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If you’re planning a trip to Disneyland for kids with sensory issues, including autism, here are some tips to make your trip the best it can be! Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth for everyone.
As a special education teacher, I’m constantly thinking about ways to accommodate my students in the classroom. But recently, a couple of them went on a trip to Disneyland. Both of these students are on the spectrum and it made me wonder how their parents would make a trip like this work. They have four kids total, including a toddler. Knowing how great Disneyland has been with some experiences we have had with sickness in our family, I decided to look into how Disneyland helps families of kiddos with Autism. Here are some travel tips to help you with your next trip to Disneyland.
Disneyland For Kids with Sensory Issues
Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, can make the thought of a Disneyland vacation overwhelming! But if having that experience is something you and your family dream of, there are ways to make it happen if you or a member of your family lives with sensory issues. I’ve partnered with the knowledgeable travel agents at Get Away Today to give you tips on how to do Disneyland for kids with sensory issues. Continue reading to learn a little more about sensory processing disorder, and how you could manage it at Disneyland.
What is Sensory Processing Disorder?
Generally, a child with sensory issues will have reactions to stimuli that typically don’t bother everyone else. That might be high-pitched noises, or clinking dishes or the hum of crowded spaces. Additionally, someone with sensory issues may be prone to excessive physical touch, or extremely averse to it. Sensory processing disorder may affect how a person perceives their personal safety, causing them to be extra fearful in situations that don’t warrant it (i.e. on swings or climbing play structures). Children with SPD may be fidgety or distracted by sights, sounds or smells that other people do not tend to notice.
With that being said, how can you prepare to do Disneyland for kids with sensory issues? Hopefully with just a little extra effort!
I cannot stress this part enough! Allowing kids with sensory issues enough time to mentally and emotionally prepare for a new experience is crucial. It gives them time to absorb information about Disneyland that may be overwhelming to them, and simply seem exciting to someone without sensory issues.
Many kids with sensory issues benefit from thorough visual preparation for new experiences. Appeal to that and show your child Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure Park maps. Go online together and look at photos of ride lines, photos or videos of rides themselves and even photos of food and Characters in the Resort. Check out video tours of various parts of the park; you can find many on Get Away Today’s YouTube channel. The videos are about a minute long each, and may be extremely helpful when prepping for Disneyland with kids who have sensory issues. In addition to preparing your child visually, have them practice waiting in line. Since you’ll spend a lot of time doing so in the parks, this will be great preparation for everyone.
Being flexible when planning Disneyland for kids with sensory issues is probably the second most important key to success. Allow yourselves time throughout the trip to decompress after all the stimulation. The good news is you can get a great deal on Disneyland tickets with Get Away Today so you don’t feel like you have to spend every waking minute in the Resort. For travel between now and May 23, 2019, you can save up to $111 per ticket and enjoy Extra Night Free specials at hotels near Disneyland.
Additionally, Get Away Today is offering 5-day Park Hopper or 1-Park per Day tickets for the price of 4 when you visit Disneyland May 24 – December 31, 2019. With those extra days, you can give yourself permission to head back to the hotel for some quiet time, naps, time in the hotel pool or whatever else appeals to your child with sensory issues. Knowing you have an extra day free in the park, plus an extra night free at the hotel can relieve the pressure of having to GO GO GO all day in the park. If your child does get overstimulated while in the Resorts, ask a Cast Member to assist you in locating areas, like First Aid stations, where you can get away from the noise and crowds.
Comfort Items to Bring
What does you child with SPD like to use for comfort when overstimulated? If possible, bring those items with you on your Disneyland vacation. Things like finger fidget tools or toys can help offer something for your child to focus on when outside stimuli get to be too much. Some kids with sensory issues benefit from having necklaces to chew on, or from wearing noise cancelling headphones while in the Resort. You can even add ears to noise cancelling headphones so they fit right in at the Resort! If the weather is cool when you go, your child might feel comforted wearing a weighted vest. If it’s too hot for that, having a weighted blanket for the hotel might bring comfort after time spent in the park. Also, be sure to bring familiar items that you use at home to reinforce good choices.
If foods tend to trigger sensory issues with your child(ren) be sure to bring familiar snacks with you into the Resort. You can bring a six-pack sized, soft sided cooler into Disneyland, or just fill a backpack with foods that appeal to your child. Any kid can be frustrated or disappointed with the way food looks or how it feels, and a child with SPD may have those feelings tenfold. Do what you can to keep things comfortable and familiar while in Disneyland.
In addition to those smaller comfort items, it can be super helpful to bring a stroller. Give your child(ren) a refuge from the noise, crowds and sights that may overstimulate them at some point. Have them wear their noise cancelling headphones and pull down the sun visor to create their own little safe haven within the Resort. If you want to use your stroller as a wheelchair, and have it in line for rides, you can visit the Guest Relations Lobby in the parks to obtain a special tag.
Safety Precautions to Take
Safety precautions should be taken if a child gets separated in the event they break away from the group when overstimulated. Use name tags, necklaces with contact info, or temporary tattoos with names and phone numbers on them. Teach your child to look for Cast Members for assistance if they calm down. If your child has trouble communicating, having your contact info on them will be extremely beneficial. It can be helpful to set a meeting place that you’ve picked out as well, and plan to reunite there if anyone gets separated.
Accommodations Offered by Disney
Disney understands that Disneyland for kids with sensory issues can be a lot! They have a number of accommodations to help make your experience as magical as possible at the Happiest Place on Earth. These include services such as Advanced Ticket Purchase, Rider Switch, Companion Restrooms and Attraction Guides. With services like Rider Switch “one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again.”
This will save time and hopefully alleviate stress when navigating rides in Disneyland. You can read more about Disneyland services for guests with cognitive differences here.
There is also a Disney Parks Disability Access Service Card available to guests. What this does is offer guests a return time for an attraction that is based on the current wait time. You can read more about that here. But isn’t that a great way to get kids with sensory issues out of crowds, while still giving them an opportunity to enjoy rides that appeal to them? And, of course, you can utilize FastPass and MaxPass services with Disneyland tickets purchased with Get Away Today. Those are other great ways to beat the crowds at Disneyland.
In general, you probably know what is going to be best for your child. But it’s always recommended you start with things that have the least stimulation – whether it’s rides that don’t have a lot of lights or loud noises, or places with the smallest crowds. Does your child benefit from hugs? Maybe waiting in line to for Characters in Disneyland is worth it for you. You could consider making a button or badge for your child to wear so that lets the Character know a very tight squeeze will make your child’s day. If your child isn’t sensitive to movement, give the spinning tea cups a whirl! If your child isn’t sensitive to visual stimuli, they might absolutely love Mickey’s Mix Magic, which is a family friendly dance party and light show.
There is so much available to experience at the Disneyland Resort, and if you talk with the experts at Get Away Today, they can share the details they know about the rides and shows. This will help you make an informed decision regarding what you will and won’t plan to do on your trip.
Disneyland for Kids With Sensory Issues-It Can Be Done!
If you’re ready to start planning a Disneyland vacation for kids with sensory issues, contact the agents at Get Away Today! They personally visit the Disneyland Resort and the hotels near Disneyland so they can give you first-hand recommendations for your trip. And don’t forget about the spring savings and 5-day ticket deals going on right now. See all the vacation options online at www.getawaytoday.com, or call 855-GET-AWAY. Let them know Your Everyday Family sent you, and use promo code EverydayFamily for an extra $10 in savings on your vacation package.
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