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.
Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? river

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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Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World

A long time Disney aficionado friend of mine, Nancy Pistorius, had recommended that we give celebrity chef Cat Cora’s Greek-inspired restaurant a try, so on an evening last May, while staying at the Boardwalk Hotel, we wandered into Kouzinna.
Greek for ‘kitchen’, Kouzinna is decorated in dark brown artisan furniture. The open-concept restaurant makes you feel right at home before you even taste anything. We appreciated that the tables are set far enough apart from each other eliminating the crowded feel, and the noise level was minimal which is important as our son is noise sensitive.
Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World inside

 

After seeing us come in, exhausted  from a fun-filled day at Epcot, the attentive staff was more than accommodating; seating us at a quiet, corner table in really good time. That was just the beginning of our wonderful experience.

The service

Our server was really patient; not only spending time explaining each dish to our son with autism, but helping him customize his order exactly the way he liked it: little cream, sauce on the side and no dill or mint on absolutely anything!

The food

My husband and I shared the Kouzinna Spread Sampler. It consisted of hummus, charred eggplant, similar to the Romanian Zacusca my mom used to make, and Tzatziki with warm pita bread slices. I ordered the Avgolemono, which is an egg and lemon soup, that had the right amount of flavoring and texture without being too sour or thick.
My son ordered his favorite dish,fried Calamari, that he fondly nicknamed ‘mini Ursulas’ in reference to the octopus in his favorite movie The Little Mermaid and he had no problem polishing off his plate.
Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World foodWhile waiting for our main course, we got a kick out of watching the chefs in the restaurant’s open kitchen prepare othepatrons’ dishes in flaming copper pans and wood burning ovens. Our main dish was the Kouzinna sample trio of char-grilled lamb burger, mini Pastitisio, which is Greek lasagna, and cinnamon stewed chicken with orzo. So tasty!

Though we were pretty full, we did not leave without trying freshly made Loukomades (Greek donuts) drizzled with warm honey and cinnamon. They not only turned out to be a perfect way to top off a good dinner but left us craving more.

So, come back we did-the very next morning for breakfast.

Once again, there was a minimal wait for a table without prior reservations. The morning staff were just as friendly and accommodating for our son with autism as those from the previous day.

The breakfast

After reading the menu twice because it was that hard to make up our minds, we all ordered their ‘breakfast pizza‘. Picture a warm pita bread with a thick layer of house-cured salmon and soft scrambled eggs topped with capers, bacon and dill over a thick layer of Tzatziki sauce. Delicious! We were so impressed because it took less than fifteen minutes to arrive at our table!

As we waited and gazed out the window at the people passing by on Disney’s Boardwalk, my husband and I slowly sipped our Bloody Maias  (spin off  the traditional Bloody Mary)– a heavenly blend of vodka, honey, lime juice, Bloody Mary mix and dill, while our son savored his all-natural lemonade topped with wild berry foam.

As this was our very last day in Walt Disney, we decided to end our vacation on a sweet note with a dessert and ordered a classic golden waffle topped with mascarpone cheese, honey and chopped pecans.

 

Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World drinks

But it turns out the sweetest treat was yet to come. You won’t believe what was waiting for us when we asked for the check!
The Maitre d’ and server had heard our son rave about the food and lemonade and decided to surprise him with a parting gift – a beautiful hardcover celebrity recipe book signed by Cat Cora!

 

Cat Cora’s Kouzinna in Walt Disney World book

Talk about great customer care!

Sadly, the contract between Cat Cora and Disney is slated to come to an end on the last day of September 2014. We are very sad to see this chapter come to a close.

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