Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World pin

Disney World with its five parks is vast, and there’s so much to experience. No parent wants to deal with a meltdown on vacation, let alone at Disney World where admission tickets are so pricey. In reality, chances are the intense activities of theme parks might kids with autism into sensory overload. To help parents mitigate such an occurrence here are our tips.

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Plan a Longer Vacation

Parents of kids with autism may find that visiting the parks over the course of a few days is much less stressful for everybody. Though it might sound less budget friendly, there are plenty of great deals on multiple Disney tickets as well as lodgings. At a minimum, parents should try to allocate one separate day for each park.

Rest Well

For the lodgings, even those on a budget should try to get their kids a good night’s sleep. Parents could pay extra for a rollaway or, if possible, getting the kids their own room. Sleeping in beds with siblings or parents can get in the way of an optimal night’s sleep. If kids are more rested in the morning, they’ll be more able to handle their emotions at the park.

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Take Frequent Breaks

Plan snack and lunch break times during the day. Parents of younger kids or those not used to spending the entire day at a theme park should schedule more frequent breaks and see how it goes.

Stay on Property

If at all possible, parents should find lodgings on the property for easy access to the park. For parents looking for a cheaper alternative to the Disney pricey hotels, the Wyndham has a property near Disney Springs that is affordable and still gives its guests access to the complimentary Disney transportation.

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Avoid Crowded Areas

Parents should avoid crowded areas, like the parade thoroughfare during the shows.In fact, they should skip the shows since they tend to be crowded anyway and try to go on typically full rides during that time since they’re mostly empty. Moreover, families should also eat meals on off hours, meaning before or after traditional lunch or dinner times.

Limit Shopping

Limiting the shopping adds to time spent enjoying the park itself and reduces arguments with kids. Parents should tell their child before entering the park that they are going to shop at the end of the day for a set time or online as an alternative.

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Plan Outdoor/Indoor Rides

Parents need to know that the weather in Orlando is usually warm and humid no matter the month. Though Disney accommodates autism on many of their rides, there are often still waits. These waits can be challenging for kids who are temperature intolerant.

Parents should do the indoor rides in the middle of the day, then try to do the outdoor rides in the early morning or late evening when the temperature cools down and the crowds are gone.

Stay Hydrated

This advice applies to all parents traveling with kids but is of particular importance in a theme park situation where there’s a lot of walking involved.So, parents should either purchase several beverages for their kids during the day or bring refillable water bottles to fill up at water fountains in the parks.

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Avoid Sugary Snacks

Most theme parks, especially Disney, have sugary snacks available for purchase literally at every corner of the parks. Pumping kids on sugary snacks and driving them into a sugar rush is seldom a good idea. Parents should discuss ahead of time with their kids what snacks they are allowed to have every day to avoid disappointments and meltdowns later.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

If kids get wet or sweaty, they might react adversely. It is a good idea for parents to make them as comfortable as possible. Since staying in a theme park for ten hours in a stretch is enough of a challenge for most kids,  parents should bring a change of clothes for emergencies.

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Bring Headphones or Earplugs

Some noise sensitive kids will react to sounds and noises in the park. These sounds can include screaming, shots, or explosions from fireworks. It is, therefore, important to bring headphones or earplugs for these situations. It is important to note that some rides will not allow kids to wear headphones while riding for safety reasons.

Don’t Use Park Hoppers

It is better, especially for younger children, to spend the entire day in one park. Also, using the Disney Transportation from park to park can add a layer of stress for some kids due to the waiting time and buses that might be crowded.

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Get a Stroller

Renting a stroller for younger children or those who can’t walk much is best for families. Visiting the Walt Disney World parks involves a lot of walking, and no parent wants to argue with children or try to force them into anything. So, even for older kids, a stroller may be a good place to relax if they get tired or cranky.

Keep your group small

Going in a large group to a theme park can be overwhelming, and the needs of a child with autism might be overlooked. Kids with autism might want to explore at a certain pace or adhere to specific mealtimes. The best ratio is two adults per kid so the adults can alternate taking care and helping accommodate their needs.

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Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism?

 

 

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? pin

Dear Margalit,

After meltdowns from our son with autism every time we had to leave the house when he was younger, we used your tips for introducing special needs children to the idea of traveling, and it has worked so well that I think we are finally ready to start visiting theme parks. Do you have any particular Walt Disney World one that you can recommend?    Thanks, Julia.

 

Dear Julia,

I’m so glad to hear about progress for your family.That’s great! Your question is a good one and one that I have been asked on some occasions. I have to say that all Disney parks excellent at accommodating special needs and disabilities for both adults and children.
Therefore, the way to choose between them will depend on your child’s specific sensory issues. With that said, I will try to highlight the pros and cons of visiting each of the four main parks in WDW.

 

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Magic Kingdom

Since you didn’t specify your son’s age or if you have other children I have to say that the Magic Kingdom has the best indoor and outdoor options for all ages. It also has the widest selection of rides from mild and slow to moderate.

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For those who don’t like to or can’t walk a lot, it is ideal because the rides are relatively close together. If you like the outdoors, they have the Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island which is fun to explore. If your son prefers to stay indoors, there are shows like the Country Bear Jamboree and Mickey’s Philharmagic. The sensory issues he might encounter are noise and darkness, but with headphones and some light from a  mobile phone, he will hopefully be okay.Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? dumbo

Visitors should be aware that the Magic Kingdom is the most visited of all Disney parks. With Disney’s new program for autism, visitors have to go to the ride they wish to experience, and the staff gives a slotted time to come back. Because of the popularity of the park, these waits can be long. Areas like Main Street are also more crowded than the other parks, so that’s also something to consider for kids who hate crowds or are noise sensitive.

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Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has more extreme rides which cater to an older age group.
Unlike the Magic Kingdom which has parades, Hollywood Studios offers more stunt shows and live stage performances. This is THE park for kids that love thrill rides and can’t get enough of being twirled upside down or sideways.

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Also, it is the best place for kids that love movies and are fans of Star Wars. Overall, between the riders’ scream and night fireworks this park is the noisiest, something to bear in mind if your child is noise sensitive.A good time to go for kids with autism is in the early morning when they first open since the park gets more crowded by midday and evening.

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Epcot

If you and your kids prefer exotic souvenir hunting and tasting ethnic foods, then Epcot with its variety of international pavilions is for you. I have found that Epcot has been a great way to introduce children with autism to different cuisines and cultures in Disney form. It also has rides which are similar to the other theme parks and again, noise-sensitive children need to take that into consideration.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? epcotA highlight is the Park’s firework show  IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth, which can be seen from almost everywhere in the park. As our son is noise sensitive, we’ve discovered the best spot to watch the show was from inside the restaurants in the Unite Kingdom pavilion.

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The Animal Kingdom

If your family likes the outdoors and learning about animals, then The Animal Kingdom will be right up your alley, providing none of your family members are smell-sensitive. The park features a great scavenger hunt, a live stage production of The Lion King, and an interactive bird show, all of which we have found to be entertaining.

 

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Moreover, the Animal Kingdom is now open in the evenings. This fact might be a bonus, though it is still the least lit of all parks and some kids might find it scary.
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Once again, I’m thrilled you’ve decided to take a leap of faith and travel with your son to Walt Disney World. I hope that once you have had the opportunity to research and visit each park, you will be able to make a choice that suits your family best. 
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