Theme Park Survival Guide: The Autism Edition

theme parks for autistic children

Before the final school bell rings, before the summer solstice passes, families worldwide have at least one common thing to look forward to: family vacation.

Although traveling with a loved one who has autism may require extra planning and accommodations, you don’t need to sacrifice having a good time. Here are some tips and tricks to surviving the crazy summer months in some of the craziest places on earth: theme parks.

Know What To Expect

When deciding which attractions to explore on your trip to the parks, never assume that you can guess which attractions will please your loved ones. Often, you can find previews of shows, parades, and rides on YouTube. With one simple search, you can judge whether your family member with special needs will enjoy the ride or not.

Don’t Sacrifice Your Own Enjoyment

When parents and guardians are happy, those hour lines seem more bearable, the sun shines brighter, and the overall trip is more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Your special needs child may have an aversion to theme park rides, as autistic children often do- the sensory stimulation is likely multiplied for them.

If your child needs to be chaperoned while others ride, you don’t always have to sit out on the enjoyment yourself. Many theme parks offer an option called “child swap”. Notify a staff/cast member at any point before your turn to ride to take advantage of this accommodation.

The “child swap” feature on some rides will allow two parents to ride, without the second parent having to wait in line again. You may receive a card that you present during your turn to the ride attendant. The first adult rides the ride, while the second adult waits with the child. Afterwards, the second adult can ride immediately, and the first adult waits with the child.

Parks Provide Different Accommodations

Sometimes, theme parks do not make their disability services polices public, and sometimes, they make changes to existing policies without much notification.

But with just a little digging, you may find there are more services for disabled patrons than you think.

Some theme parks publish tips to make traveling easier for someone with disabilities. For instance, Walt Disney World published a guide for families with special needs which details how to plan the trip accordingly. Access the full guide here.

In addition, there are at least 39 various parks that offer special perks to make your experience much easier, from reduced admission fees to line-skipping privileges.

Also give this list a look– You just might find your new go-to family vacation spot:

Millions of people visit amusement parks throughout the year, and inevitably, summer is their busiest season. But as you can see, many resources are available, right at your fingertips. For example,

Your “theme park survival” depends largely on just one rule of thumb: Keep your loved one’s needs in mind, and you’ll have a great time!

By Samantha Mallari