Toddler, sensory, and new to all of this

theluckyrabbit

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Jul 23, 2012
Mornings are the best time at DL and DCA. Are you staying on site? If so, you'll have EMH at DL and EE at DCA (one hour early entry at each park, alternating days). If not, but you have 3+ day tickets, you should have a Magic Morning (MM) attached to your ticket (one hour early entry to DL only, FL and TL only, Tue., Thu., or Sat.). The early morning hours and hours from RD until noon-ish are when you can get the most done at DLR. So with good planning and organization, you can get a lot of rides in with minimal wait times. You may not even have to use the DAS during those hours, but can book a return time for later when the parks get busier.
Also be watching the local weather reports closely (start about two weeks out from your trip dates) and check on the DLR forum to see what the locals are wearing right before you start packing. It's unusually cold and wet in the parks right now. Great for short wait times, miserable for those who didn't pack warm clothing. We're seeing kids in shorts begging to go back to the hotel! If your son reacts to extreme changes in temperature, be aware of that. This thread on the recent rain in the parks can give you some idea of how extreme it can get: Can we chat rain?. (In other words, rain at DLR is not like rain at WDW!)
 

javeyloveschelsi

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 14, 2014
Just wanted to add that if you do get the DAS for him, he would have to be going on the ride, so look for height requirements and intensity of an attraction before you request the DAS :)
Yes, we planned on only requesting if he is riding (obviously) and if the wait is over 20 minutes (that may be pushing it, we won’t know until we try it). For those rides, I may strap on the baby carrier and try that way. We know that one life skill he will have to learn is “waiting” and while we don’t want to cause him any discomfort and will watch him very closely, we want to see how well he does once we are there and then determine from that point what he will need from us. On a side note, we got his new stroller in on Saturday and he seems to love it—especially as the canopy completely surrounds him, which he has NEVER taken to a stroller, so fingers crossed that that will work well enough!
 

javeyloveschelsi

Mouseketeer
Joined
Feb 14, 2014
Mornings are the best time at DL and DCA. Are you staying on site? If so, you'll have EMH at DL and EE at DCA (one hour early entry at each park, alternating days). If not, but you have 3+ day tickets, you should have a Magic Morning (MM) attached to your ticket (one hour early entry to DL only, FL and TL only, Tue., Thu., or Sat.). The early morning hours and hours from RD until noon-ish are when you can get the most done at DLR. So with good planning and organization, you can get a lot of rides in with minimal wait times. You may not even have to use the DAS during those hours, but can book a return time for later when the parks get busier.
Also be watching the local weather reports closely (start about two weeks out from your trip dates) and check on the DLR forum to see what the locals are wearing right before you start packing. It's unusually cold and wet in the parks right now. Great for short wait times, miserable for those who didn't pack warm clothing. We're seeing kids in shorts begging to go back to the hotel! If your son reacts to extreme changes in temperature, be aware of that. This thread on the recent rain in the parks can give you some idea of how extreme it can get: Can we chat rain?. (In other words, rain at DLR is not like rain at WDW!)
We are not on site, but have planned one 7 am MM and then a super early character breakfast later in the week before the parks open in hopes of some lower lines when we are done. However, we will see how he reacts to the characters earlier in the week to make sure it’s not going to be a traumatic experience to see the characters. He does not like it when his siblings put on masks, but in all fairness, I would be terrified of my 4 year old brother dressed up as a raptor too ;)

As for the weather, I honestly didn’t think it would be warm enough for shorts by then anyway lol. I’m used to our midwestern mindset and we currently have a layer of ice on our sidewalk, so that just means I won’t have to unbox our summer gear and can just pull out of our closet. Either way, it’s gotta be warmer there than it is here lol!
 
  • Weedy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 2, 2008
    It was a high of 83 and a low of 67 today in Orlando. But it’s going to get cold Wednesday with a high of 63 and a low of 49. ;)
    Oops you’re going to DL
     

    theluckyrabbit

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    Joined
    Jul 23, 2012
    We are not on site, but have planned one 7 am MM and then a super early character breakfast later in the week before the parks open in hopes of some lower lines when we are done. However, we will see how he reacts to the characters earlier in the week to make sure it’s not going to be a traumatic experience to see the characters. He does not like it when his siblings put on masks, but in all fairness, I would be terrified of my 4 year old brother dressed up as a raptor too ;)

    As for the weather, I honestly didn’t think it would be warm enough for shorts by then anyway lol. I’m used to our midwestern mindset and we currently have a layer of ice on our sidewalk, so that just means I won’t have to unbox our summer gear and can just pull out of our closet. Either way, it’s gotta be warmer there than it is here lol!
    Meeting characters is always interesting with kids -- the fully costumed characters and the face characters -- so different, and so different at every age! Oldest didn't like meeting anyone, but loved (!) watching other kids do M&Gs. He would laugh and laugh, clap his hands, and just enjoy watching other kids have a great time with the characters. This lasted for a long time -- but he really did have a great time, just didn't want any part of doing it himself until he got older. If meeting characters doesn't go well right away, maybe your son will enjoy watching his siblings have fun with it. We got great photos of oldest laughing while watching other kids meet characters. Youngest loved meeting fully costumed characters, but not any princesses (LOL!) -- just too glamorous for him! Peter Pan was fine, but not Cinderella! Too funny. So, no princess character meals for him!
    If you can deal with ice on the sidewalk, you should be fine at DLR! As long as you check the DLR board for a weather update before packing and stick with layers, you'll be good. We have families here now who packed shorts (it was in the low 40's and dropping when we left the parks last night!), so they've had a challenging time! The fewer challenges you have to deal with on your trip, the better. :)
     
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    friedela

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2017
    OP, Just wanted to throw in a hug amongst all the great advice and tips :o My DD was diagnosed with Autism before Christmas and it's a blow at first. Takes a while to process and can feel really overwhelming.. Just wanted to say you aren't alone and I am sure you are doing an incredible job with him! From what I am learning as well, Disney does a great job with kids who have special needs. Knowledge is power, I can say that our first Disney trip was amazing, but my DD really struggled at the time and I found it so frustrating. I mean, c'mon kid! We are in DISNEYWORLD, how can you NOT be happy?! LOL. But now, knowing what I know about her and having more knowledge under my belt I can approach our next trip differently and make sure she gets the rest and breaks she needs so she doesn't get overstimulated so that it's an incredible trip for her too. Hang in there mamma, you got this :)
     
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    theluckyrabbit

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    Jul 23, 2012
    ...But now, knowing what I know about her and having more knowledge under my belt I can approach our next trip differently and make sure she gets the rest and breaks she needs so she doesn't get overstimulated so that it's an incredible trip for her too. Hang in there mamma, you got this :)
    AND (!) make sure to schedule in rest and breaks for you, too! After all, "When Mama ain't happy..." is true at Disney Parks, too!
     
  • Lauren in NC

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 13, 2010
    You've already got the stroller with the canopy - that was the biggest thing for my son when he was that age. We also had one of those muslin-type blankets - like the Aden & Anais ones - for completely covering the stroller or for snuggling. What does he do to calm himself down (or what do you do)? Does he have any fidget toys or small figures that he can take with him? Cars - the Disney ones - were a bit hit with my kid that age as a calming tool. He liked rolling it over his arms, the stroller, or the the low walls (Tomorrowland and Radiator Springs are perfect for that) or over a parent in a pinch :rolleyes: My son also found water soothing, and there's those sculpture water ball things in both Tomorrowland (near Space Mountain) and Pixar Pier (near the concert area) now.

    My son loved the fully costumed characters but found face characters frightening. Pluto, Mickey, etc can't change their facial expressions, so they have to use body language and oversized gestures to communicate, and he was absolutely entranced with that.

    The biggest thing, like the other posters have mentioned, is to just keep an eye on him and recognize his tells for when he's getting overstimulated. Rider switch works great for this - there's going to be rides the older kids will want to do that he can't, so you can have your husband take the older kids on the ride while you wait with your youngest, then you and some of the kids (possibly all - i've forgotten how many people can use the rider switch pass) can ride while your husband stays with him. That keeps the older kids happy while still giving the little guy plenty of time to chill out or run around or just eat a snack.

    My DS is older now, but we've done DL several times successfully with him, and I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have!
     

    javeyloveschelsi

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2014
    OP, Just wanted to throw in a hug amongst all the great advice and tips :o My DD was diagnosed with Autism before Christmas and it's a blow at first. Takes a while to process and can feel really overwhelming.. Just wanted to say you aren't alone and I am sure you are doing an incredible job with him! From what I am learning as well, Disney does a great job with kids who have special needs. Knowledge is power, I can say that our first Disney trip was amazing, but my DD really struggled at the time and I found it so frustrating. I mean, c'mon kid! We are in DISNEYWORLD, how can you NOT be happy?! LOL. But now, knowing what I know about her and having more knowledge under my belt I can approach our next trip differently and make sure she gets the rest and breaks she needs so she doesn't get overstimulated so that it's an incredible trip for her too. Hang in there mamma, you got this :)
    Thank you so much for the support—We need as much of it as possible right now. We will be going in soon for a sleep study also. He doesn’t sleep and they are thinking he may have epilepsy on top of it. The dr is wondering how severe this is going to get before we plateau, so it’s hard and impacting everyone here because the neurologist is very worried right now and I’m not even sure I fully comprehend all that they are testing him for...I’m having to significantly cut back on hours at work, so financially, it’ll be tough. If we hadn’t paid for everything (and had our one family member who does support us insist we go and bought the tickets) we honestly wouldn’t be going on a trip, even though I know we need a break (plus our 4 year old had a near death experience last year in a near drowning freak accident and his wish was to go back to Cars Land, so we started planning the trip). This mama is exhausted right now, so any words of encouragement mean SO much to us right now as the one person in our family who does show true family support lives 3,000 miles away.
     

    javeyloveschelsi

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2014
    AND (!) make sure to schedule in rest and breaks for you, too! After all, "When Mama ain't happy..." is true at Disney Parks, too!
    Very true! We like to arrive super early and go back for a nap around lunch time then back in the late afternoon. I don’t know if the little guy will sleep, but crossing my fingers he will!
     

    javeyloveschelsi

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2014
    You've already got the stroller with the canopy - that was the biggest thing for my son when he was that age. We also had one of those muslin-type blankets - like the Aden & Anais ones - for completely covering the stroller or for snuggling. What does he do to calm himself down (or what do you do)? Does he have any fidget toys or small figures that he can take with him? Cars - the Disney ones - were a bit hit with my kid that age as a calming tool. He liked rolling it over his arms, the stroller, or the the low walls (Tomorrowland and Radiator Springs are perfect for that) or over a parent in a pinch :rolleyes: My son also found water soothing, and there's those sculpture water ball things in both Tomorrowland (near Space Mountain) and Pixar Pier (near the concert area) now.

    My son loved the fully costumed characters but found face characters frightening. Pluto, Mickey, etc can't change their facial expressions, so they have to use body language and oversized gestures to communicate, and he was absolutely entranced with that.

    The biggest thing, like the other posters have mentioned, is to just keep an eye on him and recognize his tells for when he's getting overstimulated. Rider switch works great for this - there's going to be rides the older kids will want to do that he can't, so you can have your husband take the older kids on the ride while you wait with your youngest, then you and some of the kids (possibly all - i've forgotten how many people can use the rider switch pass) can ride while your husband stays with him. That keeps the older kids happy while still giving the little guy plenty of time to chill out or run around or just eat a snack.

    My DS is older now, but we've done DL several times successfully with him, and I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have!
    Thanks so much for the help! How he calms himself is by putting his hand down my shirt, even though we haven’t nursed in 7 months. We are working on trying to replace that with something else. Otherwise, he blinks really hard, squinting his face and I know that’s when he needs to look away. We will definitely have toy cars with us as that is one of the toys he LOVES. I will also have our whiteboard with us so he can draw circles on if he needs to wind down as he will do that for hours. We are working on his diet and will take snacks for him (he LOVES to eat, but we are starting gluten free and very limited dairy with him so I will pack some snacks, but DL is so great with food needs). We will also utilize rider swap. Last time we went, I was pregnant with him so I couldn’t go on most of the rides that would need that, but will this time. I am really hoping he loves the costume characters because I really want a sweet picture of him with a character like I got with his older brother at this age. I know I may not get my wish and that’s ok, but it never hurts to have a wish, right?!? That’s so much for the offer to help! I may be messaging here soon or while we are there.
     
  • theluckyrabbit

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    Jul 23, 2012
    Very true! We like to arrive super early and go back for a nap around lunch time then back in the late afternoon. I don’t know if the little guy will sleep, but crossing my fingers he will!
    Even if he doesn't actually sleep, the decompression time will be really helpful every day (for him and for you!). Oldest wasn't a great sleeper, but we would do "quiet time," telling him that he didn't have to sleep (which took a lot of the pressure off of him and made him much less resistant to the idea), but that he did need to just be quiet with the rest of us -- no TV, no bright lights, no loud/electric/stimulating toys -- just resting time in a darkened room with everyone else. Half the time he would fall asleep on his own, the rest of the time he would just zone. But it did help. Does your son fall asleep in the car? If he does, riding the train can help sometimes -- 3 times around is about an hour, and most kids are fast asleep well before then. CMs will let you stay on as long as you need to (they'll see the napping going on!). Just choose a back corner where no one will bother you getting on or off, wrap your son in his blanket, and get comfy.
     

    javeyloveschelsi

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2014
    Even if he doesn't actually sleep, the decompression time will be really helpful every day (for him and for you!). Oldest wasn't a great sleeper, but we would do "quiet time," telling him that he didn't have to sleep (which took a lot of the pressure off of him and made him much less resistant to the idea), but that he did need to just be quiet with the rest of us -- no TV, no bright lights, no loud/electric/stimulating toys -- just resting time in a darkened room with everyone else. Half the time he would fall asleep on his own, the rest of the time he would just zone. But it did help. Does your son fall asleep in the car? If he does, riding the train can help sometimes -- 3 times around is about an hour, and most kids are fast asleep well before then. CMs will let you stay on as long as you need to (they'll see the napping going on!). Just choose a back corner where no one will bother you getting on or off, wrap your son in his blanket, and get comfy.
    That’s GREAT to know about the train. As for sleeping in the car, he used to. Only occasionally anymore. He goes in for a sleep study soon as they think he may also have a form of epilepsy that causes him to not sleep anymore. I have to get up in the middle of the night for my job and by the time we finally get him laid down (and that’s after using a 1/2 tablet of a prescribed sleeping pill that doesn’t work on him), I only have been ending up with about an 1 1/2-2 hours of sleep every night the last couple months—some nights I get lucky and get 3 and others I end up pulling all nighters with him. DH is VERY helpful, but he has to sleep as he has a 45 minute one way drive to work and if he messes up at his job, the company can lose millions and the feds get involved, so I make sure he gets to sleep a bit more, but he doesn’t get much more than I do (although he can sleep through our little guy running around everywhere where I can’t). He is starting to get resistant to any naps as well any more. He doesn’t understand quiet time, but he DOES love the Angry Birds cartoons (he loves the Pigs), so we can always turn that on and be able to keep him contained to one area in the room while we rest. He may be able to fall asleep on me on the train, as long as I’m holding him and he can cuddle up as that’s the only way he will sleep at all anymore.
     

    theluckyrabbit

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    Jul 23, 2012
    Then give the train a try -- just cuddle up in a back corner where you won't be disturbed and ride as many rounds as you'd like. Can't hurt to try! If your DH can keep watch, you might be able to grab some shut eye, too.
     

    Betty Rohrer

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 19, 2010
    Thanks so much for the help! How he calms himself is by putting his hand down my shirt, even though we haven’t nursed in 7 months. We are working on trying to replace that with something else. Otherwise, he blinks really hard, squinting his face and I know that’s when he needs to look away. We will definitely have toy cars with us as that is one of the toys he LOVES. I will also have our whiteboard with us so he can draw circles on if he needs to wind down as he will do that for hours. We are working on his diet and will take snacks for him (he LOVES to eat, but we are starting gluten free and very limited dairy with him so I will pack some snacks, but DL is so great with food needs). We will also utilize rider swap. Last time we went, I was pregnant with him so I couldn’t go on most of the rides that would need that, but will this time. I am really hoping he loves the costume characters because I really want a sweet picture of him with a character like I got with his older brother at this age. I know I may not get my wish and that’s ok, but it never hurts to have a wish, right?!? That’s so much for the offer to help! I may be messaging here soon or while we are there.
    make sure you have more than one of favorites as loosing one can be a major problem. been there done that
     

    Nsaudra

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 7, 2018
    Our now 8 year old son has this, as much as I didnt want to hear it it was nice to have answers and life was better. One thing that seemed to help some was learning sign language for some key words.. he would shut down and would not communicate just throw fits. Now he would tell us we used the milk sign for hunger ever since he was a baby so he continued that and so on.
    Amusement parks can be crazy. Get a guest assistance pass for the lines , stroller as a wheel chair pass. We have the mccarellen umbrella stroller that we use everywhere. So we can wheel him away. Also he makes " forts" with a blanket we made with light fabric. Takes his tablet under there... goodbye world.
    Good luck with everything.
    You ate not alone I just recently started to be able to vacuum with him near by.
     

    theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
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    Jul 23, 2012
    make sure you have more than one of favorites as loosing one can be a major problem. been there done that
    Amen to this! Don't know if this will work, but it helped with oldest: after too many times losing "the" blanket (why is it always the one that mustn't be lost?!) at hotels, we started using what we called "spares." Spares = travel blankets = inexpensive, soft blankets that could be lost AND a package of cotton diapers/spit cloths. The blankets were washed many times before any trip to make sure they were super soft and ready to go. Same with the diaper cloths. (Oldest got to the point of liking to see these things come out because they meant we were going to DLR or to Grandma's house!) The cloths were for holding in the stroller or on a ride or at a restaurant -- easier, smaller, and if/when lost -- grab another spare! As long as they all smelled of the same detergent (and this is why we pre-washed them all many times before any trip), oldest was okay (not thrilled, but okay) with a new one. He learned to understand that at DLR, we couldn't just go home to get another blanket, so "the spare" would have to do. And DLR was worth it for him.
     
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    javeyloveschelsi

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2014
    Thank you all so much. I told a friend recently that logically I knew others are going through/have been through this, but I felt so alone as there really isn’t anyone else in our community going through anything similar and the nearest community with any support type group is over an hour away. I really appreciate hearing that I’m not alone. It really does help me A LOT. We will get to have his sleep study done before the trip to know if he also has epilepsy or something else going on as well, which I am so glad that will be complete so we can have some answers. I will be stocking up on spare blankets and we will also get an extra magnetic drawing pad as he will draw circles for hours. I think he will love Carsland as cars are one of the few things he absolutely loves :) Hopefully he will enjoy it!
     

    theluckyrabbit

    Moderator
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    Jul 23, 2012
    Hang in there, mama! You are so right that just knowing that you aren't alone is such a help and comfort. Know that you can always come to the DIS for help, advice, suggestions, comfort -- and just to blow off some steam when you need to! :)
    By the way, in case your son gets new meds or might need anything during your trip, there are two pharmacies within walking distance to DLR. CVS (the regular store is 24/7) and Walgreens (not sure if this one is 24/7 -- but I know the CVS is) are located across the street from each other at the intersection of Harbor and Katella -- about a 10 minute walk from the Harbor side entrance. There is also a Target about a mile south of the parks on Harbor. The nearest ER/Urgent Care is UCI (University of CA, Irvine) -- and it is a VERY good center. It is about 10-15 minutes away by car on surface streets.
     

    LightningGale

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Feb 21, 2019
    I'm an adult with sensory processing issues. For me, restaurants were hard to deal with, because you've got all those people concentrated together in such a small space and they're usually all talking, so I try to sit in the quieter areas like outside seating. If your kid's nonverbal, he's not going to be able to communicate what areas are best for him, but you can judge reasonably well. Strobe lights are also really hard on me because I'm light-sensitive, and sunglasses don't help much; knowing they're coming does, though, so if you could warn him that might help.

    Going back to the room for down time is a good idea. My family doesn't do that any more, but just having some time to get out of the newness and intensity, and sit in the hotel room and chill, was really important. These days, we usually just find somewhere quiet to sit (I don't know what the best spots for that at Disneyland are, unfortunately) and get something to eat.

    I never had serious issues with the characters, but I did react very badly to some of the child-friendly rides - I flatly refused to have anything to do with Dumbo. Be prepared to deal with weird reactions like that.

    Other than that, looks like you're pretty well prepared for this. I hope you and your family have a great time!
     


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