Read about one parent’s personal experience traveling to Disney Land with her autistic child:
My family went to DisneyLand in California during Spring Break and my son, Thomas, had a wonderful time! We were nervous about the trip as Los Angeles and Disneyland are very crowded places with many unexpected events, and we knew Thomas did not like to get on airplanes. But Thomas handled everything better than we thought! I would like to share with you what I think is very helpful for kids like Thomas to have a great time at Disneyland or any theme park.
We called American Airline ahead of time to reserve our seats to make sure we all were seated together. Our flights were full both ways and the agent said they could not assign seats until the day of the trip and that there was still no guarantee we would be together. I told the agent that Thomas was autistic and we really needed to sit together. Right away the agent transferred me to the ‘Special Assistance’ department that was able to assign seating for us.
At the gate I requested we be pre-boarded to reduce Thomas’s anxiety. Then we were able to board the plane earlier than most of the passengers to get Thomas settled down.
On the plane Thomas requested our noise-reducing Bose headphones and wore them the entire flight. The headphones really reduced the noise on the plane and made him feel secure. I also had his favorite toys, an iPhone and iPad, to keep him occupied. During take off and landing when we were not allowed to use electronic devices, I had back up toys.
When we entered Disneyland, Lego Land, and Universal Studios, we went to ‘Guest Relations’, which is normally right inside the entrance. All of these parks normally will give you ‘guest with special assistance’ passes, which will reduce the time you have to wait in line to enter certain rides and attractions. This was a huge help, especially at Disneyland where the wait time could be one to two hours long. The less time Thomas had to wait in line, the less anxiety he had. He ended up getting on more rides than I ever expected. For the first time, he also got on some of the rides all by himself! He has never done that before. We use to always have to be with him on the ride or he would not go. During this trip, there were still some rides he would not go on, but that was completely okay!
We loaded all of his favorite games on an iPhone so he had something to do while waiting in lines and for special events (i.e. parades and a firework show). This kept his anxiety level down. We also had the noise reduction earphones with us at all times. Thomas used the headphones on most of the rides, during parades, and the fireworks show, when the environment got really loud.
Overall, this was a very positive experience for us!
— Thomas’s Mom