Upon hearing of our son’s diagnosis of moderate-severe autism back in 2003, we thought our world would be isolated to staying home. Our son Andrew, had full-blown tantrums and melt-downs and it just wasn’t worth the effort, aggravation to us and others, or to Andrew. As far as we were concerned, that was it.
Until we decided to take the plunge and go to Walt Disney World Resort.
Our life changed forever.
Disney Parks Resources
The resources available in preparation are helpful, such as:
- Register for free at “My Disney Experience” which is a user-friendly, highly interactive planning website
- Order a free “Planning CD” from the “My Disney Experience” website detailing everything you need to know about Walt Disney World Resort hotels, experiences, dining and theme parks
- Follow the Disney Parks Blog Posts and Disney Parks Blog on YouTube featuring the latest, most up to date information that awaits at: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/Some of the best guide books for travel to the Disney Parks are available at all major bookstores
- Many active podcasts, forums and blog detail every aspect of travel to the Disney Parks are available through many social media outlets
- The Disney Parks Moms Panel is a great resource comprised of a group of avid, Disney enthusiasts with first hand experience at the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, runDisney, ESPN Wide World of Sports who are ready to answer any Guest questions. They can be found at: http://disneyparksmomspanel.disney.go.com
The My Disney Experience Website:
The “My Disney+” available through the “My Disney Experience” allows Guests to:
- reserve and link FastPass+ experiences
- personalize and link all Walt Disney World Resort hotel, theme park tickets, dining reservations and special experiences on each Guests MagicBand (for Guests staying on Walt Disney World Resort property)
My Disney Experience Mobile App Features:
- the GPS-enabled map allows Guests to interactively explore Walt Disney World Resort
- modify and/or chose FastPass+ experiences
- displays attraction wait times and location and times of special events, parades and fireworks
- allows Guests to purchase theme park tickets
- displays times and locations for character meet and greets
- displays all dining reservations, FastPass+ experiences, hotel reservations
- manages all hotel reservations, theme park ticket reservations and MagicBand personalization
- allows Guests the convenience of sharing plans with others through the “Family and Friends” link
- displays all Walt Disney World Resort restaurant locations, reservation availability and menus
- keeps everything accurate, up to date and organized in the “My Plans” link
- Guests receive email notification for upcoming dining reservations
Guests on the Autism Spectrum can create personal schedules using the “My Disney Experience”, especially using the mobile App. My son loves the interactive theme park maps which keep him interested, engaged and prepared for what is to come next.
I created a “first and then” activity schedule board on my tablet, showing which FastPass+ experiences were on the list and in which order. In between those experiences I would allow my son to select what he wanted to do next (from a list of non-attraction selections), this way my son would feel included because I consulted him. Doing so, allowed us to take a break, have a snack, browse in the cool comfort of a gift shop or just sit and people watch.
Twice, throughout the day, in between those non FastPass+ experiences, I would utilize Disney’s Disability Access Service Card, to enjoy those popular, long-wait attractions.
Disney’s Disability Access Service Card
Disney makes every effort to provide an inclusive, positive experience for all Guests and has devised a system to do just that.
Guests can request a DAS Card from any Guest Services at any theme park. The person with the disability must be present when attempting to obtain the card because a photograph will be taken of that Guest, who will be presented with a time card displaying their photo.
The DAS Card will be time stamped one attraction at a time, by a Cast Member at the attraction queue. You cannot pre-stamp multiple attractions ahead of time, the system allows only for one attraction at a time. Upon the completion of a particular attraction, Guests may proceed to another attraction and seek a new time stamp. This convenience affords Guests who are unable to wait in a conventional queue the opportunity to return at a pre-selected time frame later on with a shorter wait-time. The DAS Card may be used in conjunction with the FastPass+ experience and FASTPASS Service.
More detailed information on Disney’s Disability Access System Card provided here: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/disney-parks-disability-access-service-card-fact-sheet/
The Benefits of Staying on Walt Disney World Resort Property
- Guests are offered “Complimentary Airport Service”-luggage tags with hotel information is sent, tag all luggage and when you arrive at Orlando International Airport skip Baggage Claim and head directly to Disney’s Magical Express motor coach check-in area to be taken directly to your Disney resort. Luggage will follow and it’s best to pack a day bag with first afternoon essentials until you have access to your luggage
- Disney magic is all around 24/7
- Guests have the convenience of complimentary bus transportation to all Walt Disney World theme parks and Downtown Disney
- Guests have complimentary parking throughout Walt Disney World Resort
- Guests have the benefit of the convenience of the use of MagicBands which when linked through the My Disney Experience -My Magic+ will have all theme park ticket, FastPass+ experiences, dining reservations, special experiences, charging privileges, purchases and will serve as the device to unlock your hotel room door
- Walt Disney World Resort purchases can be sent to your Disney resort hotel
- Guests will have the flexibility to reserve all FastPass+ experiences 60 days prior to check-in for the entire length of stay (non-Disney resort guests can only reserve FastPass+experiences 30 days in advance)
- Disney resort Guests have the benefit of Extended Theme Park Hours before the general public early morning and/or late evening depending on the theme park
- The Disney Dining Plan is available to Disney resort Guests
- All Disney hotels offer Guests complimentary Wi-Fi, which is also complimentary at all theme parks and Downtown Disney
- Walt Disney World offers Guest rooms which are themed
- Some Guest rooms can accommodate five or more, Family Suites are also available
- All Disney resort hotels offer Accessible Rooms for Guests with physical disabilities and include services for the hearing impaired and visually impaired
Cast Member Interaction
Perhaps the single-most important experience, unique to all Guests is the interactions with Disney’s Cast Members. On each of our twenty-six trips there has been a memorable interaction adding to our positive memories. Best of all, Cast Members are present everywhere, they are approachable, friendly and very accommodating.
But it’s not only that. On our most recent trip over the Christmas break, we were lined up for the Monorail at the Ticket and Transportation Center on our way to Magic Kingdom Park. It was crowded and I was concerned about my son.
While waiting, a Cast Member approached us, politely introduced herself and discreetly told us how her nephew has an invisible disability and how she identified with our situation. She then proceeded to hand out paper FastPasses for our day. That very moment, that very interaction set the tone for our day, making it one of the most positive and memorable yet!
Cast Members are so accommodating and anticipate all needs everywhere on property.
You see this kind of unique interaction all around with all Guests. You just never know what will happen next.
Vacationing with Disney sets the tone, prepares Guests by providing the foundation, for vacations anywhere in the world.