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View Full Version : Taking 12 year old son with Autism to WDW


Makcarly
05-19-2012, 02:02 PM
I will be travelling to WDW in April 2013 with my 14 year old NT DD and my 12 year old DS who is on the Autism spectrum.

He's completely verbal and his biggest issues are social interactions, getting "stuck" on things (asking the same question over and over, talking about speakers non-stop, etc), and some noises are an issue for him. He does best with a very set schedule and he MUST know in the morning what's going to be for dinner. He definitely notices things I don't- small sounds, flickering lights, etc. so I worry WDW will be a sensory overload for him.

First off, he's never been on an airplane. I really don't know how to prepare him for it. I have explained to him that the engines are really loud and about how it makes you feel when you are taking off and landing. He doesn't seem to be bothered by what I tell him about it but I worry about getting at cruising altitude and having him freak out. Do I explain before we board that he has autism?

I think we will stay at POP. This is I guess where I worry about him getting overwhelmed most. In the pics I see POP looks kind of flashy in the food court area. DD and I recently stayed at Coronado Springs and while I thought it was really nice, I am not sure he would enjoy it very much. I didn't really check out the dig site and I worry any quiet pool would be too boring for him. I really think he'd like the things at POP like the walkman and the laptop (he is REALLY into all things electronic) but he also loves Toy Story so I wonder if ASMO would be a good fit for him.

I didn't love Epcot (only Future World) but I think he will really enjoy it. I know he will be all over the display at Inoventions where it shows a tv being smashed. :) I know DHS will be a huge hit with him and probably AK. MK is mine and DD's favorite park but I worry he will think some of our favorite attractions (Peter Pan, Pooh, Dumbo, Fantasmic) are "too babyish." Character interactions- I really have no idea how he will do with those. I am actually afraid he will announce in line that the characters aren't real or something.

So, tell me about your experiences with Autism and WDW!

bookwormde
05-19-2012, 09:16 PM
With a little preparation and a slower pace WDW is very magical for our kids. If you are going spring break, the crowds can be a significant issue.

For a mid day break a quite pool may be just right to help decompress. For a day at the pool a feature pool is great.

Movies of security,the airplane and WDW are often very helpful to create a comfortable visual template.

bookwormde

lovethattink
05-20-2012, 09:19 AM
I will be travelling to WDW in April 2013 with my 14 year old NT DD and my 12 year old DS who is on the Autism spectrum.

He's completely verbal and his biggest issues are social interactions, getting "stuck" on things (asking the same question over and over, talking about speakers non-stop, etc), and some noises are an issue for him. He does best with a very set schedule and he MUST know in the morning what's going to be for dinner. He definitely notices things I don't- small sounds, flickering lights, etc. so I worry WDW will be a sensory overload for him.

(It sure can be, but with plannning many of the sensory issues can be subdued, tolerated, or avoided)

First off, he's never been on an airplane. I really don't know how to prepare him for it. I have explained to him that the engines are really loud and about how it makes you feel when you are taking off and landing. He doesn't seem to be bothered by what I tell him about it but I worry about getting at cruising altitude and having him freak out. Do I explain before we board that he has autism?

This is something we haven't experienced yet. But my ds will be flying in the next year or two.

I think we will stay at POP. This is I guess where I worry about him getting overwhelmed most. In the pics I see POP looks kind of flashy in the food court area. DD and I recently stayed at Coronado Springs and while I thought it was really nice, I am not sure he would enjoy it very much. I didn't really check out the dig site and I worry any quiet pool would be too boring for him. I really think he'd like the things at POP like the walkman and the laptop (he is REALLY into all things electronic) but he also loves Toy Story so I wonder if ASMO would be a good fit for him.

My son loves the Dig Site. But this last trip (May 11-14) we spent EVERY night at the Cabanas quiet pool because he could have a pool noodle there but not at the Dig Site.



I didn't love Epcot (only Future World) but I think he will really enjoy it. I know he will be all over the display at Inoventions where it shows a tv being smashed. :) I know DHS will be a huge hit with him and probably AK. MK is mine and DD's favorite park but I worry he will think some of our favorite attractions (Peter Pan, Pooh, Dumbo, Fantasmic) are "too babyish." Character interactions- I really have no idea how he will do with those. I am actually afraid he will announce in line that the characters aren't real or something.

My ds is all about rules, so he wouldn't dare tell anyone about the characters, it's one of HIS rules. His outbursts deal more with people in queue breaking the rules. He is the queue police. He will be the first one to tell someone not to sit on a rail, chew with their mouth closed, etc. We seem to spend alot of time reminding him to make sure he follows the rules and not worry about other people following them.

So, tell me about your experiences with Autism and WDW!

Please check out the Disney Done Differently TR in my siggie (there is an index but I'm very bad about updating it). We are Disney locals and head to WDW at least once a week and stay on property often on weekends. Pop and CSR are our favorite resorts.

My son usually ends up wearing his ear phones in the food court at POP. CSR is quieter, but our last stay we had noisy neighbors above us. My son hates the noise of the toilets at both POP and CSR. CSR has wooden dividers so we can close that to block out some of that noise, especially the toilet noise of neighboring rooms.

We bring a Conair Soothing Sounds with clock radio with us. Turn it on to rain (the only sound on it he can stand) and it blocks out many other sounds.

The lighting at POP's main building does the same effects on him that the lighting at Walmart does. There is NO WAY we can bring him in line to wait for food. Usually he and DH will sit at the table and play or watch one of the tvs while I get the food. If I am solo with him, I have to have him in a medical stroller or he bolts or runs around. He does not do this at CSR's Pepper Market.

He will tell you in a heartbeat that he loves Pop Century. He also chose the food court as the place to celebrate his birthday meal the last few years.

We are staying at Pop on our next stay. The price difference between CSR and POP was huge then. If the price is not far off, we chose CSR.

If you have any specific questions about either resort or parks, I'm happy to help. My ds is a few years younger.

EvangelineG
05-20-2012, 11:21 AM
I will be travelling to WDW in April 2013 with my 14 year old NT DD and my 12 year old DS who is on the Autism spectrum.

He's completely verbal and his biggest issues are social interactions, getting "stuck" on things (asking the same question over and over, talking about speakers non-stop, etc), and some noises are an issue for him. He does best with a very set schedule and he MUST know in the morning what's going to be for dinner. He definitely notices things I don't- small sounds, flickering lights, etc. so I worry WDW will be a sensory overload for him.

We used a combination of touring plans and Ridemax to plan our trip, and this was a huge help for my sons. The ridemax plans in particular are wonderful for my ASD routine sticklers. You plug in the rides you want to do and the software produces a detailed plan including projected waiting and walking times. My sons absolutely love these plans, they helped them feel safe and in control amidst the sensory onslaught (of course we did have to do some pre-trip work on how to adjust to inevitable changes in the printed schedule so there weren't any meltdowns over being at PotC at 10:47am when the schedule said 10:42am!). We also took midday swimming breaks, brought ear plugs and stuck to regular bedtimes and mealtimes as much as possible.

First off, he's never been on an airplane. I really don't know how to prepare him for it. I have explained to him that the engines are really loud and about how it makes you feel when you are taking off and landing. He doesn't seem to be bothered by what I tell him about it but I worry about getting at cruising altitude and having him freak out. Do I explain before we board that he has autism?

We watch videos and discussed in detail everything to expect with security and our flights before each time our family flies. It really surprised me that they actually don't mind the actual flight. The high backed seats block out the view of most of the other people, and as long as they have familiar snacks and their Nintendo DS's/itouch's to play on they do really well on planes. Last flight we used "earplanes" for both noise reduction and ear pressure comfort and they worked really, really well for us. We have our tickets flagged with autism/allergies and do pre-boarding (less stressful for them to get settled without all those people already on).

I think we will stay at POP. This is I guess where I worry about him getting overwhelmed most. In the pics I see POP looks kind of flashy in the food court area. DD and I recently stayed at Coronado Springs and while I thought it was really nice, I am not sure he would enjoy it very much. I didn't really check out the dig site and I worry any quiet pool would be too boring for him. I really think he'd like the things at POP like the walkman and the laptop (he is REALLY into all things electronic) but he also loves Toy Story so I wonder if ASMO would be a good fit for him.

Sorry, no experience with this. One of my sons can't share a bed or even a room due to his sleeping and OCD issues, so we have to stay offsite in a villa.

I didn't love Epcot (only Future World) but I think he will really enjoy it. I know he will be all over the display at Inoventions where it shows a tv being smashed. :) I know DHS will be a huge hit with him and probably AK. MK is mine and DD's favorite park but I worry he will think some of our favorite attractions (Peter Pan, Pooh, Dumbo, Fantasmic) are "too babyish." Character interactions- I really have no idea how he will do with those. I am actually afraid he will announce in line that the characters aren't real or something.

My sons hate characters and parades, too much eye contact, to much social. They loved certain rides and displays, collecting and trading vinylmations and fireworks (with ear protection & from a distance). In MK they are OK with Peter Pan, but think that Pooh is MORTIFYING. :rolleyes: We made a deal that they had to ride it once so that I didn't have to miss it. I have a picture of them sitting on the ride stone faced, and they literally pushed me out of the gift shop when we were done. :laughing: In each park, we did a fast and furious highlights tour as per our ride plan (my sons hate meandering and do their best when focused on a goal and moving quickly), then concentrated on the stuff they liked and did it multiple times. Epcot was their favourite park, and Sum of All Thrills their absolute fav ride. WDW was such a magical place for us. My sons got to feel very "normal" there despite all the big challenges. They really surprised us by how much they could tolerate and were willing to take on while there. Disney magic!

So, tell me about your experiences with Autism and WDW!

Answers above in bold. :)

prlady13
05-21-2012, 04:24 PM
I also have a 12 yr old son with Autism. Like your son, he has difficulty in social situations and although he is verbal he's not able to carry on a conversation. It's hard to say what will work or not since children on the spectrum are so different. But, with much preparation we were able to have a wonderful time. We're going on our second trip this Sept.

We always make sure to travel in the value seasons when it is less crowded since he is uncomfortable in large crowds. Also the lines are not as long so getting into an attraction is much quicker.

We went to Guest Services to get a Guest Assistance Pass. We didn't have any problems getting one but I did bring along a note from his pediatrician just in case.

With my son the most difficult part was dealing with the characters. As much as he loves Disney and their movies, he would not go near the characters in the parks. I know he is uncomfortable whenever we have seen life size characaters at any other amusement park or event and when we mentioned it to him before leaving for WDW, he said he did not want to take any pictures with them. We made sure to book all our ADR's with non-character dining and would just keep on walking whenever he saw them around the parks. He was ok as long as we didn't stop to take pictures with them.

He is also very sensitive to noises, so I brought along ear plugs for him to use whenever he needed. He especially used them at the 3-D shows and the fireworks. At one point he did begin to get very stressed and was crying because of the noise of the fireworks at MK. But once he put his ear plugs in and we moved and sat at a farther distance from the castle during the fireworks display, he was ok.

He loved the rides at MK. Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan are actually his favorites. He loved Expedition Everest at AK and going to Pizza Planet at HS. He also enjoyed the Nemo ride in Epcot. He didn't like the Haunted Mansion, especially having the ghost sitting next to him. He loves Disney movies so any movie themed rides he loved. That was the reason we decided to stay at AllStar Movies resort. He loved the gigantic statues, especially the Toy Story ones. We didn't have any problems with noise at the resort and he was fine in the food court.

We didn't go back to our hotels in the middle of the day but I think next visit we will. He was ok staying at the parks all day but we booked either late lunches or early dinners and that was a nice break for him from the parks. My son is a fish and loves being in the water. So, next time we'll break and head back to our resort for some swimming and relaxing. He also enjoyed the arcade at our resort.

The loud noise from the flushing toilets at the parks did bother him but as long as his ears were covered he was ok. Disney also has companion bathrooms if you need to go in with your son. Allears.net has their locations listed but there is one in every First Aid Station. Some parks have more than others.

He does tire easily and I always make sure he has a baseball cap on because the sun can be very strong in the afternoon. We took as much breaks as he needed either in airconditioned QS restaurants, shaded areas or go into shops. We brought his favorite snacks and would get drinks or ask for a cup of water (it's free).

He did really well on our first trip and is excited about going on our next one.

The airplane ride was also better than I expected, we flew SW. He had never been on an airplane before this trip. At the airport I also went to their Guest Services and asked for a pre-boarding pass due to his cognitive disablities. The SW employees at the GS were great and I didn't have any issues getting the pass for him. He was nervous and being able to pre-board before the large crowd was a huge help in getting him to go in the plane. He brought his backpack along with his favorite things like his Nintendo DS, games, coloring books, crayons, portable dvd player, Disney movies, and snacks. We brought headphones for the DVD player. He was fine througout the ride, landing and departing.

If you haven't already gotten any traveling books I recommend Passporters Open Mouse for traveling with disabilities. It's a great resource and will give you great tips for traveling with ASD individuals and how their sensory issues may be affected on certain rides, restaurants, resorts etc.
I'm even more excited about our next trip because he told me this time he wants to take pictures with the characters! :cool1: We'll see how that goes.

Disney is very accomadating and I hope that you and your family will have a wonderful vacation.

happyrebster
05-21-2012, 06:25 PM
Hello! We just returned from WDW with our Aspie daughter. I was quite nervous, but it all worked out fine! Above all, don't be afraid to ask the staff for any help or accommodations that you may need - but didn't anticipate. They are very kind and understanding.

Having her headphones in my backpack was a big help. She wore them on louder rides and sometimes in crowded restaurants. Very comforting for her.

She can panic if her clothes get unexpectedly wet; but wanted to ride Splash Mountain. Oh my! I was expecting a huge meltdown and her potentially removing her clothes in public! Yikes! But I spoke to the ride staff and they provided her a rain jacket. Worked great.

She had been on a plane before, but long trips are always tricky. As other suggested, I brought the nintendo ds and the ipad - really helped. We did have one or two instances on the plane where she had trouble regulating her voice volume, but folks near us were very understanding as soon as I explained that this is a challenge for her.

All in all, it was fine! You can do it! :)

SueM in MN
05-21-2012, 09:27 PM
Only time for a short reply, but want o point you toward some resources in the disABILITIES FAQs thread, which is near the top of this board or you can find a link in my signature.

Post 6 of that thread is about Guest Asistance Cards. They are not passes, but a card that gives Cast Members (CMs) a bit of information about special need of guests with invisible needs.

Post 3 has helpful links including:
- a link to a thread about bathrooms, which lists the location of Companion Restrooms in the parks. There are also pictures of many of them. Keep in mind that many toilets at WDW are auto flushing and may flush just by the person using the toilet changing position. Post it notes placed over the sensor are very helpful in keeping them from flushing until you remove the post it note.

- a link to an interactive WDW trip video where you can choose which ride to go into. It is helpful because it gives an idea of the sounds as well as the sights.

- link under the heading of Communication books, PECs, etc to a fabulous book that one mom made for her son with autism.

There is a post on that thread about air travel which includes links to the TSA website, including information about what TSA screening is like, with some videos made for kids.

Page 2 of the FAQs thread has some posts about rides with bright lights and those which may cause feelings of claustrophobia.

LuvsTinker
05-22-2012, 01:55 PM
I also have a 12 yo son with autism. He talks but hard to hold a normal conversation. He has social issues as well as sensory issues with loud noises. We use ear plugs when needed.

We have flown many times and fortunately my son has not been bothered by it. He brings his Nintendo and headphones.

My son loves MK and the kiddie rides. If your son likes Toy Story, check out the Buzz Lightyear ride in MK.

Depending your child, taking breaks always helps to wind down from the heat and crowds and sensory overload.

We always stay at the CBR. They have a cool pirate ship water play area and large pool. My son likes seeing the ducks/rabbits and the sand area with the playground, also likes the bridge that crosses the lake - there are some birds on the island section.

SenecaWolf
05-24-2012, 08:31 PM
My DD16 is on the spectrum, has ODD and had a sensory processing delay. Lots of behavior mod, OT, and maturing we have managed to learn how to deal with daily life with very little 'interruption'. Until we went to Disney World.

I saw so many behaviors that I haven't seen in years that I had to remember how to deal with them. She hasnt had problems with sensory issues (except for food) for YEARS. I think the sights, sounds and smells hit immediately and started the downhill trend.

The main thing I learned is to allow for daily breaks! She was so overwhelmed that she was miserable and for the first 2 days I was trying so hard to stick to my planning that the stress of her behavior and attitude had me in tears by the end of the day.

By day 3 all planning was out the window. We left early and went back to the resort in the afternoon. Even if we had an ADR for later we adjusted. Lots of rest and snacks! We took fruit snacks and granola bars and if she was getting agitated we would find a bench, table, wall, somewhere to sit and just let her nibble and unwind. Preferably away from alot of activity so she could try to self-calm. I had wanted this to be a cell phone free vacation but I found that if she used her headphones and played music she was much more happier. It also allowed her the freedom to 'escape' if we happened to be in a busy queue or crowded area.

As for flying, go on YouTube and find videos of take-offs and landings. I searched for "JetBlue takeoff" and there are many videos people have made that give an idea what its going to look like, sounds like and the inside of the plane. JetBlue was nice because of the tvs in the seats, made for a nice easy distraction.

Good luck and have a great time!

Makcarly
05-25-2012, 02:52 PM
Thanks for all the suggestions and tips! I am looking forward to taking him and DD!!