Do you have a family member on the Autism spectrum? Disorders considered as “autistic” include not only classic Autism, but Asperger’s, some forms of ADD, and PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). These disabilities can wreak havoc on an otherwise magical vacation if not properly planned for. My stepdaughter is a recently diagnosed “Aspie” with inattentive-type ADD. And if that wasn’t enough … she also has moderate binaural hearing loss. These different-abilities certainly made us think carefully when planning our most recent trip to Disney World.
Luckily, Disney does an amazing job of accommodating those with all sorts of disabilities. The stimulating and inclusive environment allows children of all ages to enjoy a magical vacation. However, if you are not careful, the stimulation may lead to a “meltdown”. Here are some of my tried-and-true meltdown-avoiding tips:
- Have a plan. Booking your vacation with a travel agent that understands your needs is important. He or she can assist you with finding the right resort for your family, dining reservations, and touring plan suggestions. Know your family’s needs, don’t be afraid to share them, and be an advocate for them.
- Know your family. What are the “triggers” that you face? Waiting in lines? Being hot? Too much sun? Not enough to eat? Understand what can cause drama, and avoid it. Having a solid touring plan will really make a huge difference – you don’t have to be militant about your day, but knowing what to ride and when will make a difference.
- Get a GAC. Disney is very accommodating to those with different-abilities, and has ways to make the experience better for those with special needs. This is done by issuing a GAC, or Guest Assistance Card. These cards are not meant to replace a good touring plan or the Fastpass system, but they’re meant to make the visit more enjoyable for everyone involved. My next article will explain the GAC in more detail.
What have you found that has helped out during your trips on the spectrum?