child with Autism who also happens to live in Southern California I have visited Disneyland many times over the years and learned through trial and error how to make my autistic child’s visit to Disneyland as easy and stress as possible not only for him but for the whole family.To help other parents who maybe making a Disney trip with their autistic child for the first time here are my top ten tips for visiting Disneyland with a child who has Autism.
Ten Tips For Visiting Disneyland With an Autistic Child
Prepare Your Child Ahead of Time
A few weeks before your visit to Disneyland start preparing your autistic child for the trip as changes in routine can be difficult for them. Talk about your trip and what you will do there. show your child pictures of Disneyland and talk about the different attractions to help them familiarize themselves with Disneyland. If your child likes to go on the computer there are several videos of Disneyland on YouTube that you could have your child watch.
Know When To Visit
Summer, holiday weeks like Christmas and Easter, holiday weekends, and weekends tend to be the most crowded days at Disneyland Park. Since most autistic children don’t do well in crowds its probably best to avoid those days. Tuesdays thru Thursdays are the least crowded days at Disneyland and you will probably enjoy your trip more if you choose one of these days.
How To Avoid The Wait To Purchase Tickets
Standing in line outside of the park to purchase tickets can take forever setting your autistic child up for a meltdown before you even enter the park gates. Fortunately there is an easy solution. Disneyland allows you to purchase park tickets or annual passes online prior to your trip. Tickets can then be printed out or you can request that they be mailed to you. To find out ticket prices and to purchase tickets online just go to www.disney.go.com and look under the parks tab.
Special Assistance Pass
If you have a child with Autism who has difficulty waiting in lines then the Special Assistance Pass is something you will definitely want to get. The pass allows your child to avoid the ques and enter each ride through the wheelchair, or Fast Pass entrance to all Disneyland rides significantly reducing your child’s wait time. The pass can be obtained from City Hall which is located to the far left just as you enter main street. Once you get inside a cast member will ask you the nature of your child’s disability and why they require a pass. Don’t be hesitant to explain just what your child’s behaviors are. Some people bring a Doctor’s note stating what their child’s disability is bur its not necessary. Occasionally you may encounter a cast member who is unfamiliar with the pass and may tell you there is no such thing. If this happens just ask to speak to someone else.The pass is good for up to six people. The child who the pass is for does need to accompany your group on the ride. Since you will be asked to show your pass often it is a good idea to purchase a fishing license holder that you can wear around your neck to keep the Special Assistance pass in. Fishing license holders are available at Walmart at cost less than $2.00.
Bring A Recent Photo Of Your Child
With an autistic child you never know when they are going to wander off. At a crowded place like Disneyland its very easy for parents and their children to get separated. Most children can go to an agreed upon meeting place or contact an employee if they get lost making find them much easier. However many autistic children aren’t able to understand what to do should they get lost and some do not have the communications skills to even let someone know that they are lost.Bringing along photo of your child can help in the search should they get lost. You can use it to show other park visitors and employees when searching for your child instead of wasting valuable time giving a description
Where To Change Diapers If You Have An Older Child
If you have older autistic child who is not toilet trained changing diapers in a crowded restroom can be difficult if not downright impossible. Fortunately Disneyland has two alternatives for parents who need to change diapers. For young children parents can use the Carnation Baby Care Center located at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., next to First Aid Center. Inside you will find a large quiet changing area with large cushioned changing tables and plenty of supplies to purchase if you forgot to bring something. The second place you can change diapers at that is idea for older children in diapers is at The First Aid Center which is located First Aid is located at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., across from the Central Plaza next to the Baby Center. Once inside inform the attendant why you are there and they will escort you to a private room that has a sink and a cushioned cot in it. Both are much easier than trying to change your child in the public bathroom.
Avoid The Meal Crowds
Standing in a crowded line to purchase lunch or dinner for your autistic child is no fun, especially when they are tired and hungry. Avoid the long wait at restaurants by timing your visit either before or after the lunch or dinner rush.Typically you would want to do lunch either around 11:00 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m. to avoid the lunch crowd. To avoid the dinner rush plan on eating before 5:00 p.m. or after 7:30 p.m.
Where To Find Gluten Free Casein Free Foods
Disneyland offer several options for the autistic child who is on a Gluten free Casein free diet. Several restaurants such asGoofy’s Kitchen Character Breakfast, Blue Bayou, Bangle Barbecue, Plaza Inn, Rancho de Zolcolo and Tomorrowland’s Red Rocket Pizza Port will fix your child a GFCF dish meal upon request. When ordering GFCF food at Disneyland always ask for a manager and tell them of your child’s dietary restrictions prior to placing your order this will insure that your child gets a plate that is entirely GFCF.There are also several fruit carts should you need a snack that’s GFCF for your child. To find out more about GFCF options at Disneyland contact Guest Relations at (714) 781-7290.
Don’t Walk When You Can Ride
Instead of walking through the crowds in the park to get from area to area which can be extremely difficult with children with Autism, utilize the Disneyland train system. The train makes stops at the stations in Mainstreet, New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown and Tomorrowland. A train makes a stop to drop off and pick up passengers at each station approximately every 20 minutes.
Where To Find A Quiet Place When Your Child Is Over Stimulated
With all the crowds, sounds and sights its very easy for an autistic child to become overstimulated at Disneyland. Should this happen you are going to need to quickly find a quiet place to help your child unwind. Fortunately there are a few options available. You can ask a cast member where the nearest quiet location is or you can take a nice slow ride on the Disneyland Railroad, visit the First Aid Center on Main Street for a quiet room to relax in.TheCarnation Plaza Gardens Located west of Central Plaza is frequently deserted unless there is a performance scheduled an also makes a good place to take an autistic child for a break from the noise and crowds.
I hope these tips help make your visit to the Magic Kingdom a little easier and as stress free as possible.