'; Visiting WDW with Special Needs Children - WDW Hints
Tuesday 25 June 2024
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Visiting WDW with Special Needs Children

What person (big or small) has never wanted to visit Mickey and his friends at Walt Disney World? For most families just the thought of visiting Walt Disney World is like a Dream come true. But, for parents of special needs children, the Dream can feel almost impossible to obtain. While planning a Disney World vacation may seem intimidating at first for those with and without special needs children, it certainly isn’t impossible and is actually much easier than you would think. The Disney World Park provides considerate accommodations for special needs visitors, as well as knowledgeable staff members who are ready to help answer any question. Disney Cast Members can make a visit to a theme park an enjoyable experience for the whole family and in turn can help your child develop the ability to handle higher levels of sensory stimulation than they may normally be accustomed to.

So CONGRATULATIONS!!!! you are ready to start planning.

I talked with many parents of special needs children about their trips and have compiled a list of advice and tips to make your trip better:

1 – Prepare for your Disney World vacation by requesting a vacation planning DVD from the park directly or a local Disney Specialist. With today’s technology, videos of the most popular rides are available on YouTube. Watch the vacation planning DVD and videos with your child often prior to your vacation. Also, consider reading books at bedtime and playing songs in the car that involve Disney characters. This helps children get acclimated to the idea of visiting the park and incorporates Disney into the lives of children who thrive on routine.

2 – Stay At A Disney Resort – The cast members at the Disney resort hotels are very accommodating. They can help you with anything you may need. Staying on Disney property allows easier transportation to and from the theme parks. Whether you choose to take the bus, boat or monorail from your resort to the park, all forms of transportation all wheelchair accessible! If you can, stay as close to the monorail as possible!  

3 – Disney’s customer relations department has taken extra labor to welcome guests with disabilities to the parks. Your first stop should be guest relations (directly inside the parks) when you arrive to present your child’s medical records so Disney cast members can provide you with information and accommodations that will enhance your child’s visit to this most magical place. The Guest Assistance Card (GAC) is intended for use by guests with Special Needs and can be obtained from Guest Relations at any of the Disney theme parks. The GAC is typically utilized by guests with “invisible” disabilities (such as autism spectrum disorders) and it is distributed according to the guest’s specific needs.

It is a magical place where we do not have as many meltdowns…our child has a sense of calmness even in the busiest of crowds…the GAC gives us the freedom to take him on as many, if not all, his favorite attractions with no waiting…we lived there so he has been going since he was three weeks old. It is like we are in a world by ourselves at Mickey’s place as he calls it. As soon as he sees “Mickey’s Trees” (palm trees) he gets so excited and a sense of calmness comes over him like he is at home. Kristin Petty Brinkle- mom

4  – If you have special dietary restrictions, rather than packing them, you can ship them directly to your resort or use the local grocery delivery service. You can check with your travel agent for more information about this service.

Make sure you review the menus at restaurants where you plan to dine for the best food choices. All Walt Disney World Resort table service restaurants that accept Advance Reservations can accommodate special dietary needs (such as allergies to gluten or wheat, shellfish, soy, lactose or milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, or eggs). When making Advance Dining Reservations make the reservation specialist aware of your restrictions so they can be noted on your reservation.

Medications are also a concern for many families. In the parks, medications can be stored and or refrigerated at the First Aid locations within each park. The first aid locations are staffed with nurses and can offer assistance if needed.

5 – The best advice – Know Your Child – Whether it is their sleep habits, favorite snacks, or how they will react to weather and crowds, no one knows your child better. Take all of these under consideration when planning and everything will be simpler. Stick with schedules as much as possible and take down time as needed to avoid meltdowns.

Corrine Nash, parent of a special needs child, wrote: “Our daily life is full of medicines, treatments and Doctor’s visits. Life can be difficult just trying to keep up with everything, but when we are a Walt Disney World we can forget about the difficulties of life and just enjoy the magic. It is something we look forward to all year and keeps us going when things get tough. Disney is incredible with children who have unseen disabilities. They go out of their way to make sure our needs are meet and make my son feel extra special in the process. I feel comfortable knowing that our trip will not end with a visit to the hospital with all the care we are given. Disney is one of the few places that allow my son to just be a kid.”

No vacation ever goes exactly as planned. But the best advice I can give is, have fun, make memories and take lots of pictures. Understand that there will probably be a period of adjustment for your child, but with a little patience and preparation your Disney World vacation will prove to be a magical one for the entire family.

My name is Kimberly Jordan and I live in Saratoga Springs, NY- and I am a Dream Maker. In 2012, my husband moved the family from Daphne, Al to Upstate NY to take a new position with the company he works for and I got to pursue my second passion – DISNEY!  As a special educator for 15 years prior to becoming a Dream Maker with Magic of Mickey Travel, I had seen firsthand how remarkable parents of special needs children really were and how important it was for them to have a place that allowed them to feel at ease and Walt Disney World is that place for so many.

As a Dream Maker, I get to experience the excitement of planning and then visiting WDW thru the eyes of my clients. I believe I am truly helping families make memories that will last a lifetime. As a Disney College of Knowledge graduate and a special educator, I get to combine 2 passions in my life into one incredible adventure. As a parent and dream maker, I believe that ALL children deserve the opportunity to experience the Magic that Walt Disney World has to offer. But, due to certain children’s disabilities and limitations, they are often not able to experience life the way a healthy child does, but at Disney World, they have no boundaries!  They are able to just be kids – the way it is meant to be.

Editors Note: Feel free to follow Kim’s travel page on facebook or find her on Magic of Mickey Travel’s website.

Terri is owner, creator and an author for WDW Hints. She enjoys taking less-traveled paths of WDW and sharing her lesser-known discoveries with you!