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Old 10-07-2013, 03:38 PM   #16
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I don't have an autistic child but -

The buffet during lunch and breakfast can be very full and hectic - the MDRs that offer those meals are usually MUCH quieter - or eat early/late - or think about room service - its (for the most part) free. If you board immediately you can't get into your room and EVERYONE is in the public areas or the buffets - its one of the most crowded times on the ship - have a late breakfast off the ship and board a little later - the buffet will be open for a few hours, and the food counters near the pool only close for the drill.
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Old 10-07-2013, 05:26 PM   #17
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Hi we were on the Fantasy earlier this year and no DCL don't do anything special for children with Autism. My son is 8 and high functioning but hates loud noises and huge crowds of people in a small space. We asked about priority boarding and was told no, we asked to be sat on the edge in the restaurants this did not happen. Our servers were great at meal times and had the food ready for him as he only eats certain food and drink. CMs in the kids clubs were great and we had to drag him away each night. We would definitely do it again as he says it was the best time ever
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Old 10-07-2013, 06:26 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by chelleharper View Post
My DH and I are in the process of planning our first cruise with our DS (4) and DD (2). They will be 5 and 3 at sail date.

My son has been diagnosed with Autism. He is high functioning and has some sensory issues (very loud noises, large crowds). We opted for the cruise over the parks for these reasons.

Can anyone tell me what kind of assistance they provide to children with special needs? I am a true novice when it comes to DCL and I want to be sure I do as much "homework" as I can prior to cruising. TIA!
Our second son has Aspberger's as well. The first cruise we took, the boys were 8, 5, and 4. Our autistic son also does not like loud sounds and crowds, and MUCH prefers consistency in his schedule. We were concerned, but like you, thought the cruise would be much better than the parks due to limited numbers.

I'm glad we were on the Wonder since it's one of the smaller ships ... and with the fewer numbers of passengers, it did help. Our autistic son was reluctant to leave us but with his younger brother at his side, he felt comfortable in the clubs. At that time, the clubs were set up in particular age brackets. Will just went into the younger club with Tom, and all was well. I spoke with the counselors who had contact with him so they were aware of his idiosyncrasies, and knew what to do for him in most cases to help him successfully navigate the clubs, and to try to interact with the other children. His older brother was also permitted to 'pop in' to check up on the younger ones. The little boys, while NOT fond of Jack's hovering in the usual settings at home, were supremely happy to see him from time-to-time in their club. They had a sense of being 'big boys' as well as having the familiarity of their older brother around ... and actually told Dad and Mom that they were fine and didn't need US to check in with them!

As for the horn and the sail-away party, we use the ear protection headsets most often seen at airports and car races. Will wears those whenever he's around loud noises, and it sufficiently muffles the noise level for him to tolerate it.

The consistency issue was a little trickier because he was now in an unfamiliar bed, with unfamiliar smells and noises, and with a completely destroyed schedule. As for the bed, I brought the satin-type of bedding to use so he could sleep, and the soft, microfiber blanket he needs for comfort. (He has issues with how clothing, etc. feels on his skin, and still does to this day!) It did wonders to help him transition to an unknown place. The kids' clubs had itineraries at that time (I should say this is 13 years ago ... but I'm sure they've only IMPROVED the process by now), and I could prepare Will for what would be happening, and at what time. This helped him cope a lot. Even at 5 years old, he could understand enough of this to give him a sense of balance.

All said, the autistic boy did amazingly well because of Disney and the counselors' willingness to accommodate him. The modifications needed were minimal, and Will never seemed to notice that anything was different for him than for any other child there. It really was the start of his 'main-streaming' that continues to this day. It's incredible to see where he is now as compared to then ...

All the best to you and yours. You will certainly be pleasantly surprised at how your son grows and matures despite the autism!

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Old 10-07-2013, 06:47 PM   #19
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Let me start by saying you know your child best and make his comfort first and foremost

My daughter Jen is almost 25yrs and she has been sailing for YEARS! We will board the Fantasy for our 14+ DCL cruise. We also cruise other cruise lines and have for years. Jen has a long list of issues both physical and intellectual and Autism is on her list. When cruising there are things we keep in mind. Routine in important and we stick to the same routine on the ship that we follow at home, same breakfast cereal, same drink (we bring her cup from home), same snacks, same same same, it gives her comfort knowing what is coming next.

Noise, Noise, Noise! Yes there is a lot of it. I contact the special needs department and ask for a dinning table nearest the doors and NOT in the center of the room, this leads for a quick get-away if needed. If you have to dash off before dinner is over the servers are more than happy to send your dinner to the cabin with the hubby......ours always made sure I have extra desert!

Muster Drill - Ear Pugs! the foam kind that you roll between your fingers to make small and then expand once in your ears work very well. Tell the muster station folks and that you would like to be dismissed before the crowd and explain why and they will be more than happy to accommodate.

Cabin, if you need extra padding on the bed (my daughter has back issues) request that from the Special Needs department too.

Speaking of the cabin, we do spend a lot of time there my daughter needs extra quiet time, so a cabin with a verandah is perfect for us, she gets the quiet and we still get the view!

as a side note ~ my Jen LOVES to cruise, to see her is amazing to us every single time! She is happier on the ship than she is at home!!!!

Take a risk you may be pleasantly surprised!!

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Old 10-07-2013, 10:19 PM   #20
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My son was 12 when we took our first cruise and I was a little worried about how he would handle it since he has Asperger's. He did awesome! The noise got to be a bit much for him at times but he carried around ear plugs and put them in when he needed them. He does have some food aversions and at home we work on them but we told him in advance that on vacation he could eat whatever he chose with no interference from us. To our delight and surprise on his own he picked a more varied menu than he eats at home. He really enjoyed the shows (he used his ear plugs) and had a great time playing various family games. He even won at Who Wants To Be a Mousketeer? His only problem was that there was a group of unkind kids in the Edge so he didn't get to enjoy the club as much as he had hoped. He liked the counselors in the Edge but said they didn't really help him out when he needed it. (One cast member did go out and do a scavenger hunt with him when the other kids wouldn't let him go with them. to that guy!) For the most part he did the entire cruise without any special accommodations. He can't wait to go on the next cruise and he says now it's his favorite kind of vacation.

(Oh, I forgot to add that we were on an 8 night cruise and the new routine and environment were a little tough for him to adjust to for the first day or so but I think he was having so much fun that he forgot to be super anxious and once he got the routine down he did well.)

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Old 10-08-2013, 08:25 AM   #21
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I am a high-functioning autistic adult (Aspergers) with a high-functioning autistic son (Aspergers) and two typical children, and we didn't have any significant issues on the (completely full) Fantasy in August. I would agree with all the posters who said that the alarm for the muster drill is LOUD, so ear protection is a great idea (I didn't know that before we boarded, so we did our best). We didn't find the ship's horn loud, but we never were outside when it sounded.

The worst times for my son and I were the Pirate Party and the sail-away party. I do ok in crowds (much better than I did as a child) but he really doesn't like them and starts exhibiting unusual behaviors when he gets uncomfortable. The beginning of the pirate party (when everyone was sitting on the pool deck) was fine, but once the dancing started it got too overwhelming for him. I found him a chair off to the side and sat with him while my DH and other two kids enjoyed the party. We didn't bother to stay at the sail-away party because it was so crowded we couldn't have seen anything anyway.

I will say that we asked for special accommodations for dinner and were told it wasn't possible (specifically, we asked for pizza without cheese, as he has a texture issue with it, and for Uncrustables). I did not tell our server about his autism, just made the request. I've posted about that on the DIS before and it seems like we just got a bad serving team, since we also were denied other requests that it's customary for them to be fine with.

Oh - and all three of my kids did fine in the clubs - no issues at all.

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Old 10-08-2013, 02:46 PM   #22
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My son is on the spectrum, and we cruised last month. He is older (14). We requested to be seated alone, and we were granted that request, which was nice. He has anxiety around people he doesn't know, so that made meal time more pleasant. Other than that, there were no special accommodations that I requested. He really wasn't into the teen/tween clubs going solo, so we went together at open house times to the teen/tween and younger kid clubs (with my DD).

Oh, and as far as lunch on embarkation day, head to the main dining room after you board, not the buffet. I knew the buffet would be nutso, and I didn't want to get started off with him being overwhelmed.
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Old 10-08-2013, 03:07 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by lyzard77 View Post

We just got back yesterday from the Disney Dream (3 nights). My 4-year old Autistic son is not potty trained. They allowed him in the kids' club as long as we came by every 30-45 minutes to check on him and change his diaper (if needed). He really liked it. There are lots of different rooms to escape to and explore. He is sensory seeking, but adverse to some loud noises (crying, clapping). Ironically, he also likes to make lots of loud noises. Good luck to you and your family!

Thank you for this. He is usually good for a couple hours but that's good to know we might be able to check on him. He is actually already night time trained just won't tell us when he has to go. He loves Playgrounds so I know he will love this. My only concern is he is a runner and they might have an issue with it but, I guess we could try it out.
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Old 10-08-2013, 03:15 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Irishgrl View Post
.... My only concern is he is a runner and they might have an issue with it but, I guess we could try it out.
From the Club/Lab - there is no place to run to. He won't get out. He'd have to get past at least a couple of CMs and through a locked gate. I don't think I've ever heard of a runner getting out of the Club or Lab. You can cross that worry off your list!

Enjoy your cruise!
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Old 10-08-2013, 07:08 PM   #25
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I have ran across a number of families that have had children with Autism on there...and once had a family sit with us that had 2 Autistic children.....their children were in the kids clubs but one had to come out more often...

From what I gathered from conversations the people that are in the kids clubs were very understanding and use to dealing with what may come up with those with autism.....

have fun and have an awesome cruise
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Old 10-08-2013, 09:01 PM   #26
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Please consider having breakfast and lunch in the main dinning rooms. We have always found them to be very quiet as most people eat at the buffets. Also remember room service is included in the cruise fee and it is a great way to wind down and have a snack in the quiet. I'm sure you guys will have a blast
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Old 10-09-2013, 09:37 AM   #27
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We are using Autism on the Seas for our next cruise. Not one of the cruises w/ the staff, but they will be making contacts for us, arrange for a seperate area for the muster or arrange for us to be able to stay in our room for it, also, there is a seperate boarding time just for the Autism on the Seas families so we can get on board w/ less stress. Also, if your child isn't potty trained, you will get a waiver to allow them into the kids clubs and much, much more. Their services are, for most people, absolutely free (for cruises w/o their staff). We booked on DVC points so we had to pay but only $50. They'll be taking care of a LOT of stuff. Google them and read up! Having cruised once w/ our austitic son, holy hannah, we didn't want a repeat of that cruise where I spent nearly the whole time in our room and only got to eat w/ my DH and oldest son once. It CAN be done! Just ask for help! Me? I prefer to go to the people that are experienced in it like AotS.

Last we cruised w/ him, he was 2 and completely non-verbal. He'll be 6 in a few weeks an only started to talk (a little, not in sentences yet) less than 6 months ago. If you'd like to hear about what worked and more to the point, DIDN'T work when our son was 2, I'd be happy to share. Just LMK. I don't want to bore anyone. I agree w/ the previous poster that said to try and keep everything as SAME as you can. Same food, same, same same! It helps.
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Old 10-09-2013, 10:05 AM   #28
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That company hasn't changed it's website in a while and some of the things they claim to be able to do are no longer possible on DCL. The open house times have been established to accommodate some of them. There are posts here about them, and they are not all positive. An advanced search for autism in titles only will bring up the threads.

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Old 10-09-2013, 10:10 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by lbgraves View Post
That company hasn't changed it's website in a while and some of the things they claim to be able to do are no longer possible on DCL. The open house times have been established to accommodate some of them. There are posts here about them, and they are not all positive. An advanced search for autism in titles only will bring up the threads.
Some people might be expecting WAY too much too. The recent GAC travesty anyone???? Nothing will ever be all positive. I'm sure things we want to be sure of can be verified before the cruise and we're travel savvy enough with him to know what we can and cannot do.

PS: the search function stinks!
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Last edited by ppony; 10-09-2013 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 10-09-2013, 10:25 AM   #30
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I actually Called Guest Relations Yesterday and got a wonder gentleman on the phone that walked me through every area on a cruise that could be an issues and documented everything for us on our reservation. He said as long as i was willing to go back every hours or so and made she he went on the potty or was changed than there was no reason he could not use the Kids Club. He brought up things that I didn't even think of. Here is the number if you want to call and ask any questions. 407-566-3602.
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