Navigating Walt Disney World® with Special Needs/Autism Part 1

When you are a parent of a child with Autism you do a lot of planning ahead for travel. This is especially true when you are planning a trip Walt Disney World®. I was very nervous the 1st time we took our son to Disney World. How would he do on a plane? Would he be able to stand in line at all? Would the sensory overload be too much to handle? Would he even have fun? I am here to tell you that it can work out; with careful planning and care it can be a great time for all!


The Disability Access Service card that Disney provides is a big part of making your trip a success. The DAS is a card that you can obtain at Guest Services at any of the parks. The DAS card is for children and adults with disabilities. You can get your DAS card at the Guest Services locations at any of the parks.  


Anytime we have done this, the cast members have been amazing - very kind and respectful. They will ask you what type of accommodations your child might need. Because of HIPPA laws, they are not allowed to ask you for proof of disabilities. Some people are adamant about taking a letter from a doctor. It’s honestly not needed. I explain to the CM that my son has trouble standing in lines and has sensory issues. They will then take a picture of your child using an iPad. If you do not want your child’s picture taken, an adult is able to stand in for the picture.  This is what the card looks like:

The card is good for everyone in your party and is good for the entire length of your stay. It’s basically like having an extra fastpass. You will take the card to an attraction that you want to ride, or you can also use the DAS on character greetings as well. If the wait time is more than your child can handle, the Cast Member will give you a time to return to ride the ride/meet the character. They will mark it on the DAS card. Return back at that time (you don’t have to be back at the exact time). When you return, in most cases they will send you through the fastpass entrance. The cast member will then cross out the ride and you are free to go to another attraction and use the DAS card. You cannot use the card again until you either ride the attraction listed or have it crossed off. If you change your mind, etc., just have a Cast Member cross off the ride.

Here are some more tips to help make your trip a success!


1.    Be specific with cast members about your child’s needs. When you explain what they can or can’t handle, they will have a better idea of how to help you.


2.   Use your fastpass in conjunction with the DAS card. If your child likes rides, using both the fastpass and the DAS card will allow you to be able to ride more without such long wait times that can be very hard for them to handle.


3.   Be prepared to rest. We have to take some breaks now and then for some rest; really we all do need them, but it’s a must for my son. Go somewhere that they can sit and be calm (or as calm as they can be). One of the areas my kids love the most is The Boneyard at Animal Kingdom. It’s an amazing play area. They have an area out of the sun that is filled with small smooth pebbles where they can “dig for fossils”; it’s perfect for kids with sensory issues. My son loves it - in fact, all of my kids do!  And mom and dad love it because we can sit and rest for a minute.

4.    Bring what you know you need from home. My son fidgets, so when we do have to stand in line I always have his go-to tiny R2D2 figure that he holds in his pocket. If your kids have something like that, make sure to bring it!! Blanket, toy necklace, you name it - make sure you don’t forget it!


5.   Headphones. Fireworks are amazing at Disney World, but they are also very loud. We bring a pair of headphones that help block some of that sound out.


6.   Roll with it. Sometimes your day just may not go the way you planned it. You just have to roll with it. It might take a bit longer to get through the parks, and you may miss a ride or two, but there is still fun to be had!


Part 2 coming soon!

Have a magical day!



P.S. If you have any specific questions I am happy to talk with you. You can find me at:

twitter: @uponastarlori