Has Anyone Taken a Child With Autism to WDW?

Discussion in 'disABILITIES!' started by Mom2six, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. Mom2six

    Mom2six DIS Veteran

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    My 4 year old son has autism and we are all going to wdw in the fall. I've gotten a lot of great answers and advice from this forum and the DIS in general, but I still have a few concerns and questions about taking him to Disney. I also have a 13 year old son with aspergers.

    Has anyone taken their child with autism or aspergers to Disney World in the past year or so? If so, can I PM you with a few questions? TIA
     
  2. tavettava

    tavettava DIS Veteran

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    I have. My dd is 17 and we have been going since she was 11. Ask away.
     
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  4. bookwormde

    bookwormde <font color=darkorchid>Heading out now, another ad

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    We were last July and November and are going back in June with DS9 NT and DS12 AS. We stayed in a THV in November.

    Let me know what you need to know, or want us to check on in June.
     
  5. EvangelineG

    EvangelineG Mouseketeer

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    We were there last November (with two 11yr old ASD sons), and are planning to go back this November if we can make it happen. It was the most incredibly magical trip for our sons, and remembering that trip and looking forward to future trips has become like a talisman for one of our sons in particular. He asks to talk about Disney World when he is feeling bad, and it helps him feel better. Best place on earth! :goodvibes

    Happy to help with any questions, if I can.
     
  6. kirstenb1

    kirstenb1 DIS Veteran

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    Our younger dd is six. We have DVC so we go every year. We really screwed up and had a frankly bad trip when she was about 3 or so. The following year, many people on this board had very helpful ideas that made it more successful. Each kid with ASD is different, so it helps to really plan, plan , plan!!!

    And try to view the trip through your child's eyes. In our case, it's been many years since I've gotten to do some of the things I like. That is true with many things here closer to home at Busch Gardens too. But that's okay. With our dd, in a stimulating, crowded place like WDW, "less is more". Which means dh takes our older dd and they typically stay in the parks all day. This frees up younger dd and I to take things at her pace. We get there early, usually make it through a quick lunch, and she's usually done by 1or 2. So we go back to the room, and she plays with Legos or Barbies. Then we go to the pool.
     
  7. clanmcculloch

    clanmcculloch DIS Veteran

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    I would really suggest asking your questions on the board rather than via PM. Each child with ASD is different. Some of us may have kids with ASD who have completely different needs and issues than your child while others of us may have kids who have the exact same issues. By posting questions here, you'll get a lot more people who have experiences that are more directly related to your question than if you just pm a couple people.

    My 14yo has Asperger Syndrome. We definitely have to plan our days around her needs. My 11yo has a lot of sensory, obsessive compulsive and social issues (I've been told by specialists that she's not on the spectrum but we are addressing her issues none-the-less) but we don't have to make any accomodations for her needs (though some of what we do for her sister I'm sure helps her as well and I do keep her needs in mind just as I would for a Neuro-Typical child).
     
  8. ladyjubilee

    ladyjubilee Mouseketeer

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    Yes, our family went last year and are going back this year. My son is now 8-currently diagnosed as Autism/PDD-NOS. And sure.
     
  9. Mom2six

    Mom2six DIS Veteran

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    Good point! I'm really nervous about this trip. Everytime we're out somewhere and it doesn't go well, I wonder if I'm making a mistake taking my DS 4 to WDW. When we went in February, we didn't take him because I had never been there and didn't know if he could handle it. He'll be a bit older by September though. He seemed both jealous and happy when he saw the pictures of his siblings and the characters. I really want this to work out with him - for him.

    I would love to convince him to do a ride or two. He'll probably refuse rides, he will not ride anything on a regular basis (like at Chuck E. Cheese, or the carosel at the mall -- both are always a definite NO). I don't mind for most of the rides, but his favorite favorite movie is Finding Nemo, and I think he would LOVE the Nemo Ride. He loves aquariums and fish, and he would like it if he gave it a chance. I've been showing him videos of it from YouTube and it doesn't seem scary, so he might be okay at first. He really watches the videos and seems interesting in the whole process. My question is what if at the last minute he refuses to get on it. He might be fine walking right up to it, but if he won't sit down on it (we're actually planning on him sitting in between my husband and me) is there any way to gracefully exit the ride without riding it? Also, what if he goes on it and halfway through gets hysterical?

    Also, we have FD and are doing Character Meals b/c my daughter wants to (and I need to let her enjoy things - The problems both her brothers have does affect her a lot and it is so important to me that her needs are met and she feels special too.) However, my DS doesn't always like to sit for long periods of time (and he doesn't really eat much and may have no interest in eatting while there.) If he needs to get up and walk around for a few minutes, or just have a break from it - can I take him outside for 5 - 10 minutes and then come back in? Mostly they are buffets we are doing.

    My DS 13 needs clear cut explanations of exactly what is going to happen for each situation. If he feels like he doesn't know what to do, or what is going to happen, he tends to panic. When he is too crowded, he tends to feel insecure, overwhelmed, and if there are too many people he gets very anxious. But he loves rides, so it's important that I explain to him what the ride lines will be like. Does anyone have any suggestions for that?

    TIA :goodvibes
     
  10. cogero

    cogero DIS Veteran

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    My DS is 4.5 and has PDD-NOS and speech apraxia.

    We have been taking him to WDW since he was 8 months old. Each trip is different but we find Disney the best place for us to vacation.

    I generally start telling him about the trip and going on the airplane. My son travels really well so it isn't a huge deal though. I just need to make sure he is prepared.
     
  11. DZNEE4US

    DZNEE4US Mouseketeer

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    I have a 4 year old son with Autism, he has a twin brother (typically developing), and a 9 year old daughter with PDD-NOS. My kids have been going to WDW yearly, since they were 14 months.
    You will be surprised by how Disney affects them! One of my favorite experiences was watching my son (w/ Autism) yell with delight over watching his first real fireworks show. My daughter and I were late to meet up with the rest of my family, and I was fearing him having a meltdown over the loud noises. To my surprise he was smiling in his stroller- arms in the air cheering!!!! You never know. He also LOVES all of the characters, while his brother is afraid to get too close!
    Disney is so kid friendly and I really think they manage those of us with special needs well. If you get on a ride and your child right then decides not to ride, then tell someone ASAP and they'll help you. Now, you won't be able to exit while the ride is moving.
    You never know until you try. Pack a lot of patience and acceptance that he may not want to do what everyone else does, but at least give things a try.
    I have noticed that when we returned from vacations that he actually made more progress in school and therapy. He loves sensory input and you get tons there!!!
    Good luck!!
     
  12. ladyjubilee

    ladyjubilee Mouseketeer

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    Maybe you could start at Epcot, which isn't quite so overwhelming and the rides aren't quite to ride-y (meaning aren't like rides at carnival). The beginning and "end" of the those rides are less defined than say the Carousel or Dumbo, which makes transitioning easier. Plus the lightening is a little more sublte on most of the Epcot rides than the sun glare at MK. And its more wide open, so that if it does tank, you can just chill in a quite spot. It would give him an opportunity to practice riding in the less choatic setting with easier transitions and build on that skill before jumping in with both feet. Plus, the Seas are an interest area.

    I almost forgot, something else I found helpful-my son wore a small backpack, even on some rides at the beginning of the day. When I meantioned to the OT that this really seemed to help, she said that it is a result of the sensory imput. I don't know if that was it or if it was the sense of purpose he had because he was "responsible" for something. The back pack was very light. But it made a big difference. He even came to the point that he could decide if he needed to ride it on a certain ride or if he was ok without it.
     
  13. Lisa0620

    Lisa0620 Mouseketeer

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    Just back from our third trip with our DS10 who has Asperger's. We have had some magical moments, but the trip does revolve around his needs which can be hard on our other NT DS7. We can see in the pictures that DS10 is really worried and nervous the first 3 days of the trip, he starts to do better and by the last day is smiling and enjoying himself. I try to plan the trip accordingly, with lots of non-park pool time in those first days, (which is hard because the rest of us are so excited to get to the parks.) Noise and crowds are my son's biggest triggers which we handle with ear plugs and getting in and out of parks and meals early. Rope drops and the opening show are problematic, so we try to hit that sweet spot of arriving as they're opening the turnstiles. My biggest challenge honestly is managing MY OWN expectations. I sometimes think things will be better and easier than they are at home and in our experience they haven't been. I try to go in with the lowest expectations possible - that he won't ride anything - and then if he does it's a bonus. Maybe plan in advance to switch off with your DH so you're not the one "missing" all the rides.

    I wouldn't push the Nemo ride. The queue is so dark and even if it's empty it's so long and wind-y that it always gets my son ramped up with anxiety. The ride itself is super easy and if your son loves "screens" like mine does he will be mesmerized once it starts and probably be okay. If he freaked out I think you'd have to just ride it out. The loading process is on a moving walkway like Peter Pan so there's kind of a scramble to get seated quickly... if I were you I'd let it go, or attempt it late in the trip if he's had a chance to be successfully "brave" about other things and he really wants to try it.

    Our son is deathly afraid of characters, so we've never done a character meal and I can't help with that. The restaurants are loud and crowded and always a challenge for us, our son prefers outside CS locations.

    For your DS13 I would follow some kind of touring plan (easywdw or tourguidemike) so you spent as little time as possible in lines. It might help to have "the plan" printed out and give him the plan and the map and put him in charge of leading your group around. That way in lines his mind will be occupied with "what's next" instead of focusing on his anxiety.

    For your daughter all I can suggest is some one on one time with a parent visiting princesses or whatever girly thing she wants to do. The end goal is of course to help the boys have "flexible brains" so they can accept when it is not their turn, but the reality of that for us is a real risk of a meltdown which ruins the experience for everybody. I try to think very practically of not what should he handle, but what WILL he handle.

    I hope this didn't come across as overly negative. We love it there and our son loves it there. Our kids’ very favorite thing this trip was the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (interactive video experience.) It’s something you could do all together and might be a nice easy way to start off the trip on a good note. Good luck, I hope you have a wonderful trip! :goodvibes
     
  14. KisanMcG

    KisanMcG The Other Wendy-Lady

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    I'm not a child, but am an adult with Aspergers who has been visiting WDW for 25 years with family. I know these great moms have a lot of good advice from a parent's perspective, but I can't help but put myself in your 13 yr old's shoes.

    Something that I find helpful is to bring an electronic device like a Nook or game that lets me focus on playing tetris or sudoku while in line, as a distraction. I can narrow my thoughts to the game and it blocks out some of the chaos of the people waiting around us. My family has also gotten good at realizing when things are getting to be too much for me, and we go somewhere quiet for a while. Favorite spots include the Maharaja Jungle Trek in DAK, the second floor seating area in Columbia Harbor House in MK, Epcot's gardens in the rear of most of the World Showcase pavilions, and One Man's Dream in HS. There's quiet and those spots are cooler, which can make it easier to calm down, but there are also nearby activities or sights that keep the rest of the group from getting bored.

    I also encourage you to put your teen's research-hungry brain to good use! There are ridethroughs online for nearly every attraction, walkthroughts for resort rooms and resorts themselves, even the bus rides! You can have a "virtual" trip that leaves less room for surprises. A touring plan is great, and he can then put it into to his own "system" like a spreadsheet or chart. There are route planners online that can show ways to use Disney transportation to go from place to place. Challenge him to come up with "alternates" that can be done in case the primary goal can't be achieved, and talk about the reasons why things may happen - For example, "If the Jungle Cruise is unexpectedly not running that day because it is raining, what else can we do in that area during that time?" It helps him feel more in control, and can prevent problems with worry about plans changing without warning and panic over what to do next.

    Above all, try to be as patient and as flexible as you can be, and prepare for known triggers. Some times I can put in earplugs and sit through Illuminations... but most of the time I ride it out in a store, and sometimes I can't tolerate being in the same park! The key is being able to find a way for everyone to be happy and yet still within personal comfort levels.
     
  15. Midnightred

    Midnightred DIS Veteran

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    I have two boys who have autism, ages 8 and 10. We took them on their first trip to Disneyland last summer and they loved it! The key to our sucess was the long afternoon break at the hotel pool, I am pretty sure they enjoyed the pool more than the parks! After the hotel afternoon break we would head back over to the parks, but my boys would tire easily. They were done and ready to return to the room by 8 PM at the latest. It was just too much stimulation for them. Mornings until noon were our best times. We uses the GAC only for Nemo, because it is a slow loader and we had to. I really wish I had earplugs for them because the noises were intense for them. We sat at the back of the boat on the Jungle Cruise right under the speaker and it was horrible! I will bring earplugs next time. We had the time of our lives and plan to go next year! Hope this helps!

    Midnightred
     
  16. Apopper74

    Apopper74 Mouseketeer

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    Kisan,
    That is really great advice from the other perspective. As parents we try to understand and you provided some great information to help.

    Thank you!
    Adrienne
     
  17. MaggieMollyMom

    MaggieMollyMom Mouseketeer

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    I also have 4 yr old twins (one with Autism and one typically dev). We are DVC members and go yearly. We also find that Disney is good for our DD with ASD. She seems calmer, if that makes any sense what so ever!! She like all the stim i think. Her sister, who is typically developing, actually had more melt downs! (but I was sort commando about things!)

    if you have any specific qu, pm me!!



     
  18. buckeev

    buckeev RedNeck Mouseketeer

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    Kisan,
    Outstanding advice! We have been "tweaking" our trips since my son's first one, (at 6 years of age.) We strive to cover as many of the "situations" that might occur, but of course, that's impossible. I love your advice on involving him/her in discussing the plans, we'll try to do more of that! At 14 now, he is more capable of doing much of that.
    Thanks for sharing!
     
  19. Mom2six

    Mom2six DIS Veteran

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    Thank you for all of the input. It is really helpful. I will definitely plan a long afternoon break out of the heat.

    My 13 year old will love the resort pools...I'll find out what my 4 year thinks :) He is afraid of pools, but I know that SoG has a shallow kids pool, and he loves his kiddie pool and the bath. So perhaps if the water isn't deep, he'll enjoy it!

    I always bring electronic devices (gameboy, DSi, even my iPhone much to my chagrin). My youngest two also like to watch movies on my iPod. My DS(4) is the more likely one for meltdowns, and he will be in his stroller whenever he needs it - it's his escape zone. If it gets to be too much, he'll lean back and just play games, or sleep.

    Thank you for letting me know about the Nemo queue being dark and windy. He does love any and all "screens" but the wait might be too much.

    I wish earplugs were an option for us. But my little darling had ear tubes (still does) and cannot get soapy water in his ears at all! So he has to have earplugs to wash his hair, which he detests, so he has a very negative connotation for earplugs.

    Kisan, thanks for the advice. I will put it to use, allow him to help with some of the planning, and let him have his own copy of our itinery and back-up plans! Great advice to discuss all the possibilities and why things might change.
     
  20. bookwormde

    bookwormde <font color=darkorchid>Heading out now, another ad

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    Just a thought, ear plugs for swimming and hearing protection ear plugs are quite different. The foam ones are much softer than the swiming ones and even the really good ones by companies like e.a.r are somewhat different in their feel and do not block sound but just reduce it.
     
  21. MyHappiestPlace

    MyHappiestPlace Mouseketeer

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    I have taken my now 10 yo dd since she was born. We are local and have annual passes and go all the time now. When she was younger, she would have issues w/ the noise, crowds, etc but over time she became used to it. I think it really helped her to be honest learn how to cope with esp since she was mainstreamed in school. She does have issues riding some of the thrill rides - and prefers the more mellow ones. She used to ride Splash Mt all.the.time and once even rode it 5x in row! But something happened and she refuses to ride it anymore. She did try Tower of Terror earlier this year and that won't happen again :lmao: but i think the fact that we go all the time and ask her if she wants to try new things really helps.

    The only advice I would give is to go with the flow. If your child doesn't want to do/see/eat something, don't push it. Just be more in tune with his limits and offer safe havens for him when you see that boundaries are getting pushed and he's not comfortable.
     

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