As someone with autism who loves going to Walt Disney World, I know that for others like me, it can be both a magical and stressful time. Crowds, new environments, and unexpected noises can be stressful for anyone, but especially for people with autism.
Disney World with Autism – Helpful tips for unique needs
Over the years of visiting some of the most magical places on earth, my family and I have developed habits that help us stay comfortable while traveling. These are 12 tips for visiting Disney World with autism that helped me enjoy the magic.
1. Bring ear protection
Disney World can be a noisy place. Children may cry, people may be talking, and some shows and attractions may be loud. An easy way to deal with this problem is to wear ear protection.
Noise-cancelling headphones, earmuffs, earplugs, and other ways to make the world a little quieter can all make a big difference. And you don’t need anything expensive to do this job. When I was in trouble, I used disposable earplugs from the 100 yen shop, and they worked very well. Guest Services also provides earplugs for free!
2. Know where your sensory-friendly spaces are.
When sensory overload occurs and you feel like you’re nearing or in the midst of a meltdown, it’s important to find a quiet place to relax. Each of the four parks has a relief area where you can safely rest in a quiet place. However, there are many other quiet spots within the park where you can take a break.
You can always ask a Cast Member to direct you to a spot near you if you wish. My favorite area when I’m on sensory overload is the Seeds area of Epcot. This area is indoors, the lighting is dim and it’s always chilly, but there are plenty of areas to sit and rest while admiring all the fish in the aquarium.
3. Pay attention to crowd conditions
Walt Disney World can have even more people visiting depending on the time of year. Navigating through crowds to get to your destination is no fun and can be very stressful. To have a better time, find out when it’s less crowded before buying tickets.websites such as undercover traveler There are calendars that can help you predict less busy times. Keep an eye on attraction wait times, upcoming holidays, and events.
4. Don’t forget to take breaks
Visiting Disney World can drain a lot of people, both physically and mentally. The weather alone is draining, but on top of that, parks require a huge amount of walking and social battery, which can tire you out quickly. If you feel tired, you can take a break or return to the place where you were temporarily staying to rest. My family was able to return to the hotel in the afternoon to cool off, avoid the hottest part of the day, rest our feet, and take a nap.
5. Setting up DAS path services
As someone who gets extremely anxious when I’m in large crowds or too close to strangers, discovering the Disability Access Services (DAS) pass was the best thing I’ve ever signed up for at a park. It was one of those things that happened. With a DAS Pass, you can avoid the stress of waiting in line for rides and attractions and wait outdoors wherever you like. Prior to your arrival, you can sign up for a pass in person at Guest Relations or online via video chat. As a bonus, DAS ride passes can also be scheduled through the My Disney Experience app.
6. Bring what you need
Just because we’re at Disney doesn’t mean our needs can get sidetracked. If you need something to make your trip more familiar and enjoyable, feel free to bring it with you. I always carry earplugs, an extra battery or two to charge my phone, sunglasses, at least one pair of wireless earbuds, and something to keep me fidgety while standing in line or waiting for food. I am.
7. Check the menu before going out to eat
Safe food is essential for people with autism. Different restaurants have different foods, but making sure safe foods are on the menu before you walk in the door can make your life a little easier. The menu is available both online and on My Disney Experience. We also have a “secret menu” for people with allergies and menu items that are not listed on the general menu, so please feel free to ask a cast member.
8. My Disney Experience app is your best friend
As mentioned earlier, you can schedule your DAS pass through the app and view restaurant menus. But wait, there’s more! You can make park reservations, choose your Lightning Lane, order counter service, and even purchase merchandise, all through the app.
9. Bring a friend/loved one
With so much going on in the park, it can take a lot of effort to stay grounded and attentive to your needs. That’s why the world changes when you’re with someone. I love going to Disney World with my family. Because my family knows about my problems and what I need to feel better even when I don’t realize it.
For example, my dad is good at keeping me grounded even when I’m stressed out in a crowd, and he guides me through it. My mom, on the other hand, is great at making sure I stay hydrated and eat well on hot Florida days. It’s always a good idea to ensure people have a “safety net” during their visit.
10. Be aware of possible sensory issues
Like other places outside the comfort of our homes, Disney World has many things that are considered sensory prohibitions for people with autism. The Florida heat, noise from other people, and even the fact that there are a lot of people can make the situation even worse. Everyone’s sensory issues are different, but here are some big ones that I recommend you look out for.
The first thing to watch out for is noisy vehicles. Examples include Test His Truck at Epcot (especially when entering the line), Dinosaurs in Animal His Kingdom, and the explosive finale of Journey into the Imagination with Figment. Each ride can get very loud and a lot can happen at the same time.
The second thing to note is the fireworks. Disney World hosts several shows with fireworks before the park closes. If you don’t like it, I recommend staying away. This will make it a little quieter, and being closer to the exit means you’ll be the first to catch Disney transportation when you need it, making it easier to leave the park after it’s over. Also, keep in mind that Magic Kingdom’s pre-castle shows usually include fireworks at the end, including a welcome rope drop.
11. Consider alternative transportation options
If you didn’t drive to Disney World, you’ll probably need to use Disney’s transportation system to get around. Of course, some people find this easier than others. If you don’t like public transportation, we recommend renting a car or considering Walt’s Minnie Van via his Lyft at Disney World. You need the Lyft app and it’s not free, but it might be better than riding the bus with strangers.
12. Download an app to help you while queuing.
Cell phones are a great way to keep your hands busy and distract yourself when you’re in a stressful situation. I always have a meditation app and a stress relief app or two on my phone for when I’m feeling stressed. It’s also a very good idea to have at least one offline game in case you get bored. Disney World has free Wi-Fi, but the signal can be weak or slow in certain areas.
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Molly Locke is a freelance journalist who has just left a news organization. She’s been traveling since before she could walk, and she’s gained considerable insight into what this world is all about. Movies and videos are her bread and butter, and she can talk endlessly about their stories, quality, effects, and influence. Molly can be found on Instagram, X, Threads, and LinkedIn.