How to Visit Walt Disney World With Special Needs Kids

Visit Walt Disney World With Special Needs Kids
Visit Walt Disney World With Special Needs Kids (Image: arkos arkoulis at

Disney World is the dream vacation for many children and adults alike. While planning a Disney World vacation may seem intimidating at first for those with special needs children, it certainly isn't impossible and is actually much easier than you would think. The Disney World park provides thoughtful accommodations for special needs visitors, as well as knowledgeable staff members who are ready to help answer your questions. A visit to a theme park can be a very enjoyable experience for the whole family and in turn can help your child develop the ability to handle higher levels of sensory stimulation than they may normally be accustomed.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacation planning DVD
  • Disney books and CDs
  • Doctor's note/medial info
  • Camera
  • Wheelchair or stroller (optional)
  • Glow-in-the-dark necklace/bracelet (optional)
  • Identification dog tag (optional)

Prepare for your Disney World vacation by requesting a vacation planning DVD from the park directly. Watch the vacation planning DVD with your child often. Also consider reading books and playing songs that involve Disney World or Disney characters. This helps children get used to the idea of visiting the park and incorporates Disney into the lives of children who thrive on routine.

Reserve your guest room at the Disney World resort by calling the telephone number provided on your vacation planning DVD or on the Disney World website. Make sure you ask to be connected to the Special Reservations Department. The people in the Special Reservations Department will be able to help you choose the appropriate accommodations for your family and will do their best to accommodate your special requests. Let them know of any special needs your child may have, such as a wheelchair-accessible room if your child uses a wheelchair.

Pack carefully for your Disney vacation by looking ahead and considering items, including medication, that your child may need or may find comfort in having with her. Be sure to pack medical information and a doctor's note just in case it is needed to utilize certain services or passes. Consider purchasing glow-in-the-dark necklaces or bracelets that you and your child can wear during evenings in the park or on dark rides--this is especially helpful with children who have issues with the dark or tend to wander off. If your child has a tendency to wander off you may also want to consider bringing along an ID dog tag with pertinent medical information and your cell phone number engraved that your child can wear.

Consider bringing a wheelchair or stroller for your child if he doesn't already use one. This can provide your child with not only a sense of security but will also prevent your child from becoming tired and irritable with the long lines and large amount of walking involved.

Inquire at the Auto Plaza about where to park when you arrive. If you have a current parking pass for disability, they can direct you to the accessible parking location. Otherwise, they can direct you to the nearest parking with easy access to the shuttle.

Visit Guest Services when you first arrive at the park to request a guest assistance card and a guidebook for guests with special needs. The guest assistance card can be worn on a lanyard around the neck and this signals to cast members throughout the park what type of assistance your child needs. Meanwhile, the guidebook will educate you on every aspect of the park's accessibility and services for your child, including which rides are wheelchair accessible and which rides require a wheelchair transfer. Any questions or concerns you may have can be answered or addressed by the cast members at guest services.

Avoid over-stimulation that can be caused by some of the attractions. Spend some time on the various forms of park transportation including trains, boats, and monorails. Visiting with the characters you read about with your child before the trip is also great fun. Remember that many special needs children find comfort in routines, so make it a point to implement some form of routine into your Disney vacation to help lessen over stimulation. Don't forget to keep yourself calm even if the lines and people are driving you a little nutty--your child can sense your mood, and a nervous parent is not a good thing for a special needs child in a new and exciting environment like Disney World.

Have fun, make memories and take lots of pictures. Understand that there will probably be an adjustment period for your child, and it may take a little extra time to adapt to their surroundings, but with a little patience and preparation your Disney World vacation will prove to be a magical one for the whole family.

Tips & Warnings

  • Create a countdown to Disney World calendar for your child so they can help you countdown to the family vacation. If there are some attractions or rides your child can't visit or ride don't make them feel like they are missing out on something by making a big deal about it. Bring some sort of small activity for your child (such as a coloring book) for when you are waiting in lines, resting, or eating a meal. Make sure to put a hat and sunscreen on your child, and if they are walking make sure they are wearing comfortable shoes.
  • Never leave your child unattended. Make sure you always have important medications on hand just in case.

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