Advice for surprise trip with autistic son

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by respmom, May 16, 2013.

  1. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    Hello all!

    I am planning a surprise trip for wdw we leave in one week! I have three kiddies ds 11( autism spectrum PDD, anxiety and bipolar) ds 7 ADHD and my beautiful dd 2.... Just wondering on any tips and advice for the park with them? I'm concerned about my ds ability to wait in long lines, though I know he wants to ride the rides....help?
     
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  3. SueM in MN

    SueM in MN combining the teacups with a roller coaster Moderator

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    I only have time for one sentence, but my advice would be that surprises like this usually do not go well for people with ASD or anxiety because they need time to plan and process.
     
  4. lanejudy

    lanejudy Moderator Moderator

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    I have to agree with SueM that such surprises don't always have the happy experience the parents expect. However, you know your child(ren) best and if you feel DS11 can handle the surprise that's great.

    Fortunately since you are going next week it won't be peak crowds because most schools are still in session. The best way to avoid lines is to use a good touring plan and FastPasses. There really isn't any magical way to avoid lines entirely.

    Suggestions...stay hydrated! Take breaks, planned ones or be flexible in your daily itinerary and be willing to call it quits when necessary. Time back at the resort for swimming can re-charge everyone's batteries. Some kids with ASD need a "safety zone" and will use a stroller for such; I'm not sure how or if that would work for your family with 2 younger children as well. If you have time before leaving, I strongly suggest that you check out some of the touring plans.

    Enjoy your vacation!
     
  5. mdsouth

    mdsouth DIS Veteran

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    I have a son with Aspergers and a DD with ADHD so I can relate and share some insight.

    I too would consider letting your DS 11 in on the secret. he might enjoy helping surprise his siblings.

    Give him a book on Disney and look throu websites to help him even it is just during your trip there.

    Go one the fun safe rides first - ones where he can see what is happening. Like Mad Tea Cups and Laugh Floor.

    Save Haunted Mansion and even Peter Pan perhaps for later in day or week when he is more comfortable. Peter Pan would be good one to give him a sense of the moving loading floors and dark without being scary

    You might start with Epcot or Animal Kingdom. Possibly skip Tough to be a Bug the simulations and dark theatre might be too much for him

    For the waifs in line consider having a handheld game sysytem sart phone to help pass the time

    Check into the Guest Services you may be able to get GAC card. Other threads will help you move from this
     
  6. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    Yes I've been prepping him, by saying we are going on a mini local vacation some day this month and I would pick him up from school...this way he doesn't know about Disney but he can prepare himself to go overnight he is excited
     
  7. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    Also another reason I've decided to keep it a semi surprise is because when we went to us in aug he knew for months and tortured me relentlessly about it! Lol
     
  8. FortForever

    FortForever Disney since Day 1

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    Of course you know your son best, but this sounds like a bad idea to me. My son needs to know exactly where we are going and what we are doing ... not just that we will be going somewhere.

    I hope this plan doesn't backfire on you. If he mentally prepares to go one place and then goes another, it could destroy the entire vacation for all of you. Surprises are fun for typical children, they are a nightmare for ones with autism. Try to look at it from his perspective. Is the surprise because you want to do it, or is the the best option for him?

    I'm sorry if this comes off as rude. I don't mean it to be, but the written word sometimes gets taken the wrong way. I am honestly trying to be helpful. Having raised an autistic son, I can only imagine how this would have gone over. With them, the more time and preparation, the better.

    If your son starts to get sensory overload (I'm sure you know his cues) then take a break away from the crowd. If you can't find a quiet spot, go to the first aid station until he can mentally regroup.

    Even in the absence of physical disabilities, a wheelchair may help him keep more personal space. Noise canceling headphones are also a good idea to keep out some of the distraction. If he plays video games, like handheld Nintendo DS or a tablet, be sure to bring that to the park to help him focus on something.

    He also may benefit from a GAC card that you can ask about at Guest Services. Just explain to them his needs and they will help you out.
     
  9. momofkids

    momofkids Mouseketeer

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    Our son also has ASD. We surprised him this past fall with a trip to Disney. He didn't know until our plan landed. We had taken him to Disney before; so, he was familiar with everything. We also told him we would be going on a plane for a vacation ahead of time. He really enjoyed the surprise. Personally, I feel this can be an opportunity to prepare for real life. We don't always know what we will encounter in life. It's good to know that the unknown can be something really good and not just negative stuff.

    That said, only you know your son. You would know best what he can handle. We knew our son would be okay with the surprise of Disney.
     
  10. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    I think the surprise component will be ok. I was very careful to not tell him a place we were going, so that he wouldn't get stuck on that when he wasn't going there. For my son, his big thing is change and patience. He has none. If I told him in advance he would just obsess over it non stop until we go until he had such a huge melt down. I've learned it's best not to tell him things until we are def going and it's set in stone, we are on our way. Bc when things have happened in the past and we couldn't go, he just can't take it! I think the surprise part will go over well, just was worried about crowds, noise, over excitement etc
     
  11. lanejudy

    lanejudy Moderator Moderator

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    There are crowds. There is noise. There is overexcitement for all kids, which can be even harder for those on the spectrum. I think this is what people are recommending about letting DS in on the surprise - so you can prepare him for these things. Watching planning videos, youtube videos of specific rides, looking at planning books - those all help to prepare such a child for the situation he/she will be in while at the parks. I understand the frustration with him being so excited months ahead, but does he have issues with sudden sounds, loud sounds, unexpected dips/drops on a ride, sudden lights or bright lights and dark, splashes of water, seats that feel like they wiggle, etc. These are things that most of us try to prepare our kids in advance to try and reduce likelihood of a meltdown or freakout scenario on the spot.

    In an earlier post you said you went to "us" last August - I'm not sure if that is Universal Studios or a typo. If you did go to Universal - WDW will be much the same. How did you son fare on that trip? Were there things you wished you could have avoided, or prevented, or done differently if you had known? In general, many ASD kids do well with earplugs or headphones to reduce/cancel out the noise and stimulation. Also the safe haven as suggested previously. Someone mentioned handheld games or something that he'd like to play with in lines - keeps him occupied and keeps his mind off the waiting as well as focusing on the game can help shut-out some stimuli. Snacks and drinks - CS locations will give free ice water on request, we carry Mio or powdered drink packets if flavor is desired. And flexibility to change plans and return to the resort if it becomes too much for him.
     
  12. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    He loved universal! He went on all roller coaster and rides! We bought the pass to go to quick line so that it reduced his time greatly and he had to wait less than 20 mins and therefore can handle it. As far as Disney goes, he thinks we are going next year so has been looking everything up on wdw.com, YouTube etc. also we watched Disney week on des America.....so I think he is well prepared. Now I just know that Disney doesn't have the same system as us, they have fp which will be ok but not realistic that we will be able to run ahead and get them. I think he can tolerate 20 mins at best in a crowded confined space in line, so I really like that the gac can help them wait in a quieter area if need be.... :)))
     
  13. TexasHiddenMickeys

    TexasHiddenMickeys Earning My Ears

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    Hey resp I have autisum and ill share a little insite about when I fisrt remember going to disneywhen I was 3, my dad surprised me with Disney related gifts like my favorite character at that time(which was Minnie mouse at that time) coloring books and park maps. And told me we would be leaving in a week. With the maps I circled which rides I wanted to try. point is when time to surprise your autistic and other kids give them a surprise gift filled with a colloring book, a Disney character you know they like, if u give them a park map you are planing to go to the next day, have them circle which ride or parade they want to see, I agree with others to avoid places that can spooky them and try to reasure them if noise is a proplem till at a quite and calm place to sit down and relax a few minutes and I also sujest they try finding hidden mickeys.. there is a app in itunes ya can get or order the book. Young eyes are great for that! Its a great game to play as you walk around the parks

    Also I recommend getting and making temparary tattos that have your cell on it (ex. IF LOST PLEASE CALL MY MOM [Xxx]xxx-xxxx) you never know when the child will get seperated and a cast member can call you directly if the child go up to one and ask them to call you.
     
  14. anonymousegirl

    anonymousegirl DIS Veteran

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    Many rides will not have a quiet area to wait. Some will have a separate area that is less crowded but is often on the same room as the rest of the queue (Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor, Mickey's Philharmagic come to mind).
     
  15. tinkerpea

    tinkerpea Registered

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    I just wanted to say that I have a 10 year old son with autism and we surprised him and his twin brothers last yr and although I worried about surprising him it went amazing!
    Like you we told him we was going the year after, that meant he had watched videos looked up everything he wanted to do etc,
    The week before we told the kids we was going away for a day or 2 for a surprise.....

    The morning of his birthday we drove to a restaurant for breakfast and then have all the boys some gifts for the journey after that we had a cake come out for his birthday and when he blew out the candles the twins read the cake! It said surprise were going to Disney world!!!!

    Although he was in shock for a few mins him and his brothers was telly excited, his brothers run around screaming for at least 20 mins! We then drive to the airport and checked into the hotel so he had the night to prepare and flew out the next morning!
    He loves the surprise! I had everybody warn me about doing it and how it could back fire but I choose to go with it and I'm so pleased I did,

    Get the GAC it will help you lots!
    I've done disney way too many times to count and my son has been at least 7 times for 3 week at a time. It's the 1 place that he acts the most normal watch out for the usual signs of tiredness hunger an thirst, as these are major triggers! Rest it's important not to get over tired as many ASD children can not switch off easily so if they get over tired melt down's are normally way worse.

    Have fun :)
     
  16. goofydad621

    goofydad621 DIS Veteran

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    Ok so my DW and DD and I are going to WDW next January. My wife and I have talked it over and we want to invite our DD best friend to come with us. Our daughter has only been to the parks with us and it would be great for her to be able to bring a friend along, we get along with this girl great and always tell her she is like a daughter to us. We are friends with her parents and her younger sister. This is where it gets difficult her younger sister as autism spectrum disorder / Aspergers and the parents are afraid how the younger sister will react if the older sister gets to go to WDW. I was talking to the dad yesterday after church and he said that he just doesnÂ’t know what to do. Does not want to stop the older from the experience but does not want the younger to go sideways for a week or longer. He said if I could find any advice to please share it with him. Even if I thought the younger could handle it and we could afford to pay for both of them to go the dynamic would be off, on 2 person rides there would always be the odd person out, there is 3 years age difference between siblings so our daughter would not hang out with her anyway in most normal circumstances.
    They know because of their financial and health conditions (dad has MS) that most likely they wil not be able to bring the kids in the future. I would never second guess their decision as they know their family and situation the best, they are feeling stuck on how to make a decision.
    Anybody have any ideas or incite?
    Thanks for reading this and any advice you may be able give
    Dave Goofydad Dionne
    :)
     
  17. WDWJonasGirl

    WDWJonasGirl Mouseketeer/Directioner

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    I'm an almost 18 year old with autism. I'm pretty similar to your son so you should get the GAC. It works for me a lot of the time. Have a great time!!
     
  18. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    Thank you so much! :) glad you always have a blast!
     
  19. TRICKY_TINK

    TRICKY_TINK Mouseketeer

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    You have to be careful on these types of threads some people will down right shame you for wanting/getting the GAC. I can tell you it will help a lot! I think the problem is some parents don't look at asd symptoms as anything unlike their "normal" kids when they are tired and hot or God forbid their way less fortunate children on any given day. I know as a mother of two adhd kids one with Asperger's and odd that pass made Disney a "can do" place for us cause it was a "never again!" place before I was suggested the GAC by a cast member who oversaw an episode. That was 2 years ago. I brought a note from our doctor but honestly they wouldn't even look at it. Simply said no need, happy to help pixiedust: We don't medicate on vacation, weekends or holidays as I'm sure you know the reasons not too. But I need him to eat/sleep sometime. Good luck momma and have fun!
     
  20. respmom

    respmom Earning My Ears

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    Yes I don't medicate my ADHD son on weekends either bc he is super underweight and doesn't eat! Thank you for your understanding it means the world
     

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