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Thread: Disneyland for autistic children

  1. #1
    Registered User amyuilani's Avatar
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    Disneyland for autistic children

    Hello,

    Next year my family and I are planning a reunion in Huntington Beach, and I would love if we can get as many of us together for a day in the parks. A challenge we have is that my cousin has a (currently) 3-year-old daughter who has autism. As of today, she doesn't talk or walk, and does not react well to being around too many people. That certainly makes it difficult to gauge how she will handle being at Disneyland with a park full of people. At the same time, we should not deprive her of the chance to be positively stimulated by the environment, the background music, any characters that may make her smile, or any rides that will make her happy. Certainly if she is not doing well, we can take her home, but we would love the opportunity to try, hoping it's a great place for her.

    Does anyone here have children with autism, or know of others who bring their autistic children to the park? Can anyone share stories of what rides, characters, shows, etc., their autistic children have responded to? I understand autism is subjective and each child responds differently. However, if we can gauge ahead of time what the environment may be like for her, we can see if it's the right place for her overall.

    Thanks!

    DISNEYLAND CAST MEMBER - 1996-2005
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  3. #2
    Some people are worth melting for oregontraveler's Avatar
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    You should be able to get a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) at City Hall, that will help with some of the waiting in lines. A pair of noise-canceling headphones will help filter out the ambient noise and keep her calm. Between now and your trip to DL, see if you can take her out on other outings and see how she reacts. The dark rides in Fantasyland are wonderful, but are they going to be too much for her.

    On my last trip this summer. I saw the Fairy Godmother interact with a little girl. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I felt that
    the two of them had a very special moment. PIC_7102.jpg


  4. #3

    My DS is 8 and is Autistic. He has a GAC, it is a huge help. With this card you will use the handicap access entry, which is not "a front of the line pass" but rather for our kids just much less crowded and congested. I bring ear plugs for the fireworks. DS loves Star Tours, Buzz, Pinnocio, Snow White. We tend to ride those rides over and over. I follow his lead and only get on things he wants to go on. When he is over stimulated we head over to the lower level of Hungry Bear and watch the ducks, or have a seat over at the seating areas between the castle and the Matterhorn. We have been going to Disneyland since he was 3, when he was younger he was more willing to try new things, but we still have a great time, every time we are there.


  5. #4
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    My youngest daughter (18yrs old) is on the spectrum (PDD-NOS), and is high functioning. I have a friend who has a severly autistic son (19yrs old). They are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but have a few needs in common. With both, it's important to map out quiet areas in the park where they can decompress. Both need to take rests mid-day. Neither one is fond of fireworks, even with the noise cancelling headphones. My DD will watch them once, mostly because she gets frustrated by her limitations and likes to push her own boundaries from time to time.

    Both of them have specific rides and attractions they just simply can't make themselves experience. For DD, the BIG no-no is Bug's Life. She has never gotten over her first experience with that attraction - the poke in the back and awful smells still haunt her! She also doesn't like Screamin', ToT, or Mickey's Fun Wheel. She doesn't do well with the sensation of falling.

    The key is really to pay attention to her reactions. Start small and work your way up if you'd like. Even if she's not verbal, showing videos of the rides and talking about what she will encounter may help. Have them bring comforting items from home like a blanket, pillow, or favorite stuffed animal.

    Keep in mind that there is a first aid station in each park. If you can't find a quiet space, it can be a life-saver!

    The GAC is a good idea. It won't get you on rides any faster, but it will give you a much quieter place to wait for some of them.

    Even though we have been to Disneyland more times than I can count, we still prep for a month or two before we go. We do this by going to crowded areas (malls, community flea markets, craft fairs, etc.). It gives her a chance to get a bit desensitized and gives me a reminder to pick up on the non-verbal cues she gives when she's starting to get overwhelmed.

    Most of all, have fun!


  6. #5
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    When Youngest was that age, she was very picky about what she was willing to do, and she would get stuck wanting the same ride over and over. Usually, it was IASW.

    The headphones or ear plugs should help. Since she isn't walking, check with guest relations about having her GAC marked to use her stroller as a wheelchair. Since she is only 3, and not walking, most of the big rides are out (which is fine because many autistics don't like the falling feeling caused by them) but she will probably like most of Fantasyland.

    Planning 3 trips at once...

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malcon10t View Post
    When Youngest was that age, she was very picky about what she was willing to do, and she would get stuck wanting the same ride over and over. Usually, it was IASW.
    Ah, IASW! My DD was OBSESSED with this ride! I think she was around 5 when that's ALL she wanted to ride. After 8 times back to back, I videotaped the entire ride so she could watch it while her sister road other things. Thankfully she grew out of that phase :-)

  8. #7
    Registered User amyuilani's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your suggestions. I had considered the GAC, but had not considered headphones for her. I think that's a great idea, as is integrating her into crowds ahead of time. I think we will be able to find things that work for her.

    DISNEYLAND CAST MEMBER - 1996-2005
    The best memories of my life...

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    I have no direct experience with autistic children - but had some with 3 and 4 year olds. I know around that age kids tend to get scared by things that didn't scare them before. And it is around then when they stop liking some of the story lines in Fantasyland - in particular Mr Toad and Snow White. I'm thinking those two might be good after she's tried some of the others (Pooh and Small World come to mind as good 'first' dark rides)

    Or am I bringing up something that is more likely to be a non-concern in this situation?
    (Though I'd still start with Pooh and Small World since they're generally 'happier' rides all around!)

    Cathy

  10. #9

    check out this blog. It has a lot of good tips. There are a couple of different posts about Disneyland on her blog.

    http://vermillionrules.blogspot.com/...-take-two.html

    Melissa


  11. #10

    thank you for this post. It will be helpful. I have used the pass before for my son but his anxiety has gotten worse in the last 2 years since our last visit. Curious how do they handle the GAC with the new rides in Cars Land? I read somewhere at the radiator springs ride they hand write a pass to come back in 2 hours and you can only use it once a day. Is this true?

    DLand-11/12,9/10,4/09,4/06,7/00
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  12. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by CADisneyFam View Post
    thank you for this post. It will be helpful. I have used the pass before for my son but his anxiety has gotten worse in the last 2 years since our last visit. Curious how do they handle the GAC with the new rides in Cars Land? I read somewhere at the radiator springs ride they hand write a pass to come back in 2 hours and you can only use it once a day. Is this true?
    That was our experience with friends over the summer. The hand-written return time was designed to approximate the stand-by wait. I would point out, that depending on the time of day, the fastpass return line had waits of up to around 45 minutes, so if he will have problems with waiting for that long, you will have to decide if it is worth it for your family for this trip. You may be able to minimize this by going to the attraction early in the morning to get your return time - when hopefully there will not be as many other fastpasses out there.

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