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Old 10-04-2012, 02:09 PM   #16
SmallWorld71
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Originally Posted by chipsgirl View Post
He does not do well at all in crowded restaurants so I'm guessing we will have to skip the character meals. That's going to break my daughter's heart
I mean this in the nicest way, but if your DD has never been then she will be in awe of everything and not going to character meals is really not a big deal. I've been going to WDW since I was a little girl and didn't attend my first character meal until my 20's. I can assure you it did not damper my experience at all. There are tons of places in the parks to meet the characters and I would research those. This way, if your DS does not like meeting them, it will still be possible for someone to take you DD to meet the characters. She will still get the character experience, just without the food.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:14 PM   #17
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We are planning on going to Disney for Spring Break with my husbands family. My little boy will have just turned 4 when we leave for the trip. He has Autism and SPD. He hates crowds, loud noises, lots of movement, smells, and heat. Unfortunately I have no decision making over when we go since this is a gift to us so I'm trying to prepare myself as best as I can but honestly I don't have much hope for this being anything but a disaster. I've been to Disney many times but not since 2004 and never with my kids. If anyone can offer tips to make the trip as easy as possible for my little guy, I'd really appreciate it. I also have a daughter who will be 5 and she loves all things Disney so we want to make it as wonderful for her and not make her miss too many things because of her brother. It's hard to balance
Assuming your husband will be with you. Don't be afraid to split up. If your son enjoys the resort more spend time in the pool with him and send you DH with your daughter.

If you want a character meal try a late as you can schedual breakfast at Cape May. They do not serve lunch so it really empties out later in the morning. It has Minnie, Goofy and Donald in beach clothes.

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Old 10-06-2012, 03:16 PM   #18
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I've never been during Spring Break. Our friends went then once, and totally changed their sleep habits to try to make things work. They would go to the parks after dinner, because the MK was open til some crazy hour like 2 am, and they said the crowds were more manageable late at night; less people.

We go the first week school is out in June. OUr younger dd has ASD. We split up, dh and our 14 yr old go do the coasters, etc. Our 6 yr old and I go to a park in the morning, first thing. We still bring her stroller, because she's still so light, and it gives her a safe place to retreat from crowds.

We eat lunch, and she's usually done for the day, so we go back to the resort, play Legos, and go to the pool. We don't do TS restaurants at all. However, we have DVC, so we cook dinner there every night. We also have breakfast before going to the parks, and have some type of juice/snacks.

Our little girl loves her toys from home, so we always pack a stuffed animal, the legos, Barbies etc. She really loves sorting things, so when she's overstimulated, teh legos are kind of a ritual she uses to chill out.

If I were going at Spring Break, I'd tell the kids to pick 3 must do rides or shows each day. Even if the parks are super busy, hopefully you could at least do them. Don't be afraid to split up, and be prepared for one parent to take your son back to the room.

I hope you have a great trip!
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Old 10-07-2012, 06:09 PM   #19
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Great thread! We are going to WDW in June again...this will be our 11th trip. We have extended an invitation to my husband's cousin who is recently "single" and has three young children and her DS is 5 with Autism, plus they are still trying to determine if he has additional challenges.

This has been great to read since she is not sure if she wants to take this adventure yet. We told her we will be there to support her. Thanks for all of the tips even though this is not my thread. Now we just need to figure out if the costs is plausible for her.

I may be back....
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Old 10-07-2012, 06:30 PM   #20
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My DS is also 4 with ASD and SPD and I have a NT DD who is 5. All of those are great suggestions. Funny that so many kids fave ride is Small World, its my son's also. We also hit up Carousel of Progress, never busy,quiet.
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Old 10-07-2012, 08:55 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by chipsgirl View Post
We are planning on going to Disney for Spring Break with my husbands family. My little boy will have just turned 4 when we leave for the trip. He has Autism and SPD. He hates crowds, loud noises, lots of movement, smells, and heat. Unfortunately I have no decision making over when we go since this is a gift to us so I'm trying to prepare myself as best as I can but honestly I don't have much hope for this being anything but a disaster. I've been to Disney many times but not since 2004 and never with my kids. If anyone can offer tips to make the trip as easy as possible for my little guy, I'd really appreciate it. I also have a daughter who will be 5 and she loves all things Disney so we want to make it as wonderful for her and not make her miss too many things because of her brother. It's hard to balance
You have received some great advice!

My son is 8 and high functioning. Please feel free to read my Trip Report, it's purple in my signature, it is a perpetual trip report as we go frequently.

My son always wears a hat to block his view of all the people.
He uses a medical stroller/wheel chair as his refuge.
We bring post it notes to put over toilet sensors.
A flash light or glow stick for if we get stuck on dark attractions.
A brush for Wilbarger Brushing Protocol.
Wears earphones to block noise, restaurants are where he has most problems.

Once he brought a pencil case of the tiniest Lego pieces. He put them together to distract himself.

He loves Coral Reef. He is just as happy watching the fish from the top level as he is watching them at window level. We usually eat right when the restaurant opens for either lunch or dinner. Once it fills up, it's too much noise for him even with the ear muffs. Ileonna is our favorite server. She knows us and knows he likes his own butter and extra ketchup. She also is great in how she words what she says to him!

We use him for a gauge of what we can do. Go at his pace. We eat at off times so that there aren't so many people around.

For example, we learned that we can't go to the F&W Festival on busy nights. He hates darkness and crowds. He did much better on a weeknight with little crowd.



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Thank you for all the tips.

Do they have strollers for rent in the park with a hood? Do I get the wheelchair sticker for it the same time that I get the GAC? Whenever we go to the zoo, he likes to have the stroller to hide out in so that's definitely a good idea for Disney as well.

He does not do well at all in crowded restaurants so I'm guessing we will have to skip the character meals. That's going to break my daughter's heart
We skipped character meals for years because of the expense and anxiety. But recently we went to the Tusker House and the Crystal Palace. Both for lunch, when they just started serving lunch. And it went great! We placed him where he could see the characters approaching, so there were no surprises.

I think you'll be surprised at how wonderful Disney can be. My son is very verbal and he says he loves Disney because it's the one place he feels "normal". Where else can you teach Cinderella and Prince Charming how to use the force?
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Old 10-13-2012, 09:13 PM   #22
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Also, locate the family bathroom. In MK there is one nice one near the Crystal Palace I believe. For children still I pull ups or who are afraid of bathroom sounds, it is great. My daughter was so afraid of the bathrooms but we used this family one whenever we were near and also kept the free round stickers that CM will give you ,..in your pocket. Put them over the auto sensor. Just remove when you leave!
Oh my gosh! that's great! I never thought of covering them with those stickers...i know i end up with pockets full coming home!
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Old 10-17-2012, 02:22 PM   #23
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2 years ago we took my then 3y/o son who had ASD during spring break and I definitely agree with everyone that stroller as a wheelchair and a GAC were life savers for us!!
Other than what's already been mentioned we found that it was best to go early in the morning, leave for lunch (cheaper outside of the parks anyway) then nap, or chill out until after dinner and go back. By breaking up the day, he didn't get as overwhelmed. And we ate most of our meals outside of the park which saved us a ton of money. There is a lot to eat within just a few miles of Disney.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:05 AM   #24
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Garden Grill has booths that have really high backs and when you're in them you feel like you're all alone with the rest of the restaurant blocked out. You could request one of these booths if you're willing to wait. I like booking first seating ADRs when possible which helps with crowds in the waiting area plus it makes it easier to get requests like these with less wait. Garden Grill has Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale.

1900 Park Fare has an annex area off to the side. This area is only wide enough for one row of tables against each wall and is I think maybe around 6 tables deep. The table are pretty close together but it's a much smaller room so maybe he could handle that a little better? If he's ok waiting at the table while somebody else goes to get his food then he might be able to cope with that a bit better than in a big dining room. Even in the annex it does get kind of noisy. Look around at pictures to see if it might work.

Cape May Cafe also has an annex area but it's a bit more spacious. We haven't sat in that one so I don't know much about it other than it exists. When we've done a last breakfast seating here, even when we sit in the dining room it doesn't feel all that crowded. It feels airy and spacious even when all of the tables are full. You can request a booth to give him more comfort as there's no way another person's chair can bump him accidentally if he's in a booth, plus the booths if I recall had high enough backs so that he'd have to get up on his knees in order to see the people at the next table which means it feels more like personal space rather than crowded by the next table. Breakfast had Minnie, Goofy and Donald last time I checked.
I found this thread again when I was looking for information about Dining options for character meals.
clanmcculloch had some good suggestions for a different character meals and seating. I thought they might be of use to some recent posters were looking for that sort of information.
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I would not rent a park stroller - they are fine for regular stroller use, but they are hard plastic, the canopy doesn't come down far like in a regular stroller, and the sides are not as deep. They would not make good "comfort zones"! We rented a stroller from Orlando Stroller Rentals (they have a banner on the families forum here on the DIS) and were thrilled with it. My son loved it and he sometimes hesitates with strange strollers. It was really easy to fold up (just pull from a handle in the middle - the easiest I've had!).

Also, if you rent from an outside rental place you will have it for at the resort too. They deliver it to your resort - pick up at bell services - and then they pick it up too. You just return it to bell services.

Does your son eat at restaurants? Mine does not - he is really picky about food and eats only a very limited amount/selection. So if yours eats, he may do better at the restaurants in a booth like another poster said. To be honest though, I didn't find the character meals to be worth it. I thought the interaction was better outside of the restaurants and the pictures are a lot better at the regular meet and greets. The meal felt more stressful waiting for characters and trying to get pictures. We decided not to do it again next trip. We encounter enough stress without adding to it! Also, the character meals are kind of loud.

Rather than character meals, you might want to do a special experience for your daughter like BBB to dress up like a princess or Pirates League to be done up like a pirate or mermaid.

When you get your GAC, they will give you the tag to put on your stroller. You keep the tag the whole trip.
I wanted to point out that some people with autism actually like those park rental strollers, mostly because they are hard plastic and give a firm seating experience.
Many people with autism like firm pressure which the harder seat does provide compared to what you would get in a sling seated stroller. The plastic is actually a firm plastic, similar to the type of plastic used in Little Tykes products.

Many people add additional things to the top of things canopy on the park rental strollers such as a lightweight blankets that they can use to block out sensory input. Some people prefer to rent a double stroller for one child because it provides more space for moving around.

There is more information about strollers including the park rental strollers, with pictures, and places that you can rent strollers or special-needs strollers. You will find the information in post two of the disABILITIES FAQs. It is near the top of this board or you can follow the link in my signature.

That thread also has information about Guest Assistance Cards and using strollers as wheelchairs in post number six.

I also removed a link in this thread to some autism information from allears.net
Much of the information in that link is incorrect especially in terms of needing a doctors letter.
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Old 02-13-2013, 02:49 PM   #25
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Just back from 5 days with our 4yo son with ASD and his older bro and younger sis. This was not supposed to be a high crowd time, but we could not have done it without the GAC...many 45 minute waits for popular attractions which would have been a disaster. Fortunately his favorite ride seemed to be IASW too! We went on it several times.
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Old 02-19-2013, 04:55 PM   #26
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Thank you for all the tips.

Do they have strollers for rent in the park with a hood? Do I get the wheelchair sticker for it the same time that I get the GAC? Whenever we go to the zoo, he likes to have the stroller to hide out in so that's definitely a good idea for Disney as well.

He does not do well at all in crowded restaurants so I'm guessing we will have to skip the character meals. That's going to break my daughter's heart
Honestly I'd just plan to have the adults take turns being with your son. Plan all the stuff that his sister would like and when it gets too much whoever is on "son" duty, takes him and goes back to the resort to cool off or play in the pool or just chill in the room or just wander around the park and amuse him at the playgrounds or something. It sucks that an adult may have to miss something but that way your daughter has a good time and he has options that keep him happy. As far as charecter meals, just dont' plan on him going. Have someone take him to do something else or for a meal he likes.
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Old 02-23-2013, 03:16 PM   #27
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My DS is 9, has ASD and SPD and has been doing wDW with us since he was little.... as his diagnois became evident it changed the way we did WDW.
The first year after his diagnosis I made cards for each attaction with pictures and basic info. We laminated them and kept them on a ring, so we could re-arrnage our plan as we went - ie. if small world was down, we could move it two back on our plan and keep going. It didn't solve all meltdowns but it was a start. And to be honest I haven't gone to quite that much work since
Now we get him the most recent Birmbaum's Kids book on WDW and he reads and we look at all the rides. For new rides he hasn't seen we watch youtube ride though videos - yes, it "spoils" the surprise, but that is better for him.

On our last trip he wore a Buzz Lightyear hoodie the whole trip - it was early Dec. One night we braved CRT (DD was 5 and it was really for her), we sat DS in a corner away from the path the princesses used and he kept his hoodie on the whole time. The princesses spoke to him (called him Buzz), but didn't force an interaction. Halfway though dinner DS says to me "my Disguise is working, they think I am Buzz Lightyear" I hadn't realized that he was thinking this way at all, and then I realized that all the cast members we ran into called him Buzz. So I picked up a new hoodie for our next trip... Woody this time
I found a site online that has Social Stories for WDW, which were great. We even got DS to do some pin trading! Our experience is that you will have meltdowns and struggles - those happen everywhere. But you will also have moments of great growth. Suddenly kiddo wants to order for himself at a restauraunt or something small, that is really huge

We take the noise reducing headphones and fidgets for his hands. Gum and sour candies. We take a break each day - find some quite time. We start walking more at home a few months before the trip... we ended up walking 20 miles on our last trip to the world - his second trip without a stroller! We haven't done the GAC but always done FP.
Prepare, then when you get there be flexible... have a WONDERFUL time.
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