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 children. Disney is wonderful for accommodating their sensory needs and any special diets. This ultimate guide for families with children on the autism spectrum covers all of the answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) and tips for Walt Disney World that we’ve learned over the years.
What are tips for driving long distances with an autistic child?
We often prefer to drive to Florida with concerns regarding flying and autistic children crossing the media. 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 more manageable. 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 it. 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!
Do you recommend 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.
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 special needs like autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It creates opportunities to enjoy headliner attractions when a disability interferes with the ability to wait in a long, crowded line. The DAS is now digital, and attractions can be scheduled through the Disney Parks app.
I also made Disability Access Service (DAS) reservations for rides they love, whether popular or not. Schedule a video chat, and they will let you schedule attraction return times before you arrive.
Read our comprehensive article about the Disney Accessibility Services (DAS) and check out our channel’s video about the DAS pass (and subscribe if you like what you see).
What are the best rides for children with autism?
Our oldest son has autism and then has three younger siblings. All of the rides 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
- Swiss Family Robinson
- Three Caballeros
- Frozen Ever After
- Jungle Cruise
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Spaceship Earth
- The Walt Disney World Railroad (when open)
- Toy Story Mania
- 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.
- Fuentes del Morro Pool
- Sandcastle Pool at Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Samawati Springs Pool at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village
- Boardwalk Clown Pool at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
- Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation
- Paddock Pool at Saratoga Springs Resorts
- The Lost City of Cibola Pool at Coronado Springs
- Silver Creek Springs Pool at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- The Lava Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club
Source: Typically Twitterpated
What resorts are good for children and families with autism?
Any Disney Vacation Club resorts (look for resorts with Villa in the name), monorail resorts, or Skyliner resorts are ideal for families. The first has 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
Saratoga Springs Resort (SSR) features kitchens for 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
The Disney Vacation Club studio coverage 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 the 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 in the theme parks. See our review on free activities at Walt Disney World to follow our lead.
- Ride the monorail
- Choose a Disney Resort with water features
- See the Electrical Water Pageant (& sometimes fireworks too)
- Boat rides
- The Boardwalk
- Campfire at Fort Wilderness Campground
- Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Jump in the Fountains at Disney Springs
- Free Disney Springs Entertainment
- Lego Store at Disney Springs
If you’re interested in getting free birthday treats in Walt Disney World, there are several freebies to score- particularly in 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 heat, noise, and crowding circumstances.
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 close when we need them the most intermittently:
- Liberty Belle Riverboat
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Main Street Train Station
- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
- Ye Olde Christmas Shop
- Carousel of Progress (both inside and the area surrounding)
See more ideas for quiet places at Magic Kingdom in the article featuring the quiet homes in MK.
Source: Typically Twitterpated
Epcot is a huge park with lots of fun, but also full of noise and chaos. It’s nice to find areas away from the crowd in Walt Disney World.
Visit the article to get ideas in Future World and World Showcase to hide out from crowds.
Source: Typically Twitterpated
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.
The top quiet places in Disney’s Animal Kingdom include the pathways to 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 quiet spots in the 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. See our article about our quiet picks for the top 8 spaces at DHS.
How can my child prepare for the rides at Disney World?
The best way to help your child prepare for the attractions at Walt Disney World is to watch YouTube videos of the rides and see what they’re interested in. Knowing beforehand is always better because they’ll know what to expect.
We encourage watching videos of every ride you are concerned about before going. My son loves to “do his research.” I primarily 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 a 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 at helping those on a special diet. Our comprehensive post discusses the ins and outs of sticking to what keeps your gut healthy in Walt Disney World.
How can I support my autistic child while shopping in Walt Disney World?
Shopping with your child can cause sensory overwhelm anywhere, but Disney World is busy and hot on its best days. By providing a structured routine, minimizing stimuli, and creating an escape plan, you can help your child have a great shopping experience (or at least as good as expected). Supporting our child’s unique needs is crucial for everyone to learn about.
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 long.
Are the ferry boats good transportation for people with autism?
The ferryboat 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 boats have been a huge detriment to our Disney World experience.
How do the Walt Disney World buses affect people with autism?
The buses can be challenging for people on a schedule who expect a routine. 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 waiting long periods of time after an exhausting park day.
Is the Skyliner safe for people with autism?
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.
Can autistic people ride the Monorail at Disney World?
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 also take a monorail to Epcot.
Can my autistic family member get a wheelchair or stroller in Walt Disney World?
You can bring strollers or wheelchairs for autistic family members. Local places will drop them off at the hotel, so you don’t need to travel with them. Disney has strollers and wheelchairs in the park, but you cannot take them outside the park’s gate.
What if my child needs assistance toileting at Walt Disney World?
There are family restrooms at Walt Disney World that are ideal for children who may need help with toileting. There are also changing tables, although some are not large enough for adults.
What is helpful for children waiting in line with autism?
While the DAS will decrease the time spent waiting in line, you may still wait in lines. We like to come prepared with sensory toys. or chewelry.
Final Thoughts about Autism and Disney World
This guide to Disney World with your autistic child provided information based on our family’s experiences. Make wonderful memories while taking your children with special needs to Walt Disney World. Autism and Disney World can go hand in hand!
If this guide to Walt Disney World with your autistic child teaches you anything, it should be that some days are harder than others. Our son wants to leave when he becomes overwhelmed with the heat or sounds.
The best part about our life is realizing that flexibility is key. We may not have checked off the schedule, but our family can have a relaxing and enjoyable afternoon. Autism loves routine, and when my kiddo finds something good, he sticks to it! (And that means Disney World!)