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  1. #1
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    Default First time visit with child with Asperger's syndrome

    Have finally booked our holiday, travelling 30th May for 14 nights. Unfortunately due to budget constraints we're having to stay off site. (My partner's son has Aspergers and requires his own space, esp. at night, so we have reserved a 2 bedroom suite, which would have been far too expensive for us in Disney).
    Basically, need a bit of info about the best way to handle the actual trip! We have been told that we may be able to get a Guest Assistance Card to help? The problem is it isn't always apparent that he has special needs, until he has a breakdown. Would Guest Relations understand this?
    Also, he is a massive fan of Star Wars, I know that the Star Wars weekends are in May, do these continue into June? If anyone has been during one, could you please give me some idea on what the crowds are like?
    Any advice on restaurants, rides etc would be much appreciated!
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  3. #2
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    My neighbor has a daughter who has Auspergers syndrome too and she is able to Disney to give them the special card for her. It does help out from what she has said because she doesn't have to wait and thus prevents her daughter from having melt downs.

    We were at DHS for one day this last May during Star Wars weekend. I believe the SW weekends continue into at least the first weekend of June. We are not real serious SW fans so it was just fun to watch but we really didn't take advantage of all of the extra stuff available. I will say though that it was VERY busy...so you will need to keep that in mind. I would think arriving early in the park and doing as much as possible before the crowds start to get heavy could surely help some.
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  4. #3
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    This was a major concern for us before our first trip to WDW with our son who has Aspergers too.

    I think it will work to your favor that you are taking a long vacation and wont feel like you have to do a park open to close to fit everything in.

    We think that taking breaks during the day has helped us to avoid any "meltdown's".

    For us that means going back to the resort to get away from the crowds and noise for a bit.

    But in 4 trips, we have never had to deal with a meltdown while we were at Disneyworld.

    There is so much for them to focus on - including in the lines - that unless noise is a huge stresser, you will hopefully be surprised how easy your trip goes.

    At Epcot, there are kidcot stations that offer a break from the crowds and they can do a craft.

    Just finding a quiet place to sit and maybe have a snack for a few minutes can help.

    I know that many Asperger kids, have a big problem with change in routine. I would suggest that you go over with him, what he should expect.

    Our first trip, we made up a map for him with photo's of the shuttle that was taking us to the airport, a plane, a DME bus, picture of the resort we were staying at, pictures of the transportation we would get to go on, went over how you had to stand in big lines sometimes especially if the ride is really fun. For our son, the more he is prepared for what might happen, the less stress he has.
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  5. #4
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    We took our first Star Wars weekend trip last May with our two Autistic sons (aged 12 and 6 at the time). They are both extreme fans, so we really wanted to try it, even though the crowds are EXTREME. We found it best to go to the park with the intention of only doing the special Star Wars things (seeing Darth Vader and the other characters, watching the parade) would be our only focus. We could go back to the park when it was less crowded and visit the things we missed. So that's what we did, and it worked out well. We met tons of cool Star Wars guys, and headed back to our hotel right after the parade.

    The thing with Asperger's (our eldest son has Asperger's) is that his condition is not apparent to most people, and the meltdown point can come all of a sudden and at great extremes from good and bad things. Crowds, noise, excitement, diet, change of routine, strange places, unusual smells, the hot and muggy heat ... any or all of these things can create incredible discomfort for a person living with Autism. We always hit the parks at opening, and leave around lunchtime, to go back to the hotel to swim and relax a bit while the parks are at their hottest and most crowded. We usually go back to a park in the evening for more fun, after the heat of the day has gone. We also don't often stay for the fireworks, as our youngest has extreme sensory issues, and the fireworks about send him crazy!!

    We have not had to use a Guest Assistance Card (GAC) on any of our holidays. We make good use of the FastPasses at most of the big ticket rides; such as Soarin' or Space Mountain or Rock'n'Rollercoaster . So, our plan is usually to use Fastpasses and visit many of the "not ride" attractions, such as Innoventions at Epcot, or "One Man's Dream" at the Studios or "Exposition Hall" at the Magic Kingdom. We also make use of things we can ride without a great lineup, such as the TTA in Tomorrowland, or the Railroad around the park. Sometimes we have just gone on the Monorail between Epcot and the Ticket and Transportation Center, or the Wildlife Express up to the "Conservation Station" at the Animal Kingdom.

    We spend a lot of time at Epcot. The kids love visiting the World Showcase, and all the space available out in that part of the park. Your partner's son can accept a Kim Possible mission, that will send him on a quest through the World Showcase to solve a mystery with Kim Possible and her team. My boys also love Innoventions East and West (in Future World on either side of Spaceship Earth). There are a lot of hands on opportunities for the kids in each of these locations, and they are indoors and airconditioned! He can design a rollercoaster, then ride it ... or create a video game. There's lots of interesting stuff in Innoventions!!

    Many Asperger's kids have specific dietary preferences, such as only chicken fingers or only plain pasta. We have always found the Disney restaurants to be more than accommodating, so if this is the case with your partner's son, do not be afraid! Perhaps he has potential issues at the restaurants due to sensory situations, such as noise or crowds or lighting. if this is the case, you might consider his triggers when you make any dining plans.

    My greatest advice for you is to relax and have fun, and go with his flow. He will feel in control of his situation (the unknown is another anxiety creator for Autistics). If he feels like he has had a hand in the planning, and has some idea of what he will be doing during each day, he will feel calmer and happier for sure. I hope you have a fabulous time, and I really hope that you have the chance to go to a Star Wars weekend (even if it's just to see what you can see!).
    Jennifer (aka Mickey'sGirl)
    INTERCOT Staff: Guests with Special Needs, Dining and Disney Characters

    Last trip: March 2016 - Fantasy
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  6. #5
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    We found the more we plan in advance the better. The only trick is when one of the things on the planning video you have watched 456 times isn't there. I watch for any announcements of possible closings and spend lots of time talking about rain . . . .
    Maps are a must -- both to read in advance and in the park. (Even though we know the parks well - having that map in hand still means a lot.)
    As to the GAC - you can get one / they are very understanding. Mostly, you won't need one. Fast passes do cover most everything the card assists with -- so if you know the parks, you don't need to worry.
    I'm not sure of the age of the child in question -- but if the child is young enough to consider a stroller -- a wheelchair tag for the stroller could help. I found strollers made a big difference in giving my child personal space - helping him be able to watch parades and make it out through the exit crowds. (The noise / crowds can be overwhelming when it is near a parade.)
    On your restaurant question -- are you asking atmosphere, or food for picky eaters? There are very different answers to the two (meaning Mom often is getting picky eater quick service from one location and bringing it to another more quiet location, with food the rest eat

  7. #6
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    Thank you so much for all your replies! It's really helpful, so I'll take it all on board. Thanks for the info on the Star Wars Weekend, I think that we will do the same and just go in the morning, see the characters and then go back to the hotel. Trying to do a very loose plan (but as I'm sure you all know, can't plan much when Asperger's is involved!) Think we are really just going to have to go with the flow, which does mean we'll be unable to make many ADR's, but as we're staying off site and have a kitchen we should be ok. As for restaurants, he isn't a very picky eater, will eat more or less anything as long as it isn't green! More worried about the atmosphere/ how busy it would be than the type of food.
    Again thank you all for taking the time to help!
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  8. #7
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    Oh, and he's 9
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  9. #8
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    We visited for the first time in November. As others have mentioned, planning the routines for the days helped. I really would encourage the EMH--especially the morning ones. We found that with my son, if he was already in the park as it got more congested, he was fine(he doesn't care for contact and will dart in and out of groups of people) This helped us expand his comfort zone during the trip. Also, give your son the map of the park!!! (my trip report, First Timers Trip to WDW, shows how well that worked) We talk a lot about the benefits of how his brain works--the ability to focus totally on something--and he demonstrated this over and over, taking the map away from my DH
    And of course, things won't always go as planned. I am thankful I had researched so much here on Intercot so I always could relax and go with the flow--this made it easier on my son.
    A thought about the special pass--this may be different for your son, Asperger's shows differently in everyone--my son can't stand feeling like everyone is looking at him. He was on stage with a huge chorus, not alone but had a meltdown-- ran down the stairs into my arms in the middle of a song--he was sweating profusely, heart rate very high and crying. Nothing like a eye opener to Asperger's. My point is the passes will allow you to pass by the lines of people waiting--all eyes will be on you. Yes, you absolutely have a necessity here, but look at how that type of reaction will impact. My son had a few issues with the fastpasses. That's why we made a point of giving them away to people if we weren't going to use them. And of course, he will feel your anxiety!! Relax and have fun!!!
    Lynne

    "Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children"--Walt Disney

  10. #9
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    Just re-read your post and noticed you said you would be offsite. So no EMH. Oops! O.K. then I would wait until 1/2 hour AFTER the parks open to go. That way the congestion at the park opening would be less. Also, get into Epcot thru World Showcase--much easier for them to handle.

    Another thought--as far as food--we couldn't do the counter service--too much uncertainty to handle. I would recommend ADR's. My son had so much fun reviewing all the menus ahead of time and knowing he had a nice cool place to go sit and eat at each meal.
    Lynne

    "Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children"--Walt Disney

  11. #10
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    Another thing that might be helpful is children's rescue remedy or calm drops. I give them to our son when he gets really upset. It might come in handy if it is a really bad melt down. They use rescue remedy in our ambulances out here to calm down freaking out passengers. Just a thought.
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  12. #11
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    Default Greatest place ever!

    I have 2 girls w/ Aspergers and Disney is absolutely heaven to them! The CM are so attentive and helpful also. We've gone probably 6-8 times!

    You will need a letter from your childs doctor or something documenting the disability. Most doctors will have no problem furnishing something for you. You take this to guest services at the first park you go to and they will issue you a special pass we call our "family fast pass" for up to 6 people. You get to go through all fast pass lines or disabled lines so you don't wait as long. You can also use it for the parades and such so they are not so overwhelmed and "crowded" by others. You can also show it to characters so they will be a little more cautious approaching your child or stay away all together and also can get you to the front a little sooner in some of the meet and great areas. (mine love seeing the characters)

    We also plan in advance our trip as much as possible. We make a weekly schedule and designate which day we will go to where and where we will eat our meals and what time. I usually put together a little folder w/ a printed up copy of this schedule. (it also comes in handy for keeping up w/ reservation numbers and such) My eldest (10) gets online and looks at a lot of the attraction and she also watches the vacation planning dvd. She makes herself a list of all the things that she wants to do. I also have reviewed many of the attraction myself or know first hand what they are and know which things should be avoided. (too dark, loud, scary, strobe light, etc...) anything that might trigger a meltdown and we avoid those things. I also try at the beginning of each day to see if anything they wanted to go on is closed so I can prepare them for that. We also talk ahead of time about souveniers. We aren't going to buy everything we see that we like. We have x amount of money that can be spent on something you like. We will make a list of things you like that we see and at the end of the day (or week) we will pick from those things.

    There are rest areas w/ quiet rooms at each park, if you need a few moments of down time. As for dining almost all Disney restaurants (except quick service) take reservations in advance so make sure you do that and they also have the menues available to look at online for most of them. We have some food allergies and when we make the reservation we note that on there. This saved us bigtime once when there was powdered almonds in the cheesecake! Also if there isn't anything on the menue that your child will eat, if you contact them withing either 24-48hr of your meal they will provide something that your child will eat. They are so awesome and accomodating. The chef at Boma actually walked us through the buffett and showed us what to stay clear of w/ our food allergies.
    When we go we don't like the water parks so we go for a week and we go to 2 of the main parks and then take a day of to relax around the pool or shop and then 2 days at the other 2 parks.

    We also make little buisness size cards that list the girls name and our cell numbers and has what medicines they take and what their diagnoses and allergies are, just in case we were ever seperated! We also give them to the waiter at the table service meals and they place it with our order to ensure nothing on our allergy list comes in contact w/ her food.

    Overall it should be an awesome trip! There is no better place for children like our than Disneyworld!

    Would be happy to answer any question you might have. As I said, we've been there tons!

  13. #12
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    oh and as for the pass... it's very inconspicuous and really does not draw attention to you. We have used it for many years now and never ever had a problem! My girls don't even know what it is, they think it's a "family fast pass" because for most of the rides that utilize fast pass that's where you go in and the ones that don't and the shows you go in the diabled line, but it really isn't that much different and no-one has ever questioned or gawked at us. It's very very helpful for the parades for us. My daughter can't stand feeling smothered by people! If anyone does stare or wonder, you would never know because there are so so many people there!
    I would say to get it because it's a perk available to you. Once you have it you can decide when and if you need to use it, but you at least have it if you do need it.
    It would also help explain a meltdown and get you assistance to a quiet area or anything as well if needed.

  14. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by LadyBear View Post
    You will need a letter from your childs doctor or something documenting the disability. Most doctors will have no problem furnishing something for you. You take this to guest services at the first park you go to and they will issue you a special pass we call our "family fast pass" for up to 6 people. You get to go through all fast pass lines or disabled lines so you don't wait as long. You can also use it for the parades and such so they are not so overwhelmed and "crowded" by others.
    The last two times we went to WDW we had a GAC due to our son having ASD, and we did not know that you could use the GAC for a parade. How do you do this?

  15. #14
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    Example: Parade coming up at Magic Kingdom. Find the wheelchair area - when we were there it was (looking down at the circle in front of castle) at 3 o'clock...roped off. This is where we were able to go. Very convenient - everyone in there understands and was nice plus plenty of room to walk around - not crowded at all and room for son to plop right on the road.
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