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Visiting Disney World with a Special Needs Child


Indoor recreational areas at your hotel are a plus. Florida has a subtropical climate. Expect at least some rain during your stay (brief but intense thunderstorms are common, especially in summer months), and plan accordingly. During the winter months, the parks can get chilly, especially during the evening hours, so check the weather forecast and bring appropriate clothing.

You may also want to look into a suite hotel, or renting a vacant home in one of the many housing projects in the area. Although it doesn’t offer the same services as in a standard hotel or motel, a multi-bedroom house with a full kitchen and other amenities, such as a washer and dryer, could be a far more comfortable and convenient base for your family than any hotel room.

When making reservations, even if you’re doing it online, it’s always good to call the facility on the phone and ask specific questions, such as whether they will hold packages for you in case you need to ship medical supplies ahead of time or have medical equipment delivered to the facility before you get there. You may also be able to negotiate a better room rate, or an upgrade while you have them on the phone.

Renting a vehicle. Having your own transportation has many advantages, including freeing you from reliance on public transportation, and allowing you to make changes to your schedule on the fly, including impromptu trips to local grocery stores in search of kosher food, which is not generally available in the Disney parks.

You can rent a wheelchair accessible vehicle from several agencies which can be found with an online search, but they are not located at the main Orlando airport. If you make a reservation, the agency will meet you at the airport with a courtesy vehicle and then drive you to their location to process the paperwork. If you do rent a vehicle, make sure to have your handicapped placard with you, or disabled ID. You can park in the handicapped designated areas in Disney parks, but you need to have proof of disability.

At the parks:

You are allowed to bring your own food into Disney World, so it’s best to have a cooler and ice packs with you, especially for medications or formula.

When packing for the day, make sure to bring any supplies and extra clothing you might need.

Near the entrance of every park there are lockers available for rent. All of the parks are very large, and if you don’t want to shlep everything with you, these lockers are a great solution. Be aware when packing for the day that park security personnel will search all of your bags upon entering.

Obtaining a disability pass will help you to avoid the long lines for entry to the rides and shows. When entering the park’s, there is either a city hall or guest relations area. Sometimes you can just explain the issue to them, but when dealing with an invisible disability, you may be required to present medical proof, so come prepared. A disability pass will also let you enter the area designated for people with disabilities at the parades and often will let your child take a picture with Disney characters without having to wait in line.

The parades and shows tend to be very loud, so prepare your child. Earplugs are always a good idea. If your child has other sensory issues, a hat and/or sunglasses will help them block out the crowds and other forms of overstimulation.

It is also a good idea to bring with you in the park one of your child’s favorite dolls or toys to serve as a distraction or if the child just needs a break.

At every park there is a first aid station. Familiarize yourself with the location. They are great places for special needs children. If your child is incontinent, they provide beds to change them on. It is a quiet, cool place to get a break from all of the outside activity. As it tends to get very warm, they will also provide you with icepacks upon request. These stations are near to the entrance of every park except for Epcot, where it’s in the middle.

Fortunately, the parks have plenty of restrooms and other places to get essentials like drinking water to avoid dehydration in the hot Florida sun. If your child needs to be changed and you can’t make it back to the First Aid station, almost all of the restrooms throughout the parks have changing stations that can accommodate a large child, not just the typical drop down baby changing table.

Finally, plan your day! Find out the times for the parades, fireworks, and shows that you want to see and plan around them. Make sure to build in extra time for walking from place to place, eating, and some free time for just wandering around to see all the sights. Most importantly, have fun creating amazing family memories!

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More Articles from Elisheva Stein

Having mobility issues can be challenging in many ways, from obtaining a proper wheelchair to navigating your environment. One of the biggest challenges is getting from origin to destination. Whether you have your own vehicle or need to rely on public transportation, you need to do research on what is the most appropriate accommodation.

Traveling to Disney World with your kids? If you are a typical Jewish family, there are concerns about the availability of kosher food, events that take place on Shabbos that you may have to schedule around, and the availability of a minyan. Traveling with a special needs child creates an added level of complexity.

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