Looking for tips and TR on traveling with severely autistic child/teenager

mdsouth

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jan 15, 2005
Hello,

I have read Sue's posts but they are old and even though updated just represent one person's views. I am actually looking more for TRs that might share info about just being there at Disney in general with autistic kids, how to structure the day, how they responded to characters, etc, not just about the use of DAS. I know each person's experiences will be different and we will not know how my nephews will react to the characters until we are actually there but it will still help to read other people's experiences.

Has anyone traveled recently with an autistic child or teen that can share ideas with me? And if you have a trip report or have read one you can point me towards that would be great!
 

kaytieeldr

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc
Joined
Jun 11, 2005
To be clear - none of what is in the first four posts of that thread is opinion, or expdrience. It is all fact, FAQ, and informative. The books mentioned in the third post might be helpful, as would the Search featurd. Or even just scrolling through the first few pages of the thread.
 

gap2368

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 27, 2015
This is kind of like asking what a 12 year old might like as all 12 year olds are very different. Think of how the child handles waiting in lines for things like at a store think of how they handle a lot of noise about visual stimulation about smell. And then go from there. Like if they have hard time with noise ear plugs or noise canceling head phone of just music they liike. If visual is a problem singles a light weight hoodie. And so on.
 
  • disneymom3

    <font color=green> I think I could adjust!! <br><f
    Joined
    Mar 11, 2002
    The suggestions I have are related to finding quiet spaces. Epcot is the easiest as there are many out of the way corners. For AK, we would do one of the animal walks or near the Tree of Life.(Just relaxing watching the animals helped my son. And it’s not so loud.) Any restaurant at off times for meals is often a good bet. Magic Kingdom, down by the Splash play place, Liberty Square, Tomorrowland Terrace, and on the patio/sidewalk type area that leads to Crystal Palace.

    Haven’t been to DHS recently enough to help.

    My son always hated characters even face ones, but he didn’t like strangers so that wasn’t a surprise.

    As for pacing, take your time, assume you won’t see everything. Just stop and take in the sights. Bring familiar snacks. Stay hydrated. My son at about 15 started wearing earbuds just about everywhere he goes. He never liked earplugs and felt too “different“ (his word, not mine.) with noise cancelling headphones. (He is very high functioning.) With his earbuds if he needs more what we call internal time, he can also turn on his music and tune everything else out.
     

    lanejudy

    Moderator
    Moderator
    Joined
    Oct 27, 2011
    I have read Sue's posts but they are old and even though updated just represent one person's views.
    Just to clarify about this statement... @SueM in MN maintains that information and updates it regularly. The posts were initially created years ago but rest assured the information is up-to-date. The lower right of each post will indicate an “edited” date - and even if that date isn’t last month, it only means the information hasn’t changed.

    The disABILITIES FAQs and DAS threads are informational, not moderator opinion unless noted.

    We welcome posters sharing their personnel experiences. Those tend to give a different perspective.


    Enjoy your vacation!
     

    Disneylvr

    Always Disney Dreaming!
    Joined
    Aug 20, 1999
    I have a non-verbal 16 year old on the autism spectrum. She has been going to the parks every 10-18 months since she was 13 months old. We always get the DAS but don’t always need to use it every day. Let me give you an example of an ideal day for us at a park and strategies that work for her/us. Keep in mind, we are a family of 3. No other children and we usually, not always, travel without other family members or friends. First of all we always stay at a Disney resort, usually a moderate or value as they are in our budget. We also fly into Orlando and rent a car because crowded Disney buses would not work for her. We try to get up early enough to arrive at the park of choice before opening. However, we play it by ear and never push our daughter if she isn’t quite ready at 7am. We go to the parks with the mindset that quality is more important than quantity and never push her or ourselves into getting every attraction in. We also use FP+ in combination with the DAS whenever possible. Adventureland/Frontierland/Liberty Square/Fantasyland at MK is a great area, for us, to do that. We will get a 9:30am, 10:30am and 11:30am FP for 3 of our favorites and then get a DAS return time for 1 or 2 more. This would include Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain. We try to return to our resort before our daughter reaches sensory overload, usually by 1pm. We will have lunch outside the park at either a monorail resort or our own resort and then swim for the afternoon before returning for a few hours at another park. We always get multi day hoppers so the next time we return to MK, we might focus on the other side of the park, Tomorrowland/Fantasyland. We have found that breaking up the day is necessary for our daughter. She is a sensory seeker BUT the parks can get overwhelming for her and yes we have experienced total meltdowns in the parks. Sometimes we don't return to a park at all in the late afternoon/evening and instead resort hop for shopping or dining. My daughter is not really a fan of characters but we have done character meals with her. Our favorite is Tusker House at AK. We make sure to let the restaurant CM's know that she doesn't always like to be touched or have people close to her.

    I would be happy an answer any specific questions for you. My best advice to you is to prepare your nephews by watching you tube videos of the different rides to see what might interest them and prepare them for the experience.
     
  • tinkerbelletreasure

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 27, 2010
    As others have mentioned, and I’m sure you are aware all children on the spectrum are different. My autistic son is a stim seeker which is opposite a lot of kids on the spectrum. He’s not into characters, so we skip them. And parades are usually too loud for him to enjoy. On the flip side, there’s not a ride out there that he won’t try because he has no fear. When he was younger, we used to plan out days with a break in the middle of the day to avoid over stimulation, but now that he’s 12 and been to Disney enough times, he can go all day without issue. Our last trip, the only true meltdown we had was when we left the park for a meal and he came unglued about the fact that we wanted him to drink water instead of pop to rehydrate. Are there specific things you are looking for experiences on? DAS is a great tool to help with lines. Like others have mentioned, we don’t use it all the time. Mainly, just in the highest crowd part of the day. Most of the CMs are great about it. Sometimes the way one CM handles DAS may be slightly different from another, particularly on the few rides where an alternate entrance is used. So we just always walk up and ask where they’d like us to go.
     

    Disneylvr

    Always Disney Dreaming!
    Joined
    Aug 20, 1999
    My autistic son is a stim seeker which is opposite a lot of kids on the spectrum. He’s not into characters, so we skip them. And parades are usually too loud for him to enjoy. On the flip side, there’s not a ride out there that he won’t try because he has no fear. When he was younger, we used to plan out days with a break in the middle of the day to avoid over stimulation, but now that he’s 12 and been to Disney enough times, he can go all day without issue. Our last trip, the only true meltdown we had was when we left the park for a meal and he came unglued about the fact that we wanted him to drink water instead of pop to rehydrate. Are there specific things you are looking for experiences on? DAS is a great tool to help with lines. Like others have mentioned, we don’t use it all the time. Mainly, just in the highest crowd part of the day. Most of the CMs are great about it. Sometimes the way one CM handles DAS may be slightly different from another, particularly on the few rides where an alternate entrance is used. So we just always walk up and ask where they’d like us to go.
    That's my daughter, a stim (vestibular input) seeker! She loves any and all rollercoaster or attraction that spins meanwhile I am about to throw up! What she struggles with is just standing in line and not moving. She needs to be able to pace so we try to keep a buffer area around her. We also have to keep her fed and hydrated.
     

    tinkerbelletreasure

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 27, 2010
    That's my daughter, a stim (vestibular input) seeker! She loves any and all rollercoaster or attraction that spins meanwhile I am about to throw up! What she struggles with is just standing in line and not moving. She needs to be able to pace so we try to keep a buffer area around her. We also have to keep her fed and hydrated.
    We used stroller as a wheelchair as a buffer for him until he was 10. It helped a lot. I’d like to think he’s mature enough now that he could probably wait in most lines without a DAS, but it is a lifesaver when I can tell he’s getting tired and doesn’t have the patience for long lines and close crowds. We’d always rather get it and not use it, than be in that one line that pushes him over the edge and causes a meltdown that’s going to affect the next 3-4 hours, and not have it.
     

    Disneylvr

    Always Disney Dreaming!
    Joined
    Aug 20, 1999
    We used stroller as a wheelchair as a buffer for him until he was 10. It helped a lot. I’d like to think he’s mature enough now that he could probably wait in most lines without a DAS, but it is a lifesaver when I can tell he’s getting tired and doesn’t have the patience for long lines and close crowds. We’d always rather get it and not use it, than be in that one line that pushes him over the edge and causes a meltdown that’s going to affect the next 3-4 hours, and not have it.
    My daughter is 16, so when she was younger we used a stroller as a wheelchair too. She is much better in line than she used to be and actually endured a 45 minute standby line for Little 🧜‍♀️ at MK without complaint last last May. Progress!!!
     
  • mdsouth

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jan 15, 2005
    I have a non-verbal 16 year old on the autism spectrum. She has been going to the parks every 10-18 months since she was 13 months old. We always get the DAS but don’t always need to use it every day. Let me give you an example of an ideal day for us at a park and strategies that work for her/us. Keep in mind, we are a family of 3. No other children and we usually, not always, travel without other family members or friends. First of all we always stay at a Disney resort, usually a moderate or value as they are in our budget. We also fly into Orlando and rent a car because crowded Disney buses would not work for her. We try to get up early enough to arrive at the park of choice before opening. However, we play it by ear and never push our daughter if she isn’t quite ready at 7am. We go to the parks with the mindset that quality is more important than quantity and never push her or ourselves into getting every attraction in. We also use FP+ in combination with the DAS whenever possible. Adventureland/Frontierland/Liberty Square/Fantasyland at MK is a great area, for us, to do that. We will get a 9:30am, 10:30am and 11:30am FP for 3 of our favorites and then get a DAS return time for 1 or 2 more. This would include Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates, 7 Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain. We try to return to our resort before our daughter reaches sensory overload, usually by 1pm. We will have lunch outside the park at either a monorail resort or our own resort and then swim for the afternoon before returning for a few hours at another park. We always get multi day hoppers so the next time we return to MK, we might focus on the other side of the park, Tomorrowland/Fantasyland. We have found that breaking up the day is necessary for our daughter. She is a sensory seeker BUT the parks can get overwhelming for her and yes we have experienced total meltdowns in the parks. Sometimes we don't return to a park at all in the late afternoon/evening and instead resort hop for shopping or dining. My daughter is not really a fan of characters but we have done character meals with her. Our favorite is Tusker House at AK. We make sure to let the restaurant CM's know that she doesn't always like to be touched or have people close to her.

    I would be happy an answer any specific questions for you. My best advice to you is to prepare your nephews by watching you tube videos of the different rides to see what might interest them and prepare them for the experience.
    Thank you. Your message is basically what I was looking for. For example your tip to share with CMs about needing some space or doesn't like to be touched. Your basic outline for the day is what we have planned. The boys are early risers so we will head to the park and then probably leave at lunch time to go to our own resort or another resort to eat and then our own to swim and relax at the resort. Then head back to the parks possibly in the evening or even take a trip on the monorail. We will probably avoid the Skyliner but I think my nephews would enjoy the monorail. We will see. We will be driving so we will not have to do the busses/monorail.

    That's my daughter, a stim (vestibular input) seeker! She loves any and all rollercoaster or attraction that spins meanwhile I am about to throw up! What she struggles with is just standing in line and not moving. She needs to be able to pace so we try to keep a buffer area around her. We also have to keep her fed and hydrated.
    This sounds a lot like one of my nephews - no fear and will love the rides. I appreciate the tip to keep the buffer in line around them.
    We used stroller as a wheelchair as a buffer for him until he was 10. It helped a lot. I’d like to think he’s mature enough now that he could probably wait in most lines without a DAS, but it is a lifesaver when I can tell he’s getting tired and doesn’t have the patience for long lines and close crowds. We’d always rather get it and not use it, than be in that one line that pushes him over the edge and causes a meltdown that’s going to affect the next 3-4 hours, and not have it.
    My nephews are both teenagers and one is to big to sit in the large strollers. So, we will just have to be a buffer for him in line or that will be the rides where DAS would be a huge for us. He has to pace around and that might not be easy to do in some of the lines where you are just moving really slow.
     


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