FAQs and Tips for Families with Autism in Walt Disney World

While families with autism in Walt Disney World are often nervous to make their first trip, we return year after year because Disney provides a routine for our child. Disney is wonderful for accommodating their sensory needs and any special diets. This article covers all of the answers to frequently asked questions and tips that we’ve learned over the years.

What tips do you have for driving with an autistic child?

With concerns regarding flying and autistic children crossing the media, we often prefer to drive to Florida. It is critical to be prepared- we map out a plan complete with stops. I often pair a Chipotle with a local park so my kids can eat their peanut butter sandwiches, we can eat our burrito bowls, and they can burn some energy off.

Before our road trip, we order lots of our favorite snacks from Amazon Prime. The free shipping and bulk grocery boxes make our lives much easier. Make sure to visit your local dollar store for Disney themed coloring and activity books.

While driving, tell stories about what to expect and consider making a visual schedule. Be prepared. For non-verbal kiddos, bring a tablet, stuffed animal, or other lovey to make it feel more routine.

We play the alphabet game where we find words on roadside signs that start with a specific letter. You find words in ABC order using billboards, business boards, and road signs. You can’t use license plates and once a word is said no one can repeat. If your kids are older, each person goes through the list on their own and when someone finds one- you can’t repeat it. Whoever gets to Z first, wins!

Pro Tip: If you have little ones, bring a potty in your van and make a bit of space around it. The potty will minimize the number of bathroom breaks that you have to make and keep your kids from touching gas station bathrooms!

What tips do you have for flying with an autistic child?

We often fly cheaply on budget airlines like Frontier or Spirit air but do your research before flying. Just be aware that this is not a great option for everyone- they may not have the patience or ability to be gentle with children with special needs.

Source: Typically Twitterpated

What accommodations does Walt Disney World make for autistic individuals and their families?

The Disability Access Service (DAS) replaced the now-defunct Guest Assistance Card. The DAS works like a refillable Fastpass for those with special needs like autism. It creates opportunities to enjoy headliner attractions when a disability interferes with your ability to wait in a long, crowded line. Just go to the cast member standing with a tablet at the front of the queue. The cast member will scan your band and give you a time to return based on the current wait length.

Read our article about the Disney Access Services details.

What are the best rides for children with autism?

Our oldest son has autism and then has three younger siblings. All of the rides that we recommend come from the approval of small children over the years.

Top Ten Disney Rides for Autism for Families at Walt Disney World resort
  1. Swiss Family Robinson
  2. Three Caballeros
  3. Frozen Ever After
  4. Jungle Cruise
  5. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  6. Spaceship Earth
  7. The Walt Disney World Railroad (when open)
  8. Toy Story Mania
  9. Kilimanjaro Safaris

Source: Typically Twitterpated

What pools are best for an autistic child?

This article lists the top 10 best pools, slides, and splash pads for children with autism.

  1. Fuentes del Morro Pool
  2. Sandcastle Pool at Disney’s Old Key West Resort
  3. Samawati Springs Pool at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village
  4. Boardwalk Clown Pool at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
  5. Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation
  6. Paddock Pool at Saratoga Springs Resorts
  7. The Lost City of Cibola Pool at Coronado Springs
  8. Silver Creek Springs Pool at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  9. The Lava Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
  10. Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club

Source: Typically Twitterpated

What resorts are good for children and families with autism?

Any of the Disney Vacation Club resorts (look for resorts with Villa in the name), monorail resorts, or Skyliner resorts are ideal for families. The first have more room to stash food and access to do laundry. The latter two provide easy access to and from the parks for quick getaways during sensory overload.

Saratoga Springs Resort

A tall pool slide with a tower at night at Saratoga Springs Resort.

Saratoga Springs Resort (SSR) features kitchens for those with food and sensory sensitivities. SSR is a quiet resort with lots of relaxing pools and playgrounds. You can even walk to Disney Springs if your child is capable. The drawback is the bus system- there are many bus stops within the resort and it can take a long time to get places. We usually prepare our son for this.

Polynesian Village Resort

Our coverage of the Disney Vacation Club studio at the Polynesian Village Resort is perfect for families of 5 or less who would benefit from two bathrooms. There are no 1-bedrooms or 2-bedrooms. There is a kitchenette in the room and a laundromat on property.

What are free activities at Walt Disney World?

With the ever-increasing prices at Walt Disney World theme parks, many people are looking for free activities to enjoy in Walt Disney World. We’ve enjoyed entire trips without setting foot into the theme parks. See our review on free activities at Walt Disney World to follow our lead.

  1. Ride the monorail
  2. Choose a Disney Resort with water features
  3. See the Electrical Water Pageant (& sometimes fireworks too)
  4. Boat rides
  5. The Boardwalk
  6. Campfire at Fort Wilderness Campground
  7. Animal Kingdom Lodge
  8. Jump in the Fountains at Disney Springs
  9. Free Disney Springs Entertainment
  10. Lego Store at Disney Springs

Where can you find the best quiet spaces in each Disney World Theme Park?

Our number one concern for our family is finding a space to escape the noise and crowded spaces. Other families with autism in Walt Disney World have expressed the same concerns. Sensory processing is heightened in these circumstances of heat, noise, and crowding.

Magic Kingdom

If you’re looking to escape the overwhelming noise and crowds amidst the happiest place on Earth, this article tells you how to refresh in the Magic Kingdom. The top quiet spaces in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, the headliner theme park seem to intermittently close when we need them the most:

  • Liberty Belle Riverboat
  • Tom Sawyer Island
  • Main Street Train Station
  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
  • Ye Olde Christmas Shop
  • Peoplemover
  • Carousel of Progress (both inside and the area surrounding)
passenger ship nead dock

See more ideas for quiet places at Magic Kingdom in the article featuring the quiet places in MK.

Source: Typically Twitterpated

Epcot

Epcot is a huge park with lots of fun but lots of noise and chaos. It’s nice to find areas away from the crowd in Walt Disney World.

Visit the article to get ideas both in Future World and World Showcase to hide out from crowds.

Source: Typically Twitterpated

Animal Kingdom

The Animal Kingdom is the smallest park in Walt Disney World but it is full of spaces to rejuvenate your body, mind, and soul. Honestly, you must see the immersive experience of Pandora: World of Avatar.

low angle photography of bamboo trees during daytime
@joeljnaren

The top quiet places in Disney’s Animal Kingdom include the pathways, the railroad to Rafiki’s planet watch. See the top 5 quiet spaces in DAK for more details.

Disney Hollywood Studios (DHS)

When looking for the spots that are quiet in DHS- look no further than just inside the gate at First Aid and areas on Sunset Boulevard. Our family’s favorite is Echo Lake. Consider areas outside of Muppetvision 3-D and Toy Story Land. For the top 8 spaces at DHS, see our article about our quiet picks here.

How can my child prepare for the rides at Disney World?

We encourage watching videos of every ride that you are concerned about before going. My son loves to “do his research.” I especially focus on YouTube videos for dark rides like Navi River Journey or intense experiences so that he will know what to expect. Somedays he likes to watch videos of someone with a GoPro merely walking around the park to prepare him.

Can my child who is picky or on special diet eat at Disney?

Special diets touch many more folks than families with autism in Walt Disney World. We follow a gluten-free diet, but your child may have allergies, intolerances, or even a diet (vegan, vegetarian, keto). Disney World is the best with helping those on a special diet. We discuss the ins and outs of sticking to what keeps your gut healthy in Walt Disney World in our comprehensive post.

What Transportation Challenges Can I Expect at Walt Disney World?

Skyliner and monorail are often better choices because they are more private and direct. The wait is much shorter, however, there are still crowds. Plan on which parks you want to go to before choosing your resort. You may want to rent a car or call an Uber or Lyft, but the walk or tram from the parking lot to the theme park can take a long time.

The ferry boats

The ferry-boat moves between the Ticket and Transportation Center and the Magic Kingdom. These giant boats have loud horns that can bother my son’s ears. Consider bringing headphones to mute the volume.

The Walt Disney World Buses

The boats have been a huge detriment to our Disney World experience. Our son loves the Magical Express that takes us from MCO airport to our resort as part of the “experience.” The shuttles to the theme parks can be more difficult to time (although the app will give you the next ETA of each bus from the resort). However, we have had many intense emotions due to having to wait long periods of time after an exhausting park day.

The Skyliner

The Skyliner takes your family from Epcot and Hollywood studios to the Caribbean beach station. The Epcot route bypasses the Riviera resort, as well. If you want to continue on to Pop Century or Art of Animation, you can take an adjoining Skyliner from the Caribbean Beach station. While there are long lines for this at the end of the day, I have found this is a pretty easy way to move our family around. Be prepared to share your gondola with someone else in post-pandemic Disney World.

The Monorail

If you can afford to stay at a monorail resort, it will take you directly to Magic Kingdom. ¡Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas! With the monorail, you can push strollers or wheelchairs directly on. There are benches on either side of the open area where the strollers or mobility devices sit. If you’d rather stand, there are poles to hold on to. You will have to get off at the Ticket and Transportation Center, but you can take a monorail to Epcot, as well.

Tips & FAQs for families with autism at Walt Disney World above Cinderella castle with fireworks.

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