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Old 10-06-2012, 01:11 PM   #1
Imoutnumbered
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Character dining worth it?

My kids (3 and 5) have high functions asd. We have been to Disney aluni while stationed here in Hawaii. It was somewhat of a disaster. Both kids hid and screamed under the table and were freaked out by the characters. My daughter did only come out for Minnie. I plan on making their autograph books and fear I'm aiming to high of expectations for them. I heard to get some autographs without long lines ( I know mine wont last in them) to do character meals. Do you think it will be a waist of money considering they are scared of them? They love seeing them, but just not the interaction. I also plan on having a card attached to their lanyards they will wear warning cast members of their asd, so they don't just come up to the kids and try to hug or touch them.

Any suggestions? My husband doesn't understand how asd effects them and was really disappointed in thier last reactions. He didn't get that the kids still loved seeing them. I'm just trying t please everyone.
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Old 10-06-2012, 03:20 PM   #2
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I would book them, but I would put the kids at the backside of the table so that a character can't come up behind them. Ask for a table along a wall and explain why. This also allows for the children to see the characters, but still have distance from them. If the child wants to go to the characters, then they can come out on their own. I would also be sure to be the one to go up to the characters first and give them a heads up.

One question though, was it all characters that they are scared of or just ones like Mickey and Pooh? Some children have problems with these characters, but not face characters, like Cinderella. If it is only Mickey type characters, then I would go to more meals with Cinderella type.
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Old 10-06-2012, 03:23 PM   #3
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My son with autism spent his entire meal looking over his shoulder to make sure a character didn't sneak up on him. So a wall seat as PP mentioned might be helpful. My kids do not like characters so after one less than successful trip with an autograph book, we just decided not to stress the whole family out trying to get the autographs...
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Old 10-06-2012, 04:43 PM   #4
Imoutnumbered
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at alunai they only have characters (non face ones). she was fine with minnie, but the rest was a no go. our son (also asd) didnt like any. its so hard because they want to see them, even ask to wait in a line, but once up there they just freak out. im making their autograph books today with the thinking that either dh or i can at least get the autograph and a photo for the kids to remember.
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Old 10-06-2012, 06:25 PM   #5
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I would look at how it works. Garden Grill for example they come usually one at a time, and our backs were to the booth so really comfy for kids were are scared. Our DS has mild CP and likes characters but not too much contact. He warmed up in the end. Tusker House in Animal Kingdom was nice since they come by and there is lots to do and eat. The 1900 Park Fare was a disaster for our son...lots of issues and they will not come back if you are not in your seat...too much fan fare and entrances...I would book ones that look good and have them watch youtube of others who have gone to gage which one.
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Old 10-07-2012, 12:07 PM   #6
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If you talk to their cm handler which each restuarat has that has characters. And explain your situation thy could inform the character not to sneak up or go up to the table how more carefully not to scare or make any one uncomfortable. When you checkin you could aka to speak to a manager or the character cm just to give them a heads up. Because some characters might not be able to see the card and about time they get to them it my be to late. But if they know then they could approach your table with a better way to make sure your kids are happy. May be if they see them go around once they want to. Meet them. Also If you go to the park they could watch the character from a safe distance and ten maybe their want to go up to say hi then may be their feel more comfortable with them.
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Old 10-07-2012, 12:50 PM   #7
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If your kids don't like the characters, why are you doing the autograph books and character meals? Yes, I think this is a waste of money. If they like the characters at a distance, they'll see plenty of them walking around the parks. Don't add something else to stress out about when you don't need to.
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Old 10-07-2012, 04:39 PM   #8
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At MK you can get FPs for Princess and Mickey character meets. This will allow you to avoid long wait times and have a chance to speak with the character handlers about your children's special concerns. My daughter loved the Princess meet, because she was able to meet Belle, Aurora, and Cinderella in quick succession. My daughter gets very stressed in unfamiliar settings, but the Princessses were so sweet and calm, she even let Belle give her a hug. The Photopass photographers were also very good. We got some great pictures.

We've done character meals, because my younger son loves them, but my daughter has had mixed feelings about them. I agree with the PP who suggested Garden Grill. That was one that everyone enjoyed. It's not as crazy, loud, and over-stimulating as some of the other meals can be.
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Old 10-08-2012, 06:39 AM   #9
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Something I've had to learn the hard way is that just because *I* think that my kids should enjoy certain portions of the WDW experience doesn't mean that they will. This is true for both my Aspie and my NT child.

Ask yourself why you want to get them autograph books and go to character meals and meet characters. They've shown no interest. If it's based on a preconceived idea that kids should like it then save yourselves the anxiety, aggrevation and expense and skip it. You'll be so glad that you did. Even for families without special needs kids, it's important to pick and choose which experiences can be fit into your vacation as it is impossible to do everything. I would strongly urge you to pick and choose the things in which your kids have shown some interest and scratch the things that cause anxiety off the list.
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Old 10-08-2012, 08:11 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clanmcculloch View Post
Something I've had to learn the hard way is that just because *I* think that my kids should enjoy certain portions of the WDW experience doesn't mean that they will. This is true for both my Aspie and my NT child.

Ask yourself why you want to get them autograph books and go to character meals and meet characters. They've shown no interest. If it's based on a preconceived idea that kids should like it then save yourselves the anxiety, aggrevation and expense and skip it. You'll be so glad that you did. Even for families without special needs kids, it's important to pick and choose which experiences can be fit into your vacation as it is impossible to do everything. I would strongly urge you to pick and choose the things in which your kids have shown some interest and scratch the things that cause anxiety off the list.
I want to second this.

I'm in my late 20s and I've never gone to a character meal or gone to a character meet and greet. I'm not afraid of the characters, but it's just never been a priority or particular interest. My first time at WDW as a kid I met characters who were walking around in places I happened to be and I've been to parades on most of my WDW trips, but that's it. Autographs were never something I thought was interesting; I'd rather have a photo of the character or me with the character, if anything. It may just be that whether your kids eventually stop being afraid or not (I have non-autistic friends who as adults still are freaked out by the characters who wear masks), they may just not be interested. There are so many other things at WDW that I hadn't even thought about the fact that I've had almost no character interaction until this thread came up. It's a lot harder to avoid characters at WDW than it is to find them (there are characters that are rarer than others, but if your kids aren't interested they probably aren't going to care who they see), but it's fairly easy to avoid interaction.

I just think it might be easier for everyone if you remove the character interaction pressure since it's certainly not what makes Disney magical. I think you'll all end up happier if you don't have to worry about photos of anxious children with characters or getting autographs. Not to mention that it's cheaper to not book character meals and gives you more time to do other things that the kids do enjoy.
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Old 10-08-2012, 09:36 AM   #11
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If the kids are that freaked out, definitely stay far away from character meals, IMO. The meals are so expensive, anyways!

At Aulani, did they have characters walking around the resort? How were your kids with that?
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Old 10-08-2012, 11:41 AM   #12
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We love character meals. Our son has an aquired brain injury and his symptoms are very similar to high functioning autism.

Before taking him when he was 4, I made a social story about meeting characters. I went online and found pictures at the Crystal Palace and Hollywood and Vine. The 2 places we were going for character meals. I photoshoped his head on another kiddo's body. I also put in a part about how sometimes you wait inline for characters. He loved all the characters and got over 50 autographs his first trip.

I made sure to check what characters were currently appearing. I didn't want to use outdated photos.

We went again when he was 6. I did not have to do any social stories with him before that trip. He choose the character meals that trip. Cinderella's breakfast and Ohana Breakfast. Both were amazing.

Prior to going when he was 4 he was terrified of the easter bunny and Santa. Disney was great in that it helped him get over those fears.
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Old 10-08-2012, 12:02 PM   #13
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We have a daughter on the autism spectrum. Before our first trip when our twins were 6, I wrote a social story about the characters. We talked about face characters and characters with masks. Social Stories were developed by Carol Gray. She created a formula for writing a story that explains a situation for a child. It is very specific. Our school lent me the manual and video on how to write the stories.

I was a little nervous about how this would go as they would never go for a Santa pic. However, with preparation, it went well. I thought by this summer, their 4th Disney trip, we would be able to forgo autographs. But at age 11, the girls still love it. Mostly, they love looking through their books.

Good luck, and don't sweat it if this isn't something they enjoy.
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Old 10-08-2012, 12:09 PM   #14
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Autism may not be as big an issue as simply age. They are still pretty little.
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Old 10-09-2012, 12:21 AM   #15
Imoutnumbered
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Thank you all for the replies. The photos and autographs are important bc my kids like to look back and remember, which is why i asked if adults can get the signatures (bc then dh or I could get them). They love looking back on trips and reliving the experience. I think we might skip the character meals, that might be to much for them. I'm working on social stories now. I've made them plenty of times and it helps them so much knowing what to expect.
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