Navigating Disney World When a Loved One Has Special Needs

Accessibility Options for Virginia Voters With DisabilitiesIs a Disney vacation on your family’s bucket list, but you are worried about visiting the park or other Disney attractions with a child who has special needs?

The great news is that Disney offers many inclusive accommodations and special services for families who have loved ones with autism and other cognitive disabilities.  With a little bit of advanced planning, you can chart out a Disney vacation that is as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Plan to Avoid Lines

Disney recommends pre-purchasing park tickets when you have a loved one with autism or cognitive disabilities. Doing so can help avoid waiting in long lines in hot or rainy weather.

Fast Passes are Disney’s most well-known way to “preschedule” a time on a ride to avoid waiting in long lines.  However, individuals with special needs can access additional scheduling options through Disney’s Disability Access Service. The service allows guests to schedule a return time that is comparable to the current wait for the specific attraction. Once the return time is issued, the individual no longer has to wait in the line and can come back at the designated time scheduled. Unlike Fast Passes that are limited to three rides per day, the Disability Access Service only stipulates that the guests schedule one active return at a time with no daily limit. These special passes can also be used in combination with traditional Fast Passes.

Locate Break Areas and Avoid Attractions that Trigger

Disney offers special break areas to provide space and comfort for children and adults who may become overstimulated. The break areas are spread out among the parks, so it’s a wise idea to get familiar with each location on a map before it’s needed.

It’s also recommended that parents research in advance the rides, shows or other attractions that their children may want to visit.  Disney offers detailed information about the type of stimulations that could be troubling to those with special needs, such as loud noises or bright flashing lights. If there is a particular trigger your family tries to avoid, you can also contact a representative at Disney Disability Services at (407) 560-2547 for guidance as you navigate your options.

Food Accommodations

Disney offers a variety of options for those who have allergies, intolerances… or they are just picky eaters! Children with allergies or intolerances are also allowed to bring their own food into the parks.  Finally, the chefs at each restaurant strive to be accommodating and they do their best to honor meal requests made in advance for individuals with dietary restrictions.

Need More Guidance?

For all of the ins and outs of Disney services available to individuals with autism or other cognitive disabilities, visitors can download Disney’s complete 38-page guide here.  Families can also contact Disability Services with any questions by calling 407) 560-2547 or by emailing



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