Child w/ Autism and considering a Disney Cruise

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by DZNEE4US, Feb 17, 2011.

  1. DZNEE4US

    DZNEE4US Mouseketeer

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    My son is 3 years old and has Autism. He is not severly affected (we are blessed in that way), but he has his sensory issues. He doesn't love the airplane, but we manage it with distractions and snacks. We have been to WDW with him 3 times. I was wondering if any parents with Autistic children have been on a Disney cruise. Any tips? He only drinks Very Vanilla Silk brand soy milk, and I am very worried about him getting this onboard, as well as the VERY limited about of other foods that he will eat. Unfortuantely with all of the travel regulations it gets difficult to travel with fluids. I have seen the juice box style of silk boxes at Walmart, and we have used those for short trips. I could potentially put them in a suitcase, or even have a box shipped (maybe we will do a WDW for a few days first- trip). Any cruising ideas for us? We also have an 8 year old daughter and another 3 year old son (a twin).
    Thanks for your help!!!
     
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  3. Scuttle

    Scuttle Mouseketeer

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    We choose not to do a cruise, as I didn't feel that it was appropriate for my DD7 and her issues. But that's just us. I did a lot of research about what exactly the kids do during their day, and it just wouldn't work out for us.

    As for Disney and special diets/allergies, I think that you will find a LOT of information here about how Disney has really done a great job transforming their facilities to accommodate a number of different allergies, etc. On our most recent trip, my DD was eating GF/CF and I really was very impressed with how they took care of her dietary issues.

    I did pack a box of food, shelf stable milk, snacks, GF bread/bagels, etc so that I would have plenty of choices just in case. I also ordered from Garden Grocery, as they were able to deliver right to our room the refrigerated items. (We stayed in a villa so had a kitchen). Garden Grocery DOES have a lot of those speciality items. You could also order from WeGoShop.com and request them to go to a place like Whole Foods to get the products that you need.

    HTH!
     
  4. DZNEE4US

    DZNEE4US Mouseketeer

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    Whenever we go to WDW we usually rent a home or condo and drive to the parks. We need 1- a kitchen and a refridgerator (for the picky eaters), and 2- the space to move!! This arrangement gives us the most flexibility to accomodate everybody.
    I see you have triplets!! I have twins (one w/ Autism).
     
  5. hardybuz

    hardybuz Earning My Ears

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    We're sailing on the Dream on March 10, with our 8 year old son who has Asperger's/ High Functioning Autism and multiple food allergies. This is our second Disney cruise- the first was on the Wonder, when our son was 4. Our experience then was that he found the Oceaneer's Club too overwhelming because he is also sensory-sensitive. However, he still LOVED the cruise! We took him swimming early in the morning when it wasn't crowded, avoided the fireworks and sail-away party, took him to see the characters during meal-times when there were zero lines, looked for Hidden Mickeys, took nature walks around Castaway Cay, etc.- we all had a great time! You know best what your child can handle, and so I think you could still have a wonderful vacation on a Disney cruise- it just might be slower-paced and require more togetherness. :-)

    Having said that, we are going to give the Oceaneer's Club on the Dream a try on our upcoming cruise, now that our son is older, so I can give you a full report when I get back. We plan to take our son out of the Club every two hours for a sensory break.

    We also plan to feed him when we take him out of OC, because I don't want to risk him being fed something by the Club counselors that will trigger an allergic reaction. The food issue is a big one with us, as our son has MANY food allergies, and on two separate trips he was fed something allergy-contaminated at WDW, despite our filling out special diet forms weeks in advance. We were told by the Special Diets that we could bring sealed, pre-packaged food (nothing homemade) on board the ship for our son, and that's what we intend to do. We are still going to try having the chefs prepare some meals for him in the sit-down restaurants, BUT we are stopping at the Whole Foods in Orlando before the cruise, and bringing enough allergy-free food for him to eat just in case they can't accommodate him, or the wait for his food is too long.

    I'd be happy to do a trip report when we get back, if you like.

    Hope that helps!
     
  6. DZNEE4US

    DZNEE4US Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for all of your information, particularly about the food issues. My son doesn't have allergies that I know of. He just eats only a very limited number of foods. Is travel so much fun??? It's hard enough for typically developing kids/ people, let alone anyone w/sensory issues.
     
  7. JACH1976

    JACH1976 Mouseketeer

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    Hi there! We did the three night cruise on the Wonder at the end of last summer with our DS5 (PDD-NOS/ADHD) and DD2. DS is crazy about numbers and maps, and had a fantastic time exploring the ship with all of the different decks (maybe not what your typical kid would find fascinating, but what can you do?:rolleyes1) We also had a great time in the pools and at Castaway Cay. He attended the kids club in the evening for a few hours on the second and third night to let us have "date night". He did ok, but we minimized the time spent there as he kind of just did his own thing. DS only drinks chocolate soy milk, (preference, not allergy), and the dining room staff were very good about getting it to us for all of the restaurant meals. Not sure on what kind they stock on the ship...

    We had a great family vacation, so much so that we're going again on the Dream at the end of this summer. It's not for everyone, and that was one reason why we booked the short cruise for our first time out- we wanted to make sure that the kids enjoyed it. Hopefully we'll get to do more of the on-board activities this time out- I know that DS is really excited about the mini-golf (all of those numbers:rotfl2:)
     
  8. Mel6197

    Mel6197 Mrs. Public Works

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    And we are doing our first cruise this sept on the dream. I know i cant put her in any of the clubs. She has in the past become aggressive with crying children,
    So my son willdo the clubs with the kids and me and her will do what we can, together.

    Fingers crossed. Lol
     
  9. Shelly F - Ohio

    Shelly F - Ohio Disney Extraordinaire

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    We went on a Disney Cruise and had a fear that we would get sea sick. Knowing that they did not have ginger ale on the ship, we stopped at Public's grocery store which is close to the ship, and picked up a case of ginger ale as well as a case of bottled water. We were able to take both liquids on the ship with no problem. So you should be able to take the soy milk on board with you.

     
  10. DZNEE4US

    DZNEE4US Mouseketeer

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    Thanks for the tips about the liquids. I didn't know what their policies were, since air travel has become so crazily constricted about what you can carry on board. I am thinking I may wait until my son is older (he's only 3 and 1/2 now), and develops better language skills. Wouldn't it be great if they had a sailing esp. for kids w/ Autism? I know I am excluding other disabilities, but maybe they could also have their own dates. They could have different sensory areas for the kids, and do activities that would better suit them, and for once give the parents some time away from ASD!!!!!!!
     
  11. jjatwdw

    jjatwdw DIS Veteran

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    DS11 has Aspergers and we have taken him on four cruises, two on RCCL and two on DCL. He has really enjoyed himself on all of them. There is a great variety of food options and the cast with do everything they can to accomodated you.
     
  12. hardybuz

    hardybuz Earning My Ears

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    There actually are group cruises just for autism families, and I think (not totally sure) that Disney does participate in some of them!

    We're cruising on the Dream in less than two weeks :woohoo:- booked through Autism on the Seas- so I can report back if their extra services were helpful.
     
  13. DisDadDoc

    DisDadDoc <font color=red>DDC #403<br><font color=royalblue>

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    Were you able to leave him by himself with CMs? Or did you have to supervise?

    Trying to get a sense about how well trained they are...
     
  14. lucigo

    lucigo DIS Veteran

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    I have not cruised with Disney, however I have taken my son with autism on 11 cruises (Carnival and HAL). He also has a very limited diet. I can't help you with the airplane as we drive, but we do bring my son's foods with us on the ship. He only eats Schwan chicken nuggets, so we bring them frozen in a cooler and give them to the dining room. They keep them aside and cook them and serve them to him at dinner every evening. We also bring prepackaged jello with fruit, fruit snacks, granola bars and chips. He will eat bananas so thats his staple breakfast - however sometimes toward the end of a cruise they will run out of bananas so we now know to get a several at the beginning and keep in the cabin. The only food he will eat that they cook is french fries.

    If his sensory issues are severe I would suggest you bring his stroller to be a safe zone. It can also be used to "bar" the door at night if he is a flight risk. Cruise ship doors typically don't have hotel like bars to keep kids inside.

    All that said, my son loves to cruise and would rather cruise than go to Disney. If you aren't SURE, take a shorter cruise to test the waters.

    Good luck making a decision. There is a good disabilities board over on cruisecritic.com if you need more info.
     
  15. lucigo

    lucigo DIS Veteran

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    Check out autismontheseas.com Also check with your local autism groups. We are doing our third autism group cruise in October out of Mobile, AL if you are interested you could send me a PM. We are going on the Carnival Elation.
     
  16. toodycat

    toodycat DIS Veteran

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    DS has been cruising since he was 7. His first cruise was a Disney cruise and he has been on about 10 cruises total all together. (I remember bringing soy milk with me as well.) DS made great strides on the Disney Magic. He went to the Oceaneer's Club and socialized with the other kids beyond what I would have expected. He even danced the chicken dance and made flubber, putting some of his sensory issues aside. DS always liked eggs and plain pasta so he wasn't too difficult to feed. His only sensory issues related to members of the entertainment staff yelling, "Let me hear you say YEAH! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" and so forth. But, when he was younger, I always carried earplugs. One of the benefits DS got from cruising was some vestibular stim. To this day, he loves the rocking of the ship and finds it soothing. He is now a few months short of his 17th bday and still loves cruising with Disney.
     
  17. mama2eman

    mama2eman Earning My Ears

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    I have a five year old son and a thirteen year old daughter. We will be sailing on the Disney fantasy on the seven night Caribbean cruise. My son has a cecostomy tube. The tube requires saline and glycerin in order for its use. will they still allow my family and I to sail?
    thanks
     
  18. toodycat

    toodycat DIS Veteran

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    I have seen children with many different health issues and accommodations on board, but I think the best thing to do would be to contact the cruise line in advance and explain the situation. If you are flying to your departure port, I would contact the airline at the same time and find out if they need any extra information. Enjoy your trip.
     
  19. toy

    toy Mouseketeer

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    My dd is 11 and on the spectrum. She said Disney Wonder when she was 7. The club did a great job with her. When she wanted me they were great about paging me. They were attentive to her needs. She is fairly high functioning. She has social anxiety. She doesn't have any special diets so I can't speak to the milk. She does, however, have certain foods she will eat. Once the waiter found out how much she loves regular milk, he kept them coming.

    Now that she is older, I am a bit concerned about how she will handle the older kids group. She doesn't know it but we are booked on the Dream in October along with 42 other friends and family. Once we announced to our friends that we were going they all started booking too. :banana:
     
  20. hardybuz

    hardybuz Earning My Ears

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    I'm about 9 months late in posting my experiences aboard the Disney Dream with our high-functioning, autistic 8 year old, but in my defense, that's because we found out the night before our cruise that we were expecting another baby- :yay: and I've been sorta busy since then!

    Soooo.... 9 months later, and one new daughter lighter, here is our trip report at last. the good and not-so-good:

    First, the good:

    1) Autism on The Seas

    We booked with Autism on the Seas and I *highly* recommend them. Just the fact that they made sure we got priority boarding made their services worth it a million times over. The wait just to get in the terminal was about 20 minutes, but once we got inside, the cast member at the desk sent us right on to the ship- a complete godsend because the terminal was packed like a sardine can, and our DS would have had a very hard time handling that crowd. We also bypassed the photo line by staying to the right. Our DS isn't a fan of flashing bulbs, anyway, so skipping the photo was no big deal for us. All in all, because of the priority boarding and skipping the photo line, it took us a total of about 25 minutes, from the parking lot to being in the lobby of The Dream! :thumbsup2

    2) The Ship

    The Dream itself is breathtaking. We had booked an inside cabin and so got the chance to experience the virtual portholes (so cool!!)- they were a huge hit with our DS. In fact, he probably could have hung out in our cabin for hours just waiting for the animated figures to show up in our virtual porthole. Our son particularly loved eating at Animator's Palette, and watching the characters from "Finding Nemo" "swimming" around the dining room.

    3) The Dining Staff

    Let me preface by saying that our DS had a lot of food allergies that required special meals, and the dining and kitchen staff *really* tried to make sure our son didn't get any allergens into his food. The chef came out for every meal and personally brought out our son's meals, and our head server even made sure that we could pick up a lunch on Castaway Cay day, so that he could eat poolside. However, even with their best efforts, our son still got contaminates in his food, and unfortunately spent one day during the cruise with a rash, and the last day throwing up in our cabin. :sick:

    I do feel that the staff did all they could, but when you're dealing with so many passengers, there is a high chance of cross-contamination, and anyone with a child who has super-sensitive allergies like ours really should consider just bringing their own food. This was the third vacation we tried relying on Disney's special-meals dining, and on all three vacations, our son had a reaction. Oh well, live and learn.


    Now for the not-so-good

    1) The Oceaneer's Club

    The club itself is amazing. Any kid not on the spectrum is sure to be in heaven. But the staff, who had been told about our son ahead of time, did not shadow him at all, or even check on him, even though we were told that a cast member would guide him around until he was situated with a group. We tried to limit his time to one hour in the Club, so that he wouldn't be over-stimulated, and so he wouldn't monopolize the CMs, who of course had other kids to watch, too. But both times when we returned, we found our son standing in a corner, alone, in classic shut-down mode. It was extremely frustrating to know that several cast members must have walked right by him, and just left him standing there by himself. :confused: It was more frustrating to think he might have been standing like that for the entire hour we were gone. After a couple of times of this, we just stayed with our son in the club, and took him around to the different areas ourselves.

    This was probably the most disappointing part of the cruise for us, since one of the best things about a Disney cruise is feeling like your kids will be getting top-notch care if you and your spouse want to take an hour to spend in the adult pool, or have dinner at Palo's, or just take a nap in a lounger. Because of the inattentiveness of the OC staff, this was never an option for us. :sad1: In a nutshell, our son got a great vacation, but we as his parents never got to *be* on vacation, if you get what I mean.

    2) The crowds

    If there was one single thing that will keep us from sailing on The Dream again, it would be this. Crowds are no fun even with kids not on the spectrum. But the sheer volume of people on the ship meant that we had to do some maneuvering to keep from being part of a cattle drive and sending our son into sensory overload. We ate breakfast and lunch at odd times, we skipped Castaway Cay entirely so we could try the ship pool (and would you believe, the ship pool was STILL packed, even with half the people on the island), and basically spent a lot of time just wandering the ship, enjoying the quiet spots.

    The bottom line:

    The Disney Dream, while a spectacular ship, was not for us. It was beautiful, but it was too big and full of too many people for the staff to realistically be able to accommodate our son. The crowds were insane, and our food options would be risking more contamination (and a day of our son throwing up in our cabin) or bringing every bit of his food on board with us. That, coupled with no supervision in the Oceaneer's Club means that going on another cruise, for us, would be waaaaay more work than it would a vacation.

    That doesn't mean that this would be everyone's experience. Each parent should judge for themselves whether they think their child's particular issues will work with the benefits (and shortcomings) of this ship. Hopefully, the Dream will live up to its name for special-needs families, even though, unfortunately, it didn't work out for us.

    We'll be skipping the cruise next time, but being a die-hard Disney family, we will simply be going back to our one-bedroom villa at the Wilderness Lodge, where we can prepare all our son's meals at our leisure, not have to battle crazy crowds, and have relaxing evenings watching the MK fireworks from our balcony. :cloud9:
     
  21. lucigo

    lucigo DIS Veteran

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    I just wanted to say that you don't have to go through Autism on the Seas to get priority boarding. All you have to do is tell the employees at the port that your child has autism and you would like to go through handicapped boarding. Also, when people say "priority boarding" an AotS, its not the same as platinum or suite boarding, its handicapped boarding, which are two different things.

    That said AotS is a great travel agency, especially for first time cruisers with children with autism, but if you have booked through another agency or directly with the cruise line this option is still available to you, as are other cruise line accomodations, all you have to do is know what you need and don't be afraid to ask.
     

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