Magic Kingdom-Bound

We're off to see the mouse tomorrow morning. Me, Mali, and Leo; for both of their birthdays. We're doing this instead of parties. Because I'm too tired to organize parties, and this is an very acceptable tradeoff to them -- or definitely for Mali and I hope for Leo.

It's been seven years since Leo visited his mother's homeland, the place where I used to drive the Electrical Parade's mine cart as Dopey the Dwarf. This is Leo on that last visit, in 2004, mesmerized by the Playhouse Disney show featuring Bear in the Big Blue House. (And 100% being his dad's mini-me.)

I've had a lot of good advice about taking kids with autism to Disneyland, about making sure we get that guest pass at City Hall. We're also staying onsite at the Grand Californian so we can retreat at any time, should Leo want to. (My mom is generously accompanying us so that Mali and her cousin Christy can stay in the park, should that happen.) And of course we have a Stories2Learn iPad social story about our trip.

But -- if you've been, and you've had a successful trip or just learned some interesting lessons about the Magic Kingdom, can you share your story? Not just for us, but also because I'll be writing up a post on this trip for BlogHer? I'd really appreciate some insights on what to expect, realistically. Thanks!


  1. Anonymous7:43 AM

    Have fun. Laura at 11D took her children to Disneyworld (I think) fairly recently. I can't remember if she wrote it up, but some google searching (or an email to Laura) might get you useful info/more perspectives.


  2. Squillo7:46 AM

    We had a vaguely disastrous trip to Disney with our then 6-year-old autistic boy.

    The one bit of advice I'd give to any parent of a kid who's particularly sensitive to visual or aural stimuli is to start leaving the park well before the parade and fireworks. It was a whole heapin' helpin' of no fun to be dashing through the park against the huge crowd like a quarterback avoiding the defensive line with my kid howling at the noise and me trying desperately to keep my hands over his poor ears. It took almost forever to get to the main gate. It was a stupid mistake on my part not to have foreseen that difficulty, so I'm passing it on in hopes that other parents will be wiser than I was.

    FWIW, I think he'd do far better at the Magic Kingdom now, having had two trips to the less intense LegoLand for practice.

    Enjoy your trip!

  3. I'm pretty experienced with Disneyland, but haven't taken my autistic son yet.

    I'd recommend going early, taking a break, and deciding whether to come back. I also agree that avoiding shows and parades is smart, you can find a schedule of everything.

    I'd also say stick to one small area of the park. There will be PLENTY for him to see and do in a small area.

    Have you considered looking at a park map with him before you go? Maybe you can pick out a few things to talk about in advance.

  4. Took my then-12 year old son (PDD-NOS) last year, with a note from the Dr. to get a "Speed Pass" to avoid the lines - by far the worst part for kids on the spectrum.

    Guest Services (before the actual entry gate) provided the pass, valid for the number of people in our party when we obtained it, and told us the Doctor's note wasn't required -- a fact I'm a little reluctant to let out for fear of abuse by "normal" folks.

    Anyway, the pass allowed us to use the Speed Pass line at EVERY ride unlimited times -- we went on many of them over and over (perfect stimming as far as my son was concerned) and it was an overall hugely positive experience as a result. It's evident from our pictures that my son had come completely out of his shell while visiting the House of Mouse.

    The one addition I suggest: foam earplugs (best brand: Hearo's). I've used them as a musician and new my son would benefit - they significantly reduce sound levels without deafening the user.

    The one thing I will say: Universal was not at all similar in terms of experience. They told us their lines were all ADA compliant (as if there were an ADA protocol for Autism) and we had to fork over an addition $50 - EACH - for 1 time use/1 time per ride Speed Passes. And the line at Harry Potter was terrifying enough even for adults - Disney's crowd and queue management is vastly superior.

    Though I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the guy at the Hulk roller coaster who understood our situation and gave us a bunch of passes that allowed my son to ride to his heart's content (which I-mostly-just watched from the various observation areas).

  5. Thanks for the good wishes, and fantastic tips! They are so helpful. And we'll be avoiding Universal, methinks.

    Really appreciated, again.

  6. Shannon:

    Have a fabulous time! I've only been to Disneyland twice with my daughter. She did great with the disabled pass, which you already know about. She loves Disneyland, so we had no sensory issues to deal with her. Both visits were pretty awesome! I have no advice to give. It sounds like you already are doing a great job covering the different bases!

    Have fun!

  7. have the bestest of times!

    (we've never gone with Charlie, most likely will keep it that way)

  8. Dopey the Dwarf...that's not a fact I'm going to forget. (of course you can counter with you got paid better than I, as a lowly custodial bus boy)

  9. Anonymous8:25 PM

    We went this spring w/my ASD son (Aspergers). Discovered that for him, the indoor rides were a no-go. The dark scared him (Even though they were Peter Pan, etc.) and not being able to know when the cart/ride was going to turn, move, stop, etc. freaked him out. Something to consider when choosing rides.
    He also was scared of the roller coasters (even looking at them).
    Fantasy Land was his heaven, and where we spent most of our time, along with forays into Tomorrow Land and a ride on the monorail, etc.
    Submarine also scared him to pieces, he cried. It's been Nemo-ized, had some darker/scarier bits, but I think just being so enclosed and in the dark was the main fear for him.
    We brought in baggies with snacks and bottled water and made frequent "rest stops" during the day so he could sort-of regroup.


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