We spent 6 days at Disney World. Not new to us, as we are frequent Disney visitors; however, it’s new to us that our daughter has serious medical issues and is considered a special needs child. We have traveled to Disney when she was diagnosed with some medical conditions, but things have gotten worse since then. I wanted to share some tips with you that we learned along the way in hopes that this will help another parent out.
Tips For Special Needs Children At Disney World
- Hotel rooms on Disney property have a variety of accommodations for all of their guests. Need a wheelchair accessible bathroom, rubber sheets, a room without chemicals or scents? Fill out the Special Needs Reservation Request Form while making your online reservation or even after you have that completed. It must be filled out and emailed within 30 days of your reservation. The earlier the better.
- Guest Assistance Passes are available for children with special needs, even if that need is invisible (autism, narcolepsy, arthritis, etc.). Also known as a GAC, this card will enable your child to be seated while waiting in line for an attraction or to use a special entrance that may allow no waiting or a shorter wait. You can also speak to cast members at each attraction about your needs to see if your child can be helped in other ways. Some children get more time or alone time with characters, seating near an exit or seating in the front row. The Guest Assistance Passes are available at each park’s Guest Relations where you can explain what you will need help with. These needs may be added to the card to save you time at the attractions, but always ask for help at any time in the parks.
- Medical care is available at each park as well. The First Aid Centers can be used for emergencies, but always contact a Cast Member if your emergency is life-threatening, or if your child has been seriously injured. They also provide over the counter medications, bandages and other items. You can store medication there, especially anything that needs to be refrigerated, and use an area for medical procedures such as tube feeding, or a quiet place for your child to calm down, etc. Baby Centers are also available, but use First Aid for older children. Instant contact can be made with EMT’s if needed as well.
- Special diets can be accommodated at all restaurants in the parks and hotels. It’s best to call in advance if possible. You can bring in any type of food you need too.
- Wheelchair as Stroller Stickers can be used if necessary. These can be a time saver if your medical stroller does not look like it is a medical device. This allows your child to remain in his stroller even when attractions don’t allow strollers. Note: not all attractions are equipped for strollers, wheelchairs or ECV’s. Those attractions are noted in the Guests With Disabilities Guides for each park, which can be downloaded. These guides are also available at each park.
- A hotel room on Disney property can make it much easier for children with special needs to enjoy the parks. If your child would fare better after a nap or a break from the parks, being able to get to your room more easily than to a hotel off site, can make your time at Disney much brighter. You still need to use transportation, such as a bus, monorail or boat to get to your room, but it can be a lot faster than going to your car and driving to your hotel off site. Also, if you decide to stay at your hotel for the rest of the day, you still have the Disney atmosphere, with themed restaurants, pools, shops and arcades. At some resorts you can see and even hear the fireworks from Magic Kingdom or EPCOT.
- Disney provides accommodations for children with hearing and visual disabilities, besides mobility issues. Service animals are always welcome at all areas of Disney World.
- Expect to make changes in your plans. Visiting Disney World with the though of being flexible will make you and your child a lot happier. It’s great to plan by learning about Disney in advance and even making some reservations for meals. But, watch and listen to your child’s cues if she is starting to feel tired, unwell or overwhelmed. Disney Cast Members can be very helpful in times like this. Allow them to give your child a sticker or to wave at her with a Mickey Mouse hand! But, if it’s time to leave, take a break, or to get out of the heat, go for it. You will have happy memories when your child is happy.
We’ve traveled to Disney World hundreds of times. I am disabled and use an ECV (or a scooter), get a Guest Assistance Card and have needed to leave the parks suddenly. I’ve had to visit First Aid and have blood work done at a lab outside the park. Now that my daughter has sever medical issues, we use my experiences and tailor them to her. It’s worked for us. I hope my tips help you prepare and take that magical trip!
With a special needs child, you may feel that going on a trip to Disney Word will be overwhelming, but Disney makes it as easy as possible. Often times, you just need to ask someone and you’ll get the help you need and more.
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