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  • Writer's picturePractically Perfect Pixie Dust

WDW Pre-Planning on the Spectrum



Below are some of the tips and tricks we have found over the years that enabled us to not only confidently plan a Disney vacation with a neurodiverse family member, but for them to be able actively enjoy the time spent there. 


Planning:

We found over the years that including our child on the spectrum in as many aspects of planning helped them know what to expect and feel less anxious. Starting the planning process weeks or months ahead of time has always been an important step in creating the magical Disney experience. For us things like surprise vacations would not have gone well, he needed to know when we were going, where we were staying, and what we would be doing.


Front loading everything:

Of course any trip will be full of the unexpected, but having a rough schedule and plan for every day is super helpful for just about any neurodivergent person. In particular, it helped our child to have a schedule that they could look at and hold. We even made him a book with pictures when he was little so he could see what was coming up. As he aged and was more familiar he no longer needed that level of support, but when he was small it was exceedingly important.


Videos of the parks:

Watching videos of anything that is new or different was something that eased his fears, and helped create excitement. One easy example of this is ride through and walk through videos on Youtube. In today's world of live streaming and vlogging everything, it is easy to find videos that will give you a look into all the different aspects of Walt Disney World. We also love episodes of Behind the Attraction and Imagineering on Disney+. One thing that was super useful for our child was an episode of a show called Modern Marvels that focused on Disney tech. It's a little dated now, but all of the behind the scenes information was something that resonated with him. You can find it on youtube today.


Maps:

Having a map he could hold and look at both before and during the trip helped tremendously. Our child on the spectrum's first few trips to Walt Disney World were pre-MDE. The iPhone was a brand new thing, and technology wasn't being used the way it is today. At the time you could still order physical maps of all of the parks from Disney, but sadly that is no longer the case. They can be printed off the Disney web site - or if a larger version is better they can be purchased on ebay and etsy.  Having a map helped him feel more in control of the new experience.


Special Interests:

Most people on the autism spectrum have a special interest they immerse themselves in.  Try to find a way to tie your vacation into that.  Our child’s hyper-focus rotates, but when he was little both Star Wars and Marvel were always near the forefront.  This made it easy for us to seg into his special interests and create excitement and anticipation for a Disney trip. But many other kinds of interests can also be tied to a Disney vacation.  Trains, buses, sharks, history, or outer space, for example, can all be found within the Disney resort experience.  This is another way to create excitement and help your child to want to do something outside of their expected universe - something that was often hard to do with our child.


If you are still uncertain or want help with planning your Disney trip with a neurodiverse family member, feel free to reach out for a no obligation Disney vacation quote. If you book through us, we will help you with figuring out how to plan and facilitate your trip at no extra charge.

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