Disney with an ADHD child....

Discussion in 'Theme Parks Attractions and Strategies' started by LoKiHB, Feb 8, 2013.

  1. LoKiHB

    LoKiHB Mouseketeer

    Jan 30, 2013
    This is my first post, so sorry if I'm a little long winded...

    We're heading back in May for Star Wars Weekend. Our 6 year old (who will be celebrating his birthday while there) is an ENORMOUS Star Wars fan, and was also diagnosed with ADHD and ODD this year. He is currently on medication for it as well, but it does wear off.

    We also have our youngest who will be 17 months when we go.

    I think we have a good idea how to keep everything calmer than the last time (it was his first time and our first time back since we were children). We want to take the time this trip to relax and enjoy the ambiance.

    We went two years ago when he turned 5 before he was diagnosed. For the most part the trip was a lot of fun and memorable in a good way. I won't lie though, there were some pretty bad moments:

    1. crawling on the floor at the Country Bear Jamboree
    2. wanting to leave in the middle of Muppet Vision 3D
    3. trying to get up and walk out of Carousel of Progress
    4. causing a scene in Epcot (can't remember the attraction, it was the waiting area and we never got to see it).

    We are planning 2 days for SWW, a full day each at MK, AK and, Epcot and 2 half park/resort days.

    Does anyone have any advice for a week in Disney with an ADHD child as far as maximizing his fun and limiting the craziness and defiance?

    Thank you in advance for any advice :)
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  3. aaarcher86

    aaarcher86 DIS Veteran

    Feb 17, 2010
    Is there anything you can bring with you into the parks to keep him occupied during long waits or when he gets impatient? Maybe a Leappad or an iPad or something?

    I'd definitely just take it slow, utilize FP to minimize waits, and just kind of go with the flow. Honestly, your rough moments don't sound that terrible compared to others I've read/seen!! :rotfl2: You'll have a great trip!
  4. mesaboy2

    mesaboy2 DIS Veteran

    Oct 28, 2009
  5. kalc12345

    kalc12345 DIS Veteran

    Dec 1, 2008
  6. Farps

    Farps Mouseketeer

    Nov 18, 2012
    We have a son with ADHD and with him it would get much harder when he got tired. So we would get to the park early, utilize FP as much as possible, and when he would start to show signs of being tired we would head to the resort for a break. We found it much easier to do before total exhaustion kicked in. Take it slow plenty of rests and I'm sure you will have a great time .
  7. sassie_kat

    sassie_kat Mouseketeer

    Feb 15, 2011
    Keep in mind that what works at home, in his normal environment may need some tweaking while you're on vacation. Be clear with your expectations during wait times (This is going to be a long wait, we expect you to do x, y and z. A, B and C are not acceptable. If you A, this is the consequence.) Of course, you know what works best with your kiddo so adapt as needed. Be prepared to follow through on consequences though so he sees you're not just blowing smoke.

    With my 6 year old, we have to eliminate all outside distraction when we're talking to him about our expectations. I have to get down on his level, get nose-to-nose and eye-to-eye with him and speak slowly and in shorter sentences. I also ask him to repeat back to me what my expectations are. We've also learned that saying "be good" has no bearing on real life whatsoever. We need to tell him what is and isn't acceptable and then make sure he understands what we're asking of him. I also had to talk to my husband about appropriate consequences. My favorite was on our first trip to Disney where he said "if you do that again, we're leaving the park and not coming back!" He knew and I knew that kiddo could do that 100 times and my husband wouldn't leave the park. We changed it to "you will leave the line and not get to ride this ride with Nonnie and Opa."

    We're going back down next month and it's killing me not to discuss it with the 6 year old since we're not telling them until we're traveling! I know that he'll be okay, I know that we'll survive, but I like talking it out and running through things with him b/c I feel like it sets the expectations well before we set foot in *insert public area where I want him to behave*!
  8. teresadisney

    teresadisney Earning My Ears

    Jan 10, 2013
    1. Get to the parks Early (less people).
    2. Eat the way you would at home.
    3. Take a break mid day for a swim or quiet time in the room.
    4. Explain everything step by step (if you can) ex. "we are going to go to Space Mountain, the wait is 25 minutes, we can stay here and wait or go to _______ there is a shorter wait" (I have found with my son who is autistic that if the wait is his choice, he is sometimes more patient;)
    5. Try and relax with the "melt downs", yes some people will be looking and even say rude things, but alot of us understand!
    6. Have Fun!!:grouphug:
  9. mieshie75

    mieshie75 Mouseketeer

    Apr 9, 2012
    I have a 5 yr old who is mildly autistic. The biggest problem we had was he didn't understand that some rides had height restrictions. He had a massive tantrum cause is was to small for ST and dinosaur. So we know now not to go near there till we are sure he will meet the height requirement.
  10. LoKiHB

    LoKiHB Mouseketeer

    Jan 30, 2013
    Thanks so much for all the wonderful advice!

    I knew I'd find folks here that can help to put my mind at ease.

    I think a lot of my worry comes from my tendency to attempt to "Griswald" vacations, holidays, birthdays, etc... I always want the perfect experience for the whole family- and we all know that never happens.

    The biggest thing I've learned from reading many of these forums, is just to RELAX. The last trip I had no idea when we'd be going back. This time, I know we'll be able to go back at least annually so there's no need to rush!

    I think this time I'll leave Clarke Griswald at home, and make sure my boys both enjoy the trip at their own pace. I think this trip, I'm going to be the follower, not the leader!

    Thanks so much for the great replies! :thumbsup2
  11. Love Tink

    Love Tink DIS Veteran

    Jan 14, 2011
    Hi. I have a 12-year-old son with ADHD and ODD, and a 9-year-old son with ADHD. (I also have a 6-year-old son, but thankfully he seems not to have inherited the disorder.) We've had really succesful times at WDW and DL...and really not so succesful times (such as when my then-7-year old - impulsively, not angrily - took off his shoes and threw them at the screen during Soarin'.)

    Someone earlier in the thread suggested letting your son bring a game to play in line. I agree. My kids have little DS players or iPods and those are a great help in line.

    Two other pieces of advice may seem like common sense, but are really helpful for us to remember. First, do everything within your control to minimize line time during your stay. We travel during non-peak times. We choose recommended parks and avoid EMH. We arrive well before opening, have a smart touring plan that hits the most popular rides first, and max out FP. We eat our meals early or late. Etc.

    Secondly, within reason we let the kids dictate how we spend our time. My two sons with ADHD aren't interested in shows, parades, or fireworks. They want to ride, ride, ride. My husband (who also has ADHD) is the same way. So sometimes my youngest son and I will split off and watch a parade or a show without the others. The times I have tried to "force" my kids to sit and watch something that bored them, it was miserable. The trip should be fun for everyone and nobody should miss out...but if the goal is to keep your son happy and engaged, let him drive the bus.
  12. LoKiHB

    LoKiHB Mouseketeer

    Jan 30, 2013
    You read my mind! Thanks so much! :woohoo:
  13. Kbendig

    Kbendig Mouseketeer

    Jul 9, 2012
    My son has ADHD, we spent a week in WDW in October.

    First thing we did was get a GAC, we only used it once but knowing we had it and could go wait in a calm place was worth it.

    We tried to make sure to stick to a routine as much as possible It wasn't out home routine, but more of our vacation one. We travel often, have family out of state, so he is used to a vacation type of schedule.

    We made sure that he got to do stuff he wanted, he became obsessed with Agent P missions so we spent most of our time in Epcot. But, we got to really explore and it was worth it to us. We also did pin trading for the first time and it was great! He was able to go and talk to people and it was ok because it gave him something to focus on. He normally can't stop talking, but giving him something to talk to people about helped him and also made it less awkward.

    We also had a good amount of down time to let him go nuts if he needed to. Though, he was feeling sick so that may have come into play with his good behavior too.

    I'll be honest, by the last day he was done and we were ready to leave. We had a GREAT vacation despite some issues, but a week out of his normal routine did get to him. Just go with the flow (which I KNOW is easier said than done!) and have a great trip.
  14. LaurenT

    LaurenT DIS Veteran

    May 27, 2009
    My 9 yr old DD had ADHD and Aspergers. Fortunately, she doesn't have oppositional defiance....so she doesn't throw tantrums, but it is hard to get her to stop her unruly behavior sometimes.
    She does take concerta each morning, but I think what helped the most with her was that we worked with a psychologist for a year when she was diagnosed. It's important to spend a lot of time explaining consequences (not in terms of if you do this you're going to be punished, but in terms of "if you do this, other people won't want to spend time with you") - what comes naturally to most people in psyching out social interaction, does not come naturally to her, it's a skill she has to learn.
    So, I don't know much about ODD, but I would bet that similar therapy would help....
    She's actually great in the parks though. Her ADHD works in our favor in the parks because she never runs out of energy (unlike in school when it becomes an issue).

    MSSANDRA DIS Veteran

    Sep 14, 2006
    Believe me those bad moments were not so bad:). You have gotten a lot of good advice but thought I would mention one other thought: Star Wars week-ends at DS are CRAZY busy. The area around Star Tours would totally over whelm me, with no special needs. You may want to access what your child can handle and plan accordingly when and if to attempt this area. If you have a GAC, they may can find you a quieter place to wait for the ride or maybe even the character greets but it will not decrease your wait time. Our friend's DS is autistic and waiting in line is VERY hard but he can manage for a little bit if he really want to do something.
  16. LoKiHB

    LoKiHB Mouseketeer

    Jan 30, 2013

    For SWW we're going to concentrate more on the experience. He did Jedi Training the last time we were there, and he loved it. I think as far as riding Star Tours, we may set aside one of our "wandering" days for an extra HS day to let him ride it as many times as he wants. When I say he's a HUGE Star Wars fan I mean HUGE!!!! He's probably seen all six (unfortunately he loves I, II and, III) movies at least 40-50 times each since he was 3.
  17. Kellykins1218

    Kellykins1218 DIS Veteran

    Mar 4, 2012

    I sent you a PM :thumbsup2
  18. maxiesmom

    maxiesmom The Mean Squinty Eye Works

    Jul 6, 2004
    In addition to CoP, which you learned the hard way you can't leave once it starts:scared: avoid Ellen's Energy Adventure. You can't get off that one once it starts either, and it is 40 minutes long.

    Other than that, I think you are right to have a go with the flow attitude. And then don't stress if something does happen. Many kids have not so great moments during their trips. I once had a niece throw herself on the floor, screaming at the Hall of Presidents. And that was before we went in, not during the show.;) It happens, no big deal.

    Have a great trip!
  19. msmama

    msmama DIS Veteran

    Jan 21, 2009
    I don't know if this will apply, as my son has more sensory issues, but even though he's getting older, a stroller is a MUST for him.

    After riding some rides, he gets in, pulls the sun shade down and just relaxes a bit. We have a City Mini so the shade comes down past his eyes so he can just chill and recover from whatever it is we've been doing.

    It keeps us in the parks longer, I think. Otherwise he'd melt down earlier. We also had a long talk about just telling me that he was getting ready to leave (though I explained we might not leave right that minute but we'd start for the exit) but that tantrums wouldn't be tolerated (like I said though, no ODD here so may not work for you). I think just knowing that it would come to an end soon helped him.
  20. Marthasor

    Marthasor DIS Veteran

    May 8, 2005
    I second this. My DS5 has high-functiong autism and sensory processing issues and we go to WDW often. He is big for his age, but I still rent him a stroller so he can chill out and relax between attractions. We keep our expectations pretty low in terms of what we are going to see and do each day and always take a break mid-day.
  21. PatsMom

    PatsMom <font color=blue>Sometimes has Dory moments!<br><f

    Feb 17, 2000
    For SWW be prepared for massive crowds - and I mean massive! The last time we were there for SWW, they closed the park to non-WDW guests. People were parking at Epcot, walking through the park, then over the walkway to get to the studios. Once inside, it was gridlock. We were there mostly because my daughter wanted to see what it was like. And I work with a huge Star Wars fan and I told him I would try to get him a special pin or coffee cup. The line for the special merchandise was over an hour long.

    Lines for the character pictures were also huge. There are no fast passes for those. But if you son is at all like my niece, he might wait in the lines. My niece is pretty severely ADHD - medication helps but it isn't perfect as you know. But she really, really wanted to meet the Fairies. The line was posted as 45 minutes. I told her I was going to be pretty annoyed if we waited almost an hour and I had to remove her because she was acting up. Much to my surprise, she was very good in line. A little fidgety but nothing out of the ordinary! That was my first experience with her wanting something badly enough that she would do whatever it took to get it! Your son might be like that if he really wants a picture with Chewbacca!

    If you go early, you should be able to do some things before the park gets mobbed. Then you could leave early and take advantage of your hotel pool, etc and go back on the next day for more.

    Good luck and I hope you have a good trip.

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