Any ideas for a successful trip?

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by marigold0f4, May 12, 2012.

  1. marigold0f4

    marigold0f4 Earning My Ears

    May 12, 2012
    Hello everyone!:wave2: I am new to this forum, but not new to Disney World! This will be the first time traveling with my children though, we are going in one month! I am a single mom of three children (5,6, & 9) all with varying degrees of special needs. My children all have "invisible" disabilities; mostly developmental, emotional, mental. I am not sure how they will handle everything. I know that I will have special things with me to help keep them calm etc. I am just not sure what else to do. I plan on going into the guest services at my first stop and explaining somethings to them. Is there anything I should be doing/planning differently to have a successful trip? Thanks ahead of time!

  2. Bete

    Bete DIS Veteran

    Sep 14, 1999
    I'm not in your shoes; I have different circumstances. There's some standard
    protocal that I think can help everyone with special circumstances at Disney World.

    First, prepare ahead of time with viewing the rides with all the kids. Use U-tube and other sites for this part. Make sure all the kids agree that they want to go on a ride ahead of time. Do the same for shows. It's Tough To Be a Bug in Animal Kingdom is too intense for some kids. Be prepared once you are there the kids may change their minds on a ride even though everyone agreed ahead of time at home. Also, the 9 year old may be more ready to do some rides than the younger ones. This could lead to some conflict. I think you need to agree it's all or nothing with activities; unless, you have a helper who can watch the ones who don't ride. Their will be height restrictions that your 9 year old may meet to go on a ride, but the other kids won't make it on this count.

    Have a workable plan for the parks prepared ahead of time. Avoid back tracking for rides and such. This includes having reservations for meals. I would avoid table service and do counter service, but I know it's hard to resist doing character meals. If doing table service go during non-peak times. It will be less crowded and that may help the situation. By all means use FAST PASS for the popular rides.

    Avoid meltdowns by not over doing the day. Don't try to stay in the parks all day. Take a break back at the resort and then return to the parks.

    Balance the day with rides, shows, parades and fireworks. Ride after ride could over stimulate causing unnecessary meltdowns. Definitely, explain the long waits in some lines for rides. Demonstrate a 45 minute wait time at home; so, the kids know how it will feel there. Personally, I would skip rides with long waits. There's enough to see. You need to be flexible, here. You said you have distractions for the long waits; so, I won't dwell on this part.

    If you don't have a helper you may want to reconsider and bring someone along like an older cousin of the children; someone more familiar would be the best help. Pay their way in exchange for the help. If you don't have someone then you may have to rely on outside services once you are there. There are day care centers and companions for hire that you can utilize. Have these places ready ahead of time. For hired companions you will pay an hourly fee (around $18/hour), their mileage to and from the parks from their home or work place, their park tickets and their meals. They probably expect a tip, too.

    Don't add to the frustration by being upset yourself if the day doesn't go as planned. The next day may be better. On your day of arrival I would take it real slow especially it was a long day getting there. If you arrive later in the day I would probably skip the parks the first night and enjoy a meal and some swimming and so forth.

    Can't say if a GAC will or will not help your circumstances; so, you will have to talk with guest relations when you arrive.

    If it's their first time to Disney be prepared for a total flop and be happy if it works out.

    Other will chime in, too.
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  4. SueM in MN

    SueM in MN combining the teacups with a roller coaster Moderator

    Aug 23, 1999
    First, you want to check out post 6 of the disABILITIES FAQs thread. That thread is located near the top of this board or you can follow the link in my signature.
    It may be very helpful for you to think of using a double stroller even if all your children can walk the distance. A stroller can give separation from other guests and a safe haven/area of decreased stimulation for kids with developmental and emotional issues.

    I would also suggest looking into a touring plan - popular ones are and
    You don't have to follow the plan exactly, but just knowing which park and which part of that park is likely to be least busy will be very helpful to you.
    Also, keep in mind that for many kids with emotional/developmental issues, a touring plan is helpful because it gives them predictability and a schedule for what is happening next. Many people find using a touring plan to actually be more helpful than a Guest Assistance Card because it is more predictable and can help you in places that a GAC can't - such as avoiding crowds just walking around, using the bathroom and eating.

    The are some other things that may be helpful to you in the disABILITIES FAQs thread. Post 3 has a lot of specific information. I'd suggest looking at the YouTube link to an internactive WDW tour video that is in that post. It can be very helpful to actually see and hear what they may experience ahead of time. There is also a good book called WDW For Kids, by Kids that might be helpful. It is a WDW touring book fRom the viewpoint of children. Even if all your children can't read it, it does have helpful insights into which things kids consider to be scary or dark, etc.

    Post 3 of the disABILITIES FAQs thread also has one area with links about communication devices and PECs, if your children use those. Even if they don't, you might be able to do some social stories that would be helpful to prepare your children.

    Some others things to consider:
    - if you have not gone anywhere similar, you may want to plan a day trip to somewhere nearby like a zoo or smaller amusement park. That will help you to plan out what may or may not work for you.

    - bathrooms in the park. I don't know if you are traveling with just you and the 3 children, but if you are, you should consider using the Companion Restrooms if you will not be able to leave the children alone. Those are one stall bathrooms with a lockable door so no one can come in while you are using it. There is no privacy from the other people in the room with you (it's just one big room), but if you can't leave them alone and have no one else to leave them with, it may be your only option. The larger ladies roms also have large handicapped stalls where you could fit with all 3 children.

    - restaurants. Your older children may be able to help you carry food to a table in the counters service restaurants, but don't be shy about asking for help if you need it.

    - getting to the parks. Not sure whe you are staying or how you plan to get to the parks, but you probably want to prepare your children for the types of transportation they will be going on. If you drive, there are parking lot trams. The MK area resorts have monorails and/or boats and the other resorts have buses. Some kids with developmental disabilities really like the transportation as much ( some more) than the actual attractions in the park, so be prepared that you may have requests to ride the boats or monorails over and over.

    - quiet places inside the parks. The parks have A LOT of stimulation, both visual and sound. Every area has its own themed music and/or sound effects. For some kids, this can be sensory overload. That is where a stroller can come in handy - even with a light cloth to pull over the front to really cut down on stimulation. Many kids also like earphones that cut down the sound - there are specific ones made for kids in bright colors that you can find on Some people get stickers and let their kids decorate them they ways they want.
    Strollers can. Rented in the parks or you will find links to some places that rent strollers in post 2 of the disABILITIES FAQs thread.

    - downtime for you. You didn't say if you will be going alone with the 3 children, but I would strongly recommend another adult, if possible. It is more stressful and more tiring taking care of children with special needs in an unfamiliar, stimulating environment. Having another adult to share the care with will help you to have th energy to care for the children and help everyone have a good time.
    Also, if one child is having a bad day, that other adult could give that child or the other 2 some special attention. It would also be helpful where one or more children don't want to or can't go on an attraction that one of the others does want to do.
  5. marigold0f4

    marigold0f4 Earning My Ears

    May 12, 2012
    Thank you for your replies! I will be traveling alone with my children, but I do have a friend that we will spend a few days with while I am there. My biggest worry is if my child has a meltdown of any kind, esp. an angry one. I might need to have a list of cool quiet spots we can go to if needed. I am bringing a sit n stand stroller, noise reducing headphones, cool down toys etc... What about meds being brought in? are there any concerns when going through bag check? Also is it ok if I bring little snacks and drinks in?
    Thanks ahead of time! I have been there many times, even did the college internship down there, but this is my first time going there as a mom!
  6. gilesmt

    gilesmt DIS Veteran

    Feb 20, 2010
    I am more familiar with Disneyland so I will make this suggestion and then hope someone with more insight from WDW can step in and tell you where they would be.

    One of our favorite spots for meltdowns is the water spots. In Disneyland it is the huge ball outside space mountain, in bugs life land in Cali adv and on the tug boats near the bit bear. They have water spouts and toys that don't really soak a kid but can get them wet and cool them off in the hot sun. At all of them there is a good restaurant around that will allow you to get a sandwich and drink because a lot of time melt downs are when they are tired, hot, hungry and over stimulated. This has always been one of our favorites for melt downs, after just a few minutes, water from the water fountains to drink and then a good snack we are usually good to go. We try to hit one of these ever two to three hours, just to avoid the meltdowns even before they start. I know they have them in WDW but I can't tell you were.

    Just remember that they are just kids, and have fun. I have not been in your shoes but I have different disabilities and have been a single mother, so I understand and as a mom you just have to step back and take it slower than you may want to and take a deep breathe. I am blind, oldest ddhas cerebral palsy, youngest DD has something, either ADHD, bi polar, or ASD, we don't know. Ex husband has PTSD and two knee replacements, granddaughter was born a preemie. We go and hope for the best but sometimes, it all has to do with letting the want and wishes slide by and just enjoy what you are able to do, and have fun doing it.

    Hope you have a great trip.
  7. ttintagel

    ttintagel DIS Veteran

    Nov 28, 2011
    I've never had any trouble bringing in medicine, food, or drinks. (I've heard that they don't like you to bring in big hard-sided coolers, though.)

    There are some cool, shady paths around the Liberty Bell replica in Liberty Square that might offer a place for an impromptu break. And Tom Sawyer Island is a good place for kids to run off excess energy.
  8. EvangelineG

    EvangelineG Mouseketeer

    Apr 4, 2011
    This is a fantastic suggestion and something that we did too. We practised with trips to the local museum and zoo. We practised eating in restaurants, and going for long walks. We even practised waiting in line, and being in a crowd (Walmart and Costco on a Saturday are excellent for this around here! :scared1:). This not only helped our kids develop some of the skills they would need, but it helped us spot trouble spots that we could then work on pre-trip with social stories, in therapy etc, and have a plan for when we were there.

    Having a touring plan was a huge, huge help to us, as was planning to go when the crowds were lower and the weather cooler (one of my sons really does not do well in the heat). We also watched ride videos and did lots and lots of pre-planning together. My sons knew more about the parks than most WDW vets before we ever walked through the gates! :goodvibes

    The other advice I would give would be to stick to your usual routine as much as possible. Similar wake up times & bedtimes, familiar foods and similar sleeping arrangements as at home all made our trip better for everyone.

    We had no trouble bringing meds and snacks, and everything else we needed into the parks each day.

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