Thursday, August 26, 2010

Autistic Children and Family Vacations at the Walt Disney World Resort Can Coexist!

If you are a parent of an autistic child or more and you are new to doing Disney (or have done this before you had kids), you might be thinking that doing so is a pain in the apples. Here are reasons why you think the whole resort complex (especially all four parks, two water parks, and whatever) makes you want to reconsider going there:

  • Crowds, Crowds, and More Flutin' Crowds
    I'm not just talking about any crowds, like the out-of-state people (I know a lot of you well) who go during the summer. In a lot of fan groups relating to the resort, the cheerleaders and the turismos (Yes, those are the misbehaving, chant-happy Argentinean youth herds, otros, and Brazilian tour groups I'm talking about!) add to the crowd levels. Also, they create another hazard for your autistic child (thanks to his usually short attention span) - long lines!
  • All The Noise!
    Believe me, Walt Disney World is a noisy place. Turismo chanting aside, huge crowds create hustle and bustle in noise, setting the stage for an F-5 meltdown. Just imagine that your child is with you at all times in a hot July or a fairly less-crowded January. You see a huge Brazilian tour group in highlighter-yellow T shirts walking the opposite way of you, and they chant out loud. Your child flaps his arms while making loud squeals, convincing you that the noise from the group is bothering him. See what I mean?
  • Lights and Colors
    Almost everywhere at the resort is painted in super-bright colors and cloaked in hyper-bright florescent lights. (For the latter, they are great thing to use for environmental concerns, but they are bad news for most autistics.) The heart of the loud color sensory-overload cocktail is the Magic Kingdom, where a lot of the area is paved with bright paint.
  • The "T" Word!
    There's something that sets off many autistic children - the transition! Without prior planning, they melt down because you disturb their routines by dragging them place to place!
But there is no need to skip that dream Disney trip you have a huge hankering for - it's all in the preparation and planning:

  • Book A Quieter Room
    If you have the money, I suggest that you book a room at the deluxe resorts or buy a timeshare from any Disney Vacation Club resort if you are staying onsite (a good thing, because some shuttles going in and out of the offsite hotels have fees). If you can only afford any All-Star Resort or Pop Century, by all means do it. Call ahead for a quiet room.
  • Do It in the Slow Season
    Making a Disney vacation with less problems is a matter of merely planning ahead. Just compare July to September weekdays, for instance. The former month carries out waves of overstimulation thanks to long lines, the heat, the thunderstorms that close attractions, and of course, the chanting turismos. September is a different story - it's less rainy and crowds are light. 
  • Prepare Your Children
    Again, transitions peeve autistic kids, so prepare them as you book your trip. I watched a lot of Disney moving media (movies, cartoons, etc.) and vacation planning guides and looked at pictures as a kid - and they prepared me for what's to come in my subsequent vacations. (I still do that!) Do the same with them and offer social stories and those so-called "visual schedules" for them to follow and learn.
  • Obtain a Guest Assistance Card
    The Guest Assistance Card is a pass in which you bypass the oft-crowded stand-by lines and either use the handicapped entrance or even the FASTPASS queue. (I'm autistic, and I still use the stand-by lines providing they are at most 30 minutes long and the single-rider line and I use FASTPASS just in case. the ride's line is too long.)
  • Follow the Conventional Rules of Theme Park Visits
    Arrive at the park at least 30 minutes before opening to have them see most of their favorite rides. Oh, and take midday breaks from the parks by returning to your resort (preferably by car, if staying onsite - you won't pay a dime for parking, cross my heart) and taking a nap or playing whatever video game is out there.
Doing Disney does not have to be a pain in the apples in terms of doing it with a special needs child. It's all in the planning, folks.

Autistic Children and Family Vacations at the Walt Disney World Resort Can Coexist!


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